Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | May 29, 2015

Technology vs. Ideology

This is an updated version of an essay I wrote some months ago.  I wish I could shout it out in all public media.  Our country repeated the French mistakes in Vietnam and wound up giving South Vietnam to Ho Chi Minh. Our military didn’t lose.  It wasn’t there. Our Congress simply refused to live up to its promises.

We cannot repeat the mistake with the Islamists. Unlike the Vietnamese, they plan to establish their caliphate across the globe.

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“The West is still battling an ideology with technology.” Dr. Bernard B. Fall,from Street Without Joy (Stackpole, 1961)

When I went through the Special Forces Course in Ft. Bragg (1966), Street Without Joy was one of the books on the list for required reading. I read it then because it was a part of the course and I wanted to excel.

I also read it because it was (and still is) the definitive text on how the French lost the Indochina war. I knew I was headed for Vietnam.  The opening quote is key to Fall’s analysis. It is also prescient about the nature of we insurgencies, past and present we have faced.

Today, in the middle months of 2015, America and the West are confronted with an ideology, Islam, that takes its strength from a the idea that there is no distinction between matters of faith and matters of governance. There is Jihad and there is Shari’ah.

Islam is a seventh-century movement whose most radical members are happy to kill themselves and encourage suicide in others, in order to kill nonbelievers, or infidels.

Westerners, including some politicians and most military thinkers, are drenched in the philosophy of freedom. The goal of many overseas military operations is liberating and freeing populations. It has never occurred to many of these people that freedom is not what devout Muslims desire.

I recently saw, on the Internet, a picture of a Muslim demonstrator carrying a sign that said, “We want Islam, to hell with freedom.”

Faced with an enemy—and Islam is, without question, the enemy of free people—whose controlling motivation is inimical and probably not understandable by the West. What is to be done? The enemy has, as its goal, world domination.

History tells us much about the Crusades. There is still a violent disagreement in the scholarly community about them. More about the possible motivation later.
Some deride the non-unified military conquests as useless and corrupt. Perhaps. They were filled with a number of people whose motivations were, at best, questionable.

But, they slowed down and, in some cases reversed, the rise and domination of Islam. The message: Christian Crusaders fought Islam with the message of Christianity—and frequently with the edge of a sword—and won.

The Muslims have always despised free societies and allied themselves, in World War II, with Adolph Hitler. There are easily discoverable photos of Der Fuerher with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammed Amin al-Husayni.   The same Grand Mufti, moved into Berlin during  WWII and is rumored to have visited several of the Nazi Death Camps. Adolph Eichmann, at his trial, denied this, but there are numerous photos of Husayni with Heinrich Himmler, the commander of the Death Camps.

An Israeli historian writes,”[i]n any case, there is no doubt that Haj Amin’s hatred was not limited to Zionism, but extended to Jews as such. His frequent, close contacts with leaders of the Nazi regime cannot have left Haj Amin any doubt as to the fate which awaited Jews whose emigration was prevented by his efforts. His many comments show that he was not only delighted that Jews were prevented from emigrating to Palestine, but was very pleased by the Nazis’ Final Solution’.”

The Encyclopedia of the Holocaust devotes more space to Haj Amin than any other figure, except Adolph Hitler.

When the victorious allies swept through Europe, one can say that Christianity had overcome the ideology that was Nazism and, by extension, its partner, Islam.

When weak-kneed Jimmy Carter failed to challenge Iran for the invasion of the American Embassy and the hostages, his successor, Ronald Reagan—an outspoken Christian—was the signal to the Muslims. They released the hostages, knowing that otherwise, they would be invaded.

Reagan’s ideological influence, as a Christian President, led him to defeat the ideology of Communism. His ringing, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” was the clear call of the Christian ideology of a free people. Communism backed away. The Berlin Wall came down.

Islamists began challenging America and the Christian faith in more than one way. The first attack on the World Trade Center, the bombing of the U.S. Marine Barracks in Lebanon and the attack on the U.S.S. Cole were probes. When the Islamists found that there was no powerful response from a U.S. government shackled by political correctness, the 9/11 attacks were inevitable.

We’ve seen government weakness to a degree that would be unfathomable to our Founding Fathers. One example is the massacre at Ft. Hood which D.C. claims was nothing more than “workplace violence.” The fact that Maj. Hasan jumped on a table, yelling “allahu akbahr!” the Arabic (Islamic) words for “God is great!” seems not to have penetrated politically correct government minds.

Islamists and their enablers understand the stakes and constantly seek to distance Americans from Christianity.

We are told, from the White House, that we are not a Christian Nation. This not a fact and, as usual from this administration, no proof is offered.

Constantly, the ACLU is defending “atheists” who are “offended” by Nativity displays and all other things Christian. Why, one may ask, does a tiny minority of people, spend so much time and money battling something in which they don’t believe. Money.  Someone is paying people to be aggrieved because there is a public tableau at Christmas.  Oh, and yes, we shouldn’t, according to them, say “Merry Christmas.”

In Afghanistan, our troops are restricted by Rules of Engagement that endanger their lives.  The allied forces (and they’re shrinking every day to just Americans) must be constantly on guard not to offend Muslims or insult Mohammed or the Koran. No such restrictions bind our enemies.

It is time Americans and those European nations that still have a modicum of freedom, to realize the conflict.

This war—and it is a war—is about ideology. We cannot successfully oppose ideology with technology. We can only win the fight against Islam with Christianity. Christianity is the light of love, hope, freedom and life. Islam is subjugation, intolerance, servitude and death.

Choose.

 

Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | May 23, 2015

Memorial Day, 2015

I looked at the records and see that I posted this bit of poetry two years ago, for Memorial Day. I can do no better, two years later.

This is, again, in memory of my friends and comrades who did not come home from Vietnam and for all of us who came home burdened with memories of our war and our losses.

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                                                                 OLD SOLDIERS

                                                         An aged man is but a paltry thing,
                                                         A tattered coat upon a stick…
                                                                            W.B. Yeats

 Old soldiers from all our modern wars
crowd into the same slice of time,
-in Veteran’s Hospitals,
waiting together,
mutely bonded by losses,
-empty spaces that surround
and define us.

Sitting on an uncomfortable island of vinyl
awash in a surf-rolling susurrus of voices,
cocooned inside my silence,
untouched by misery and despair
swirling in the crowded air like cigarette smoke,
stinging exposed nerves.

I felt the touch of ancient eyes
-looked back;
like a man afraid to look in a mirror
after long, dark nightmares.

How big a man he was, I’ll never know.
He stared out at me from the hillock
his loose white shirt and brown suit made,
stuffed into the seat of a wheelchair,
blue eyes flickering about the ward
like a sparrow watching from a nest of rags.

The woman stood behind him,
thin arms circling the chair,
holding his shoulders
as if he might roll away
-again.

He wanted to talk.
Asked which war was mine,
and, without an answer,
told me I would never know real war.

The kind he knew in the Meuse-Argonne,
where artillery stormed
through nights when rain was steel.

The earth, lay plowed,
and sown with exploded metal
-sterile, unstable-
a treacherous place for man to walk.

They sprinted along trenches
splashing through partly-frozen mud,
and huddled in bunkers,
-fear of crashing shells almost lost
until the silence;
when the big guns stopped.

Ears groped through underground darkness
stretching to know
when slow, soft mortar plops
signaled sliding yellow death
feeling its way over broken ground,
finding edges of the earth where men hid.

Mustard gas, like a living predator,
seemed to find them by sensing their fear
and clawed bare skin,
prying at protecting seals of rubber masks.

I listened,
held by more than a soldier’s courtesy,
due an older warrior.

His images of war,
the Great War,
-flickered in my vision,
superimposed over silent, jerky, black-and-white films,
whose soldiers in wool uniforms,
puttees and greatcoats
look vaguely ridiculous;
always smiling, waving to the camera,
holding long, bolt-action rifles.

What did he see,
when TV specials showed his war?

Did the gait of those old films move
with smooth, strong strides of young heroes?
How did that mirror,
those old moving pictures, reflect the man
now shrunken inside a pile of old clothes?

As he held me with his stories,
I was seeing pictures of my war;
old nightly news clips from Vietnam,
-live firefights,
color TV with sound,
projected against the back of my brain.

Though these mirrors,
-constant reflections stuck in time,
now begin to look archaic,
looking into them, I find myself again
chilled with the immediate fear
that swirled in battle like morning fog
and coalesced into rage,
forging a weapon
more lethal than simple tools of killing.

But at war’s end, survivors return,
with eyes of old soldiers,
-to insults or parades.

Apparitions that were young warriors
burned in mind’s retina
like lingering persistence of vision;
-portraits stamped on the face of a mirror,
forever the age of those whose names
old veterans read in monument stone.

Like fragments from a looking glass,
slowly shattered by the warp of changing seasons,
these broken pieces of a dead war’s face,
-unfashionable images,
-shards of incomplete reality,
reflect all that my sons will know,
looking back on a father’s war.

Thomas Rowe Drinkard

Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | May 17, 2015

Where Do We Go from Here?

I published a post similar to this a couple of years ago. As a writer who has recently had to use these ideas, I thought these techniques might help.

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Those of us who’ve pounded a word processor for many days, telling the stories of our heroes, heroines and villains know the syndrome—sitting there, staring at a blank document page and asking ourselves “What now?”

We know where the story ends but we’ve lost our map for the next waypoint. When our local writer’s group addressed the problem, my answer was, “Ask the characters.”

The logic to that approach depends on the writer knowing his/her characters and their places on the narrative. If the writer does know the people, then asking them to describe the next logical move is appropriate.

There’s a side benefit to the approach described. If you, the writer, cannot get the characters to tell you what happens next, you may need to redefine, or more closely refine your knowledge of those people you created.

Another approach:

One of the members of the group is an experienced sailor. He’s spent countless days on the inland waterways of America. Navigation has not always been as sure and simple as it is in the digital, GPS, day.

He said that, if a sailor gets on a broad river with multiple branches and is unsure of his/or her location. Turn around. Go back to a point at which everything was certain; check your charts/maps and proceed.

As writers, we can do the same. I would suggest a synthesis of the two approaches: go back with your principal characters to a point in the story where you, the author, knew everyone’s status. That often means rereading your manuscript and finding where events became unclear or unmotivated and the people are stumbling about, mumbling to one another, find the exact moment when you fell off your literary map and then, ask the characters what comes next.

Often, if you have a strong antagonist, that person will drive the protagonist to action. Reacting to the deeds, or plans, of the antagonist provides the tension and interest you need in the story.

Good writing!

Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | May 9, 2015

Back to The Original Purpose

The blog purports to be about writing, but I haven’t posted anything about that craft/art in some time. It’s time to get back to it.

A couple of years ago I attended the writer’s conference, in Nashville, TN, called Killer Nashville. I met several nice people and talked with three or four literary agents.  The featured speaker was the well-known novelist, Jeffery Deaver, who described his approach to writing—extensive outlining.

A speaker whose name I cannot remember introduced us to Christopher Vogler’s book, The Writer’s Journey.  That book explores the similarity of narrative patterns in fiction. It owes much of its background to the works of Joseph Campbell in The Hero With A Thousand Faces  These patterns, or archetypes,  exist in stories as dramatically different as Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz.

I decided to create my own story, using the the elements described by Vogler.  In the following sample, the eventual hero of the book, Thomas Swift is seen in his ordinary world, hears the call to adventure and refuses the call.  Those are the first three stages of the Hero’s Journey. The book is not science fiction, in the sense of the works of Asimov or Clarke, but would be termed, by some, as a space opera.
Following is an excerpt from Swift & Co. by Thomas Rowe Drinkard. Copyright 2015.

*********

It started off like most days: crappy.

I may as well not have had a sign on the door, Swift Enterprises, Photography & Investigations. Good thing I didn’t have a secretary. I wouldn’t have been able to afford her salary and, from boredom if nothing else, would have been fooling around with her.

Hey, if I hired a secretary, she’d be pretty.

The name, Swift Enterprises, doesn’t necessarily mean quick. Sometimes tasks take time. My name is Thomas Swift, emphasize the Thomas. Calling me Tom Swift causes all sorts of smartass remarks about my “electric rifle,” or “flying submarine.” Most of these come from old farts that may have read ancient Tom Swift books as kids and think making puns on other peoples’ names is cute. Most old farts think they’re cute.

Crap! The fax machine’s groaning. A pizza ad, no doubt. Maybe they have a special, doesn’t hurt to check.

I dragged my chair out from behind the desk (bought at Mike’s Used Furniture—with some interesting amateur carvings) and rolled across the flattened gray carpet to the multi-function machine. Didn’t want to stand up if possible. Weather must be changing, thigh aching.

Damn! Business—or, at least the prospect of a paying job.

Mr. Smart:

Our firm, Universal Exports, is interested in securing your photographic services for documentation of product condition in regard to insurance services.

Our principals will be available to discuss terms and compensation tomorrow, May 15th, at 2:00 PM if this is suitable.

Please call our offices or send an email in reply to this message if the appointment is not at a convenient time for you.

MP

There was a local phone number, and local address, upstairs. I’m on the sixth floor; they were on the ninth. The email address was mp@universalexports.com. I sent a message accepting—it wouldn’t look good if I immediately knocked on their door, and it wasn’t as if I had a tee time to interfere. I don’t play golf. Never took up the game.

Army sergeants have other things to do. When I retired in 2010, I was a Master Sergeant, U.S. Army Special Forces. After two tours in Afghanistan and another looming within months, I pulled the plug—after 24 years. At 43, I figured I was still good for another career. I had a hefty amount of intelligence training and I was pretty good with a camera; hence, Swift Enterprises.

Unfortunately, I get the occasional inquiry about delivering packages. Maybe I should buy a truck. Not a helluva lot of room in my car. I drive a BMW Z4—big enough for two people—so long as they’re normal-sized.

I had a bit of money stashed away that neither Blanche—my ex, nor her foul, predator lawyer—knew about. I bought a house about twenty miles from downtown Mobile, in Fairhope, then the car. My office, about the size of an average medieval monk’s cell, overlooks Bienville Square. Not much space is necessary for a lone photographer/investigator, though. Most of my business, sparse though it’s been lately, comes from angry wives/husbands seeking photographic proof of infidelity.

Some of my in flagrante shots are priceless. Of course, the customer paid a hefty price for the little gems, but then, he/she’ll get that back during the litigation—if the lawyers don’t take it all.

Phone. Turning out to be some sort of day for Swift Enterprises.

“Swift Enterprises, how may we help you today?”

“Mr. Thomas Swift, Please,” a contralto voice with a faint British accent.

“Speaking. How may I help you?

“This is Lois with Universal exports. We received your email just moments ago. We’ll be eager to meet with you tomorrow. I’m just calling to confirm our appointment at 2:00 P.M.,” she said.

“I’ve cleared my calendar until 5 p.m. in case we need to explore details. Shall I bring my camera?”

“No, not at this stage. Mr. Lee would like meet you and discuss your services before we begin.”

“Did you say your name is Lois?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll look forward to meeting you in person, Lois.”

“Thank you.”

She hung up.

I was hoping the woman I’d meet matched the voice. Smoky and feminine. I was unattached except for a professor named Lil, who taught in the master’s program in nursing at Spring Hill College. She spent frequent weekends with me. Said she liked the beach and fishing. She could cook flounder as tasty as I’ve ever eaten. We’re comfortable together. We’ve both been burned in marriage and haven’t ever talked about it for ourselves. Yet.

2

I stood in front of a solid mahogany door, looking at a heavy, old-fashioned brass plaque, five minutes early. Universal Exports, the plaque said in deeply engraved block letters. My brain cells twitched a bit, but couldn’t find the reference. I pushed the door open.

The outer office was spacious and well lighted by windows and incandescent bulbs. It was furnished with polished wood furniture that looked a bit dated. The only person in the office, a redhead sitting behind a desk behind an old-fashioned typewriter, stood as I entered.

“You must be Mr. Swift,” she said.

Her voice, in person, was more of a Lauren Bacall sound. Husky, sexy.

“Yes, I’m Swift, and you are Lois?” I said.

She chuckled. Nice. She looked familiar, quietly sensuous in a tight sweater and skirt. Auburn hair, green eyes, minimal makeup. I had the same tingle I’d had about the company’s name.

“My voice gives me away every time. Mr. Lee is expecting you. Come this way please.”

She looked great from behind as she led me to the inner office. She partially opened it and leaned in.

“Mr. Swift is here.”

I heard a voice, couldn’t understand the words, but she opened the door and waved me in.

The office was spacious and well lighted. There was an immense rosewood desk. Two wingback easy chairs faced the desk. One was occupied, but the chair’s wings blocked his face. The man behind the desk, I recognized. He was the man who played the part of M in the early James bond movies. He stood and held out a hand.

“I’m Bernard Lee,” he said.

I stepped forward to take his hand, forgetting Lee had been dead for years. As I moved toward the desk, the man in the wingback chair stood up and faced me. He nodded.

“Bond, James Bond,” he said.

I nearly choked. He was a duplicate of the young Sean Connery. He wore a navy blue, three-piece suit, red tie and white shirt. When he stood, I was surprised at how tall he was. I’m six-one. He was a shade taller.

“Mr. Swift, please make yourself comfortable. I know that our appearance is a bit disquieting, but there’s a good reason for our masks,” the man who looked like Lee said.

I sat in the chair next to Bond/Connery. He gave me his ironic half-smile.

“Miss Moneypenny, would you please bring coffee and tea?” Lee said.

Damn! Lois Maxwell, Moneypenny. I decided to play along with the charade—didn’t seem threatening and my curiosity buzzed like a cell phone locked in silent vibrate mode.

“May I refer to you as “M”?” I said.

“Of course, of course. Our masks are for your convenience. Someday, we may show you our true physical forms. Just not now,” M said.

True physical forms?

“Since we’re working through James Bond symbols, I’d like to meet Ursula Andress or Honey Ryder—whatever you’re calling her,” I said.

M didn’t blink. Bond smirked. Our silent male bonding over the sensuous actress was broken when the Moneypenny clone showed up. She was carrying a silver tray with two pots and four cups. She set it down on the table between the chairs. She gave the Bond clone a special smile and swayed sweetly out the door. The coffee smelled wonderful and proved as good as the scent.

“Mr. Swift—may I call you Thomas?” M said.

“Sure, but you haven’t told me about Ursula,” I said.

These two characters looked so real that I figured the Andress clone would be astounding up close.

“Miss Ryder will join us after we make a few arrangements. Now, I’m sure you have a number of questions. I think that we can answer them best by showing you what we are going to ask you to do,” M said.

“First thing: just what in hell is all this masquerade about. You ask me to come here on the pretense of business and I’m confronted with people who look like actors playing in a movie. What do you want from me? I have a business to run,” I said.

Actually, my business was limping along. Sounded good, though. The Bond-looking/Connery-looking character hadn’t changed expression. He still looked bemused.

“Mr. Swift—Thomas—we do intend to offer a paying job. One, I might add, that you’re quite suited to do. Please wait until we show you,” M said.

A light tapping on the door: the Moneypenny clone stuck her head in.

“Major Boothroyd is here,” she said.

Until the man walked in the door, I had no idea who Major Boothroyd might be. I couldn’t remember the actor’s name, but he was “Q,” from the first Bond movies. The clone introduced himself as Peter Burton. As Q, he had seemed the archetype of the British scientific type: gruff and unbending with an encyclopedic knowledge of gadgets. The Brits called them “boffins.”

Still no Ursula/Honey. I let it ride. Nothing else to do anyway. They’d decided to address each other as characters in the Bond films. No threat, but I could feel my .45 nestled in the small of my back, under my jacket.

“Thomas, Major Boothroyd will set up a bit of equipment. We’ll first show why we require your services and then describe precisely our needs. We’ll answer your questions,” Booth said.

“Watch closely, Thomas. Some details could be critical,” Bond said.

He hadn’t spoken since the introduction. His voice was grim.

The Boothroyd or “Q” set six little boxes around the room. They appeared to be featureless. They were slick black and about the size of Bose sound cubes. He touched each of them—appearing to stroke their surfaces—and moved to stand beside M’s desk.

“Gentlemen, we are ready.”

“Proceed, Major,” M said.

The room we were in disappeared. We were in a triple canopy jungle.

I taught at the Army’s Jungle Operations School at Ft. Gulick, CZ (that’s Canal Zone) in the mid ‘90s. The illusion was powerful. I could smell the jungle. In M’s office, we were in a “Green Hell.”

The camera, if that’s what guided our senses, took us down a footpath to a village. To call the collection of dome-shaped woven huts a village was generous. A fire smoldered in the middle of the open area and I could smell the embers. The sensations of heat and humidity were so real I felt sweat on my back.

A man and a woman: humanoid, but different, squatted on hard-packed ground beside the fire. The woman was holding a skewer with chunks of multi-colored objects over the fire. She and the male—obviously male, but, again different, chatted and nodded. The sounds were clear, but unintelligible. The skewer dripped into the embers, sparking sputtering flames.

They were naked except for loincloths. Their skin had a pale green tinge. Their ears were smaller than one would expect on a human, and rounder. Their hair was straight, black and appeared to be very fine-textured. They were slim in the way of Olympic swimmers.

I could smell the meat cooking.

The male stiffened, trying to stand. A spear with a metal point pierced his chest and thrust out his back. He dropped backward, dying.

The female dropped the skewer and ran down the footpath, into the jungle.

What stepped into the clearing and jerked the spear from the dying male was less humanoid. It wore a short skirt and jerkin made of something that looked like armadillo hides. Short boots of the same armored skin completed its ensemble. The creature was approximately the size of an extra large NFL offensive guard, with a face ripped from nightmares. A pelt of pale brown fur covered the brute where there was no leather. The nose was like the first inch of a pig’s snout and twisted as he sniffed. The eyes, under heavy brows, were red. But only ßwhen the thing turned, could one see narrow vertically elliptical, black pupils. When it snatched the spear from the body, I noticed that it had eight fingers on each hand—if one could call them fingers—the nails were heavy black claws.

Whatever device Q was using, panned to the face in a close-up. The beast had fangs Dracula might have envied.

The scene/illusion disappeared.

We were back in M’s office. Boothroyd picked up his cubes and, nodding, left.

I drew breath again.

“Thomas, you’ve just seen why we need you,” M said.

“Just what the hell was that?” I said

“The big, ugly devil is a Hanoe. His kind branched off from the smaller creatures you saw—the Origii—several millennia ago. Hanoe is the name we’ve assigned to that species. That was a male, by the way. The female is only slightly smaller and just as ugly and savage. The Origii—that’s the name they have for themselves—are a different, more intelligent species which separated itself from the Hanoe in both physical development and culture. If the two species were to interbreed, there would be no offspring,” Bond said.

“The planet on which they live is almost evenly divided into three parts: water, jungle and rocky steppes leading to mountains. The Origii live in the rain forests or on the shores of the seas. The Hanoe live in the steppes and mountains,” M said.

He leaned over his desk. A professor imparting wisdom to a student. Bond had a scowl between his eyebrows. I sipped some of their excellent coffee and breathed deeply. The stench of the jungle was gone, but the memories from Jungle Survival School and operations in the rain forests of the Philippines on advisory missions had left deep memories of the unique odor.

“Okay, gentlemen, thanks for the extraterrestrial visit and educational experience; impressive. My question stands: what do you want from me?” I said.

“Simply put, we want you to organize and lead a team to teach the Origii how to fight the Hanoe,” M said.

Simply put, simply insane.

“Bullshit. I’m forty-three, out of condition and have a gimpy leg. I’ve hung up my weapons and beret. As I told the CIA when they came calling, ‘Forget it.’”

“Thomas, if I could go in, advise the Origii and lead them against the Hanoe, I would. I’ve done it before—all our kind have, for thousands of years. Technology has enabled us to live longer than you can imagine. Now, though, only one of us remains who can undertake the mission—but he cannot do it alone,” Bond said.

“Gentlemen, it has been a truly unexpected pleasure to meet you. No matter what you really look like, I feel as if I’ve been transported to a movie set and met legendary stars. Please excuse me I must go. I hope you can find help for the Origii. I’m not your solution,” I said.

I stood and shook both their hands and left. On the way out I thanked Moneypenny for her kindness.

“Check your business bank account when you return to your office. I’m sorry to see you leave,” she said.

She was a sweet fabrication, but I left anyway.

*********

The next stage of the story involves the hero, Thomas, meeting with his mentor.  He then begins to assemble a team to complete the mission.

Your comments are welcome.

Thomas

called by

Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | April 5, 2015

Thoughts on The Resurrection

He is risen!

****************

After the Resurrection, the Romans—as well as those in the Jewish hierarchy who opposed Jesus and his ministry—said that his disciples had stolen his body away from the tomb. It came about when the chief priests bribed the soldiers who had guarded the tomb.

Matthew 28 tells the story:

1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.

4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.

6. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.

7Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now, I have told you.”

8So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy and ran to tell his disciples.

9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them,

10“Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money,   13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

What a story. The part about the Roman guards is amusing—in a way. There had to be a number of them, not just one or two. Notice the quote, “…some of the guards…” Also, given the high-profile nature of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus, these weren’t just ordinary men. These guards, I would imagine, were handpicked, tough legionnaires.

The fact that they were so terrified when the angel came and rolled the stone back that they “…shook and became as dead men…” takes on more significance when we consider the nature of the soldiers themselves. Those hardened warriors were shaking and paralyzed.

I’m reminded of a comment made by a preacher I knew long ago. He was talking about what happened in Gethsemane when Peter drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Jesus, rebuked Peter, telling him to put away his sword. Luke 22:51 says, “But Jesus answered, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.” The old preacher’s comment was, “I’ll bet that man left Gethsemane and went home!”

Notice that Matthew’s Gospel says that the angel rolled the stone away and then sat on it. How long he had been there, sitting on the stone when the two Marys arrived, we aren’t told. During that time, the Roman soldiers were in a state of shaking paralysis. That was the scene that the two Marys found when they arrived at the tomb. It must have been shocking and frightening, but the angel said, “Do not be afraid.”

A central theme in Christianity, not just in the story of the resurrection, is embodied in the admonition, “Do not be afraid.” Notice that Jesus said these words to the Marys as they met him. Remember that the angels, when announcing the birth of Jesus, told the shepherds, “Do not be afraid.” The angel, Gabriel, said to Mary, “Do not be afraid…” We need to remember those words and root our faith in them. Our faith needs to be strong enough to keep us from fear. Although the women were still frightened by what they’d seen, the voice of the angel and their trust in Jesus had made them stronger than the guards who were paralyzed with terror.

It has been pointed out, by the way, that the stone was not rolled away for Jesus to leave the tomb.   He had already departed. The angel rolled the stone back from the tomb to show the world that “He is not here; he has risen…” We can imagine the angel pointing to the empty tomb as he spoke. We can only wonder what the trembling, catatonic Roman soldiers were thinking.

Some of them went to the chief priests and reported everything that had happened. Notice, that they did not go the military authorities or directly to the governor. Why? They’d probably have been flogged or executed—or both. Imagine a hard-bitten sergeant of the guards reacting to their story. “An angel, you say, came and rolled back that rock? That rock took five strong men and a donkey to put in place! Have you been drinking on duty?”

Needless to continue, but it would not have been pleasant. Now going to the chief priests was a different affair. These were the people who feared Jesus so much that they had demanded his death. The guards correctly guessed that they, who had the most to lose from the resurrection of Jesus, would pay for the guards’ silence. And pay they did. The chief priests apparently paid the guards handsomely to parrot a story they concocted about Jesus’ disciples stealing his body away while they were asleep. They even—probably at the insistence of the guards—promised to provide a cover story for them with the governor if he should hear the story.

Why? In most military organizations, falling asleep at one’s guard post is an extremely serious offense. In this case, the guards could—and probably would—have been executed. Pilate himself was personally involved. “Take a guard.” Pilate answered, “Go, and make the tomb as secure as you know how.” (Matthew 27:65) They not only posted guards at the entrance, they tied a cord across the rock and put a clay seal on each end so that if anyone disturbed the rock, the seals—doubtlessly imprinted with a official signet—would be broken. For the soldiers to be so asleep that all the commotion involved in moving the rock didn’t wake them would have been serious dereliction of their duty.

We aren’t told what happened to the guards, but I’d imagine that they took their money and became very, very quiet men. Those who were directly paid would have had to share the money with the guards who didn’t go with them to the priests. They would also have had to tell the others the official line, and cautioned them to stick to it. The story concocted by the chief priests was, however, extremely thin.

Consider: They were saying that they slept through the racket of the disciples rolling back the rock. All of them!

Consider: If the disciples—those men who had run away in fear at Gethsemane and had denied Jesus in public—had planned to steal his body from the tomb, what they’d have had to take into account. First, there were a number of soldiers guarding the tomb and most of the disciples probably didn’t have swords much less shields and armor. The disciples certainly wouldn’t have been able to count on the guards being asleep! And, they were demonstrably not all that brave in the face of soldiers. They had run away from and left Jesus alone in the garden. Second, if there had been enough of Jesus’ disciples to pull off robbing his tomb, there’d be enough people who knew of the theft that the story would get out sooner or later.

No, the angel did not roll the stone away so that Jesus could leave the tomb. He was already gone. When we look into the empty tomb, we see that it was there where the empty body of Jesus had been placed. Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus, and because he was a prominent citizen, Pilate granted the request. “So Joseph brought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.” (Mark 15:46) Joseph was a wealthy and well-connected man. He would have hardly done the physical labor of moving the stone himself. Later, Mark mentions that the stone was quite large. No problem for an angel, though.

Luke is the only gospel that describes the reaction of the apostles when Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James told them of the empty tomb and the words of Jesus and the angel. “Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away wondering to himself what had happened.”

We call Peter, “The Rock,” and refer to “doubting Thomas.” It appears that there was enough disbelief among the apostles to go around. We consider the apostles, sometimes, as saints above us all. They were men. These men ran away when the soldiers came to Gethsemane. Their greatness came through their faith in Jesus. Peter’s wondering what happened was later replaced with a steadfastness that deserved the name, “The Rock.”

The empty shell, that had been body of Jesus when he was alive, was placed in the rock cave and lay there waiting until He returned and gave it new life. Jesus’ ministry and miracles included raising several people, recounted in the gospels, from the dead. A major theme of His ministry was resurrection from death—the conquering of death. Of course, the crowning event was His resurrection. Those He raised from the dead during his life on earth were people who were physically dead. Their resurrection is a bright symbol for the millions upon millions whose souls have been dead, but who may come alive again, for eternity, once Jesus enters their hearts.

 

Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | April 4, 2015

The Darkest Sabbath

This came to me a year or so ago.  It’s an appropriate meditation for the Sabbath preceding The Resurrection.

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The Darkest Sabbath

The four Gospels tell the story of Christ’s betrayal, mock trial and crucifixion with few variations. All of these events took place on Friday, the day before the Sabbath. The Romans who crucified Jesus were going about breaking the legs of those who had been crucified to assure their deaths before the beginning of the Sabbath, which commences a few minutes before sundown on Friday and lasts until three stars are visible in the Saturday night sky.

The bible does not directly tell us what happened to the people who were closest to Jesus on the Sabbath immediately following his crucifixion and burial. We can only speculate.  Based on what we do know about several of Christ’s closest followers, we can imagine how the night and day following the death of Jesus affected them.

John

In the Gospel of John, the Apostle often refers to himself as the “…disciple whom Jesus loved.”  Not only was he one of the twelve, he was, along with his brother James and  Simon Peter, a member of those closest to Jesus and, more—considered himself as the Lord’s best friend. Recall that those three were selected to be with Christ during the transfiguration.

As darkness covered Israel the night after Jesus was crucified, John probably had Mary, Jesus’ mother, in his house. He had, at the foot of the cross, been charged with acting as Mary’s son. Possibly she was the one who lighted the candles for the Shabbat. John could hardly forget how, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus had asked that he, James and Peter stay awake with him on the night he was in agonizing prayer before the crucifixion and they could not. He, along with most of the Disciples ran away at the approach of the chief priests and temple guard. Remorse over his failure must have deepened his grief.  Did he sleep at all during that during that dark Sabbath?

Peter

The fiery, impetuous leader, the disciple who became The Rock, must have had a much worse night and day, following the death of Jesus. Not only had he failed his Lord in Gethsemane, he had openly denied knowing Him three times before the rooster crowed.  Peter was a strong-willed proud man.  He was the only one of Jesus’ followers who offered physical resistance when the Jewish leaders and guard came to arrest Christ.  Recall, he drew his sword and cut off the right ear of one of the High Priests’ servants.  Of course, Jesus rebuked Peter and replaced the man’s ear.  I

Did Peter sleep that Friday night? Could he truly rest during the following Sabbath day?

Mary Magdalene

The woman whose name is, after the mother of Jesus, most prominently mentioned in the Gospels was faithful to her Lord throughout the Passion. She and Jesus’ mother did not leave the awful scene on Golgotha. They were there until the final moments and didn’t desert Him as his body was laid in the tomb. The women probably saw the mighty stone rolled in place to seal the entrance. Despair and pain must’ve filled the night and following day.

We may speculate that she spent that night and the following Sabbath in the house with Jesus’ mother.  This is because the scriptures describe them as being at the tomb together on the third morning.

Mary Magdalene, the woman who had been possessed by demons before Christ healed her, was faithful to Him through the hour of His death.

Did she sleep past tears and mourning during those awful hours following Jesus’ death?

Mary, Mother of Jesus

God chose Mary to bring Jesus into this world.  Although the Gospel of Luke describes her as “…troubled…” when Gabriel told her of her mission, the sense of deep fear isn’t in the story. Remember, Luke was not one of the Apostles. His recounting of the Annunciation could have only come from interviewing Mary.

With no scripture that speaks of the desolate day following Christ’s crucifixion, it is possible to consider that the woman who was Jesus’ mother had a deep faith that her son’s death was not final.

She must’ve mourned and felt bereft of her reason for living and the treasure God had given her. Did she sleep?

Summation

Could any of these, who were closest to Jesus, find rest until they knew He was resurrected.  Certainly, there was no peace in their hearts until they had seen Christ again, much as there is no true peace in our hearts until we have seen Him.

Could any of these, who were closest to Jesus, find rest until they knew He was resurrected.  Certainly, there was no peace in their hearts until they had seen Christ again, much as there is no true peace in our hearts until we have seen Him.

Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | March 29, 2015

For Vietnam Veterans Day

A Vietnam Vet is standing, dressed in old gear waiting for the approach of a parade. Those in the parade are victorious troops from Desert Storm.  The troops are being welcomed home by ecstatic crowds. He cannot forget what he left behind and what encountered when he came home.

Now, it appears that America is, at long last, ready to welcome us back.

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WAITING FOR THE PARADE

I had that dream again last night,
or maybe today…
dressing for a parade,
but couldn’t find everything I needed;
medals, rank insignia, or unit crests;
always something different,
-always something missing.

Memories of war
at first
ran just under my feet,
like foreshortened shadows
following at midday,
when yesterday was no more
than darkness
before this day’s light.
All senses remembered too much
and fear stabbed the gut
like frozen glass shards
or rage stung
like sweat in an open gash.

But here I stand anyway,
among all these people on main street,
-still wearing my green beret,
– my faded tiger-stripe fatigues,
and waiting for the homecoming parade
under this new American sky.

I’m looking through the crowd
for others,
wondering if their uniforms fit
and if they have their ribbons.
Months of war-stretched memory
numbed into distortion.
A long darkness trailed my boots
leaving only momentary shade
and disappearing holes
in watery mud.
Footprints in tall grass lifted back
stretched in long afternoon sun
unbent again by evening.
Showing no sign of passage.

Trumpets sound–
so distant that fluttering banners
and muffled pop of yellow ribbons
hide their songs.
American flags reach from every lamppost
like open arms
stretching in spring winds
to touch and bless
victorious columns in desert tan.

Shadows hide in night
like war’s remembering,
waiting for morning to cling,
mocking every clumsy movement
faster than running can escape.
Burning through flesh like white phosphorous
cleaving to the bone
with a phantom ache of loss
like pain in an amputated limb.

I cannot march to this coming drum
Bouncing too loudly against my ears
and echoing back from The Wall;
my uniform is out of date,
-colors out of style,
-decorations incomplete.

Unfaithful visions,
-blacker in strange winter light
mutable as shifting colors
walking beside me on unquiet waters.

That old land may have remembrance,
                                        but not of me.
My passing shadow touched its earth
more faintly than the wavering reflection
I throw in a lake.

Still,
when the brassy Stars and Stripes Forever
leads young heroes past chanting crowds
my toes, in worn-out jungle boots
will twitch to feel the rhythmic stamp,
my shoulder will bear the rifle’s weight,
and my ears,
filled with the surf beat of welcoming cheers
will let me pretend,
for a time,
I did not return alone.
______________________________________________

Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | March 28, 2015

John 14

The agony of The Passion was approaching.  Jesus was comforting his disciples ahead of the suffering he would endure and the pain of emptiness they would experience. The scriptural quotes are from the King James translation.

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A friend, Ralph C. Hammond—who passed away in December of 2010 at age 94—once told me, referring to the 14th Chapter of John, “…if that’s all I had of The Bible, it would be all that I need.” Ralph had a storied life as a WWII war correspondent, a press secretary for Alabama’s governor, and president of the Alabama Writer’s Conclave and State Poetry Society, then Poet Laureate of Alabama, to name a few of his literary achievements—yet he singled out this chapter as enough for his faith, if nothing else was available.

Looking at the chapter, the reader is immediately struck by the wonderful words, “Let not your heart be troubled, ye believe in God, believe also in Me.”

In Chapter 13, John reports that Jesus had washed his disciples’ feet, teaching them about humility. He was also preparing them for His coming crucifixion and giving them a new commandment: that they love one another. Much had been happening in a short period of time and the disciples were confused. They’d heard Jesus say that one of them would betray him, they’d seen their Master acting as a servant and Judas Iscariot had left. Jesus had also said that Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crowed in the morning.

Now was the moment when Jesus comforted them and showed them the way to The Father. He told them that he was going to The Father and prepare the way for them to join him. He told them, And whither I go, ye know the way.”

Yes they did. They knew Him. I can imagine a loving smile on his face when Thomas spoke. “Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; how know we the way?”

The Lord then used Thomas’ question to teach them even more.

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

When another disciple, Philip, asks to be shown The Father, Jesus’ words are loving and mildly reproving.

“Jesus saith unto him, ‘Have I been so long time with you, and dost thou not know me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; how sayest thou, Show us the Father?’ Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.”

Look closely, Jesus has now definitively identified himself as one with God The Father. None of the other three (synoptic) Gospels report this declaration. In fact, Biblical scholars estimate that 90% of John’s Gospel is unique.

Consider the opening words of John’s Gospel: “1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2.The same was in the beginning with God.

3.All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made.

4.In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.

5.And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

And then:

         14.And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

Lets go back about seven hundred years earlier—to the prophesy of Isaiah:

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

Next, in John, Chapter 14, Jesus promises the Wonderful Counselor, in Verse 16 and again in 26:

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”

Now, in the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, we see the Wonderful Counselor (the Holy Spirit) and the Everlasting Father present in the person of Jesus.

The next verse, 27,  in John completes the Trinity.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Jesus was and is the Prince of Peace.

In many ways my friend Ralph was right. All that a Christian requires is in Chapter 14 of the Gospel of John.

 

 

 

Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | March 24, 2015

A Song for Four Soloists and Choir

This song, again, has no melody—except in my head.  Until now, the only people who’ve seen are my wife, Marge and my son, Mike.

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First voice:

He restored my sight.

Now I can see His face,

He healed me with His mighty love,

Now I’m living in His grace.

Chorus:

Christ is our healer; his grace is the key.

He bought our redemption on dark Calvary.

He opened my eyes so that I could see

Glimpses of glory, in eternity.

Second voice:

He told me to stand,

Take up my bed and walk.

Now I’ll follow Him with my every step

And He will lead me home.

Chorus:

Christ is our healer; his grace is the key.

He bought our redemption on dark Calvary.

He gave my legs strength to walk by his side

And now my way’s clear, for he is my guide.

 

Third voice:

He set my soul free;

I was possessed by demons

Of sin and fear,

But His voice drove them from me.

Chorus:

Christ is our healer; his grace is the key.

He bought our redemption on dark Calvary.

He spoke and his power restored my soul,

His love has freed me and now I am whole.

Fourth voice:

He brought me to life,

Called on me to live again,

For I was dead and cold in the grip of sin

When His touch awakened me.

Chorus:

Christ is our healer; his grace is the key.

He bought our redemption on dark Calvary.

He gives us life to live with Him

Wrapped in his love for eternity.

 

Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | March 22, 2015

Thomas The Good Student

I’ve posted this before, but it seems appropriate as Easter approaches.

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Think back to a time when you were in school, or the last time you were in a class of any type. There were probably moments when something the teacher said or did made you want to ask a question, but you may have held back for fear that someone else in the class would think you’d asked a dumb question.

Remember what a relief you felt when one of the other students stuck up a hand and asked, “Teacher…?”

Yeah, you remember that. And you can be sure that there were probably several other students in the group who had the same question and felt the same relief that you did.

Jesus was, and is, the master teacher. The twelve Disciples can be considered his first and closest students. Some of his students finally did ask the questions that I feel sure the others wanted to ask themselves.

Let’s consider Thomas. We don’t know very much about him, except that he has been given the dubious title of “Doubting.” Lets look closely at how Jesus used Thomas’ outspoken questions and how He even used his doubts to teach. Through these, Jesus taught his disciples and through the Gospels, he teaches us.

I have an affinity for Thomas. I may have just been that student who impetuously stuck up his hand to ask the question that none of the others would voice. I have often been that student who would ask the “dumb question,” and, I feel sure that other students were waiting eagerly for the answer.

When, in John 14, Jesus said:

“Do not your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you may also be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Then Thomas stuck up his hand.

“Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” he said.

Thomas, like probably some of the other Disciples, took Jesus’ words as describing a physical trip, as to Bethany or Jerusalem. Some of the others were probably saying—silently—to themselves, “Whew, good for you, Thomas. I’m glad to have you ask that question rather than me! I didn’t understand either.”

Jesus must have smiled at Thomas, knowing the thoughts of the other disciples, and I picture Him as looking around at all of them with deep love as he told them, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” and, “If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well”

Jesus, the master teacher, used Thomas’ question as a way to teach the disciples—and you those of us who read His Word—that, if you want to know the way to The Father, here it is: “I am the way…” John has recorded the words “I am…” said by Jesus as the words that signify the oneness of Jesus with God The Father. These words, remember, are the words God spoke to Moses from the burning bush when Moses asked who he should tell the Israelites had sent him to them when they asked, “What is his name?” God answered Moses’ question with, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I Am has sent me to you.’” The Jewish religious leaders were incensed at Jesus’ use of the phrase, “I am,” since it linked Him directly to the almighty.

He told Philip, in John 14:9: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

That was a part of the same conversation when Thomas asked his famous question about where Jesus was going.

Thomas was a strong and loyal Disciple. At one point when Jesus told his Disciples that he was going to the home of Lazarus, who had been sick and died; they knew that He was walking into danger. Thomas’ grim but faithful statement to the other disciples was, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” These are the words and of a man who truly loved and believed in Jesus.

In the scene that has forever laid the title, “doubting” on him, Thomas probably stood mentally where some of the Disciples had been before they had seen Jesus themselves. We aren’t told why Thomas wasn’t with the other ten Disciples when Jesus appeared to them on earlier occasions, but they had surely told him excitedly over and over that He had risen.

It is easy for us to understand why Thomas doubted the others. He had seen His Lord had brutally humiliated and crucified. The structure of his faith had been shattered. Like students in classes every class, Thomas had not listened closely enough. Jesus had told them of his impending death and the reasons for it. Thomas, along with the others, had run away and left Jesus in Gethsemane, but he had watched the scenes of The Passion and the crucifixion play out from a distance, and obviously knew what the physical wounds had been on Jesus’ body.

The defining moment that tagged Thomas with the “doubting” label came when Jesus had been crucified and had risen.   The Gospel of John tells us that:

“Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’”

Thomas, still in anguish over the loss of his Lord and the destruction of the very fabric of his faith, probably wished and hoped that they were right, but told them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” We can imagine that those words were spoken through the awful pain of loss.

We also aren’t told what happened during the next week, but I have to wonder if the other Disciples tried again and again to convince Thomas that the Lord had truly risen.

A stubborn, hurt man; Thomas—probably with a hollow pain inside him—mourned his Lord. He didn’t, however, desert the others. He was with them in a locked room when Jesus came to them and said, “Peace be with you!”

Imagine the flooding of relief and the glory of hope restored that must have swept through Thomas. Imagine also, the awful, sinking feeling of shame and embarrassment that he had not believed what the other disciples had told him. At this point, Thomas didn’t have to actually touch Jesus to believe, but when Jesus told him to “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

His answer was the answer that Jesus wanted him to finally say and understand, “My Lord and my God!”

We can only speculate what would have happened if Peter, or one of the other Disciples had not seen Jesus and was in the place of Thomas. Peter, who had denied Christ three times, may have been stronger. We don’t know. But we can be sure that Thomas was probably not alone in his doubts before he had seen Jesus for himself.

Thomas, through his stubborn doubting, gave us the chance to know the words of the Master Teacher that echo down the centuries.

“Because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Jesus used the doubts of a strong, loyal Disciple to tell those of us who, in time, are so far away from the days when He was physically on earth, that we are blessed when we believe in Him although we have not physically seen Him.

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