Remembering The Titanic’s First and Last Voyage

A local TV news and weather channel’s app on my phone includes other features of interest, one being “This Day In History.” After scanning the headlines about last night’s shootings, car wrecks and warnings about yet another oncoming winter storm to hit the Great Plains, I scrolled down to read that on April 10, 1912, “The Titanic set sail from Southampton, England, on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean headed for New York City.”

Billed as the ship that “not even God could sink,” after the starboard side of the RMS Titanic struck the iceberg it took only two hours and 40 minutes for her to disappear under the eerily placid waters of the Atlantic about 375 miles south of Newfoundland. The White Star Line’s much acclaimed 46,300-ton truly titanic luxury vessel sank, along with more than 1,500 passengers, 1,200 pudding dishes, 1,000 oyster forks, 400 asparagus tongs and countless other miscellaneous comfort items to the bottom of the sea.

The winter of 1911-1912 had been unusually mild. Higher-than-normal temperatures in the North Atlantic had caused more icebergs to drift away from the west coast of Greenland than at any time in the previous 50 years. If not for that one unseasonably warm winter, perhaps the Titanic might never have had an iceberg to hit.

It has been noted that wireless operators aboard had received warnings from other vessels in the area about large concentrations of icebergs in the area. The fact that the fateful, fatal collision might have been avoided makes the disaster even more tragic.

Billy Graham is quoted as remarking that “The greatest surprise in life to me is the brevity of life.” Surprised would be an understatement in the minds of passengers swallowed up in the frigid waters and those fortunate few clinging to lifeboats that night, never imagining that tomorrow might not come.

Perhaps the adage “Today is the first day of the rest of your life” is a notion we should realize every day, like the Roman poet Horace exclaims, “Carpe diem!” or “seize the day.” The New Testament writer James says, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” Life can be portrayed as brief, no matter how many or how few birthdays we have experienced on this planet. The way we choose to interpret that precious span of days or years makes the biggest difference, especially when trying to understand senseless tragedies, like the sinking of the Titanic.

It seems that we can go either of two ways. We can numb ourselves in guiltless hedonism, if like Shakespeare’s Macbeth, we perceive life as not much more than “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” I prefer instead to believe that I have a purpose, that God values my existence as expressed in the well-known verse of John 3:16, and that both joy and suffering are elemental aspects of my allotted time here on earth. I side then with noted 19th Century Baptist preacher and evangelist Charles Spurgeon who wrote, “Time is short. Eternity is long. It is only reasonable that this short life be lived in the light of eternity.” Well-read in scripture undoubtedly he was familiar with Psalm 90 which says, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Let us then be wise. Eternity is a long time to be foolish about anything.

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The Great War’s Amazing Christmas Truce

‘Twas the night before Christmas, 1914 — the first Christmas of what was to become known as the First World War.

On the renowned annual Eve when many civilians everywhere in warmth and comfort usually celebrate “Peace on earth, good will to men,” it was just another bitterly cold night along the Front around Ypres, in West Flanders, Belgium. But as the evening grew darker and colder, a miracle took place. After raging on for five months straight, the gunfire stopped. Soldiers on both sides of the armed conflict set aside their weapons, crawled out of the frozen muck of their trenches, if only temporarily, and met face to face in No Man’s Land, the area between the two enemy-held lines which neither side wished to cross or seize fearing the certainty of being blown to pieces in the process.

Allied soldiers actually exchanged Yuletide greetings, “gifts” of rations, and cigarettes with their German counterparts. They drank schnapps in dented tin cups and sang “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht” (“Silent Night, Holy Night”), caroling together in alternating languages. Some accounts of the event even say that a soccer game or two were played in the bloodstained mud, sidestepping shell holes and debris, until the ball deflated when it hit a barbed wire entanglement.

A certain Corporal John Ferguson recorded that “We shook hands, wished each other a Merry Xmas and were soon conversing as if we had known each other for years. [The rest] of our company, hearing that I and some others had gone out, followed us . . . What a sight — little groups of Germans and British extending almost the length of our front! Out of the darkness we could hear laughter and see lighted matches, a German lighting a Scotchman’s cigarette and vice versa, exchanging cigarettes and souvenirs. Everyone seemed to be getting on nicely. Here we were laughing and chatting to men whom only a few hours before we were trying to kill!”

With guns gone silent and soldiers risking courts-martial, this unusual and unofficial truce endured for a night and a day, much to the dismay of their commanding officers, who were after all, there to get on with the destruction of nations. Eventually the spirit of Christmas, the fraternity, the hope all evaporated and the madness of war again took hold of the Western Front, where quiet would not return until November 11, 1918. The cost of peace that day involved far more than a few packs of cigarettes and a flask of brandy. More than eight million lives had been lost and many more wounded for the sake of a political realignment of Europe’s national geography.

Although it lasted but for a few hours on the ever-unfolding calendar of human history, the Trêve de Noël or Christmas Truce of 1914 brought precious moments of peace to the world on a narrow stretch of land ripped apart by savagery. Somehow, Christmas broke through. Now 100 years after the so-called War to End All Wars failed to do so, another Christmas is about to be observed across a globe still desperate for a reprieve from everything that deprives us of truly lasting inner peace.

It is possible, however, for nations, for families and individual hearts to receive the seemingly elusive “Tidings of comfort and joy” of Christmastime if we would but believe the lyrics of Charles Wesley’s classic hymn, Hark! the Herald Angels Sing. Declaring “Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled,” his renowned carol tells us the simple “what and how” of Christmas peace: redemption through Jesus Christ, born the Prince of Peace, God’s loving gift of peace to us, clothed in human form.

This year, don’t let the wonderful miracle of Christmas Day be forgotten on December 26. The angelic message about a Savior told to shepherds and the whole world long ago is an ongoing reality, just as true today as it was then, continuing to transform lives and calm troubled hearts. Let’s sing it together.
Hail the heav’n born prince of peace!
Hail the Son of righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

End of (My) Days

During the winter months,
the afternoon daylight hours
are just never long enough.
When I watch the sun slip down
behind the neighborhood rooftops
I sometimes feel a bit somber.

The onset of dusk shows my eyes
what the clock says to my mind ––
time is running through my fingers
like sand through the popular
daytime TV soap opera hourglass.
And “so are the days of our lives.”

Old age has a subtle way of steadily
creeping up on me, like nightfall.
Streaks of cirrus clouds become a
canvas of bright orange and purple
watercolors running together in the
western sky, gradually fading into
ghostly shadows of gray. Finally,
a smothering blanket of darkness
unfolds from the east, dousing
the last hint of daylight.

I think it may be God’s way of daily
reminding me that sooner or later,
the final curtain of my life will
eventually drop at the end of
the last act. I can only hope for
at least a few moments of applause
and a somewhat favorable review
of my performance.

Mars

Last week on July 31, the planet Mars arrived at a place circling the sun referred to by astronomers as “opposition.” Due to different orbital speeds, every two years or so the earth passes between Mars and the sun. This means that Mars and the sun are on directly opposite sides of the earth. And being directly opposite of the sun during opposition, Mars rises as the sun sets. As a result, the Red Planet shines extraordinarily bright. And it certainly did not disappoint.

I got out of bed at three a.m. to see it. At 35.8 million miles away, the closest it’s been since 2003, this ever-intriguing ball of desolate rock and dust was brilliant in the southern sky. From my back yard, it looked less red and more like an orange lantern set against the vast black curtain of a warm and humid midsummer’s night.

My interest in all of the planets and other objects celestial started when I was twelve. With my first refractor telescope mounted to a flimsy tripod I managed to get a good look at our moon with her gray seas and craggy craters. I squinted to identify Jupiter’s moons, too – Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto – four pinpoints of light just like Galileo discovered way back in 1610. I studied every book related to astronomy I could get my hands on from the library down the street. Eventually I became an expert at identifying ancient mythical heroes and creatures traversing the heavens nightly in an endless seasonal progression of sparkling constellations. I felt as though I had reached a level of sophistication almost beyond the reach of most seventh graders. Other boys were shooting hoops in the driveway while I was inside reading about Messier’s catalog of nebulae and star clusters and the Air Force’s Project Blue Book reports of UFO sightings. So much for my involvement in neighborhood comradery.

I was also fascinated with stories by H.G. Wells and Orson Welles frightening the world with their science-fiction account of a hostile Martian invasion. I wonder what they’d think of Spielberg’s 2005 sensational movie portrayal of unstoppable alien creatures intent on destroying mankind.

I’d seen drawings of what astronomer Percival Lowell in the 1890s supposed were canals on the face of the planet. Scholars explained away the canals as the product of a human tendency to see patterns where there really are none. Today, thanks to better optics and NASA’s Rovers roving, we know the canals do not and never did exist, neither as a result of natural nor intelligent extraterrestrial activity.

In a musical sense, I am always moved by Holst’s angry and ominous interpretation of the planet as “The Bringer of War,” but to be honest, I admit it competes pretty evenly with my high regard for the mystical Neptune.

I really enjoyed the History Channel’s recent docudrama Mars, chronicling the adventures of a crew of six astronauts and their journey to be the first humans to set foot there in 2033. That’s quite a twist to The War of the Worlds, unless there’s an ironic turn of events down the road we never planned on writing into the script.

I find it interesting that often in its pursuit of making us more comfortable in the universe, science has a tendency to rob us of both the enchanting mystery and innate angst surrounding it for eons. I guess that means we can all sleep somewhat better tonight in the dark security of our bedrooms and yet still dream on with some sense of wonder about the unknown. Regardless, my curiosity and amazement with the cosmos always begins and ends with the realization that “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the skies proclaim the work of His hands,” said so simply in Psalm 19:1. I think that statement puts the grandeur of creation and the greatness of the Creator in a perspective that anyone can understand, in a way better than any schoolbook or preacher’s sermon could. It definitely brings me to my knees.

 

Apparently, I am mentally ill.

For some reason, off-the-chart far left liberals like Stephen Colbert, Al Sharpton, Michael Moore, the Clintons and the infamous Louis Farrakhan can make whatever contemptible comments they want to regarding Jews, Christians and the white man, usually without consequence or backlash. Occasionally though, it boomerangs.

Joy Behar, a co-host of ABC’s “celebrity” chatfest “The View,” publicly apologized recently for mocking Vice President Pence’s Christian faith and suggesting that his religious views made him mentally ill. After weeks of protests by viewers who were outraged by her remarks, she offered an on-air apology.

Bashing conservative or religious Americans seems to have intensified with the onset of the Trump candidacy, thanks to a sympathetic, complicit, liberally prone media, blind to objective journalism. The Who, What, When Rule of reporting went out the window. Instead, we saw the networks witch-hunting conservatives and championing the Chuck Schumer-Nancy Pelosi agenda to squelch the rich and generously reward the entitled poor. Hillary dumped me personally into the “deplorables” basket, along with millions of my fellow citizens whom she so erroneously perceived as barefoot, toothless, Bible thumping, rifle toting illiterates. The election is over. She lost. But her doting entourage-in-mourning on the nightly Talk Show circuit and CNN continues a campaign of mudslinging against over fifty percent of the country’s traditional, faith-based citizenry who don’t want to see the America they love devoured by big government, broken by fascist radicals, or perverted by pseudo-philosophical educators who think free speech applies only when you agree with their prejudicial interpretation of the law.

As seen by many of our current legislative and judicial representatives, moral values and the basics guaranteed by the Constitution, like the right to life and to bear arms, are old-fashioned and subject to interpretation. Now add gender issues to the list. If you’re out of step with neo-progressivism, then you’re labeled a racist, misogynistic, homophobic, intolerant hater. Well, so much for diversity and the art of being inclusive.

I really don’t mind the Joy Behar-style criticism of my faith. It’s nothing compared to what believers have endured down through the last two thousand years. Burned at the stake — now that’s a tough one. I heard someone say that if you’re not maltreated for being a Christian, then apparently no one knows what you believe. Maybe you’re really not any different than they are. The Bible says “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2Tim. 3:12)

And about the “mentally ill” comment – I find myself in good company. Mark 3:21 records an incident when Jesus returned to his hometown. Already well-known for his provocative preaching and behavior, his family and neighbors — who saw him only as Joseph’s son, the carpenter — tried to take control of him. “He’s out of his mind,” they said.

So call me crazy. When I was in grade school, we’d all endure some sort of inevitable childish name-calling, which in turn invoked the sing-song response of “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” In other words, verbal abuse to anyone with a thick-skinned temperament is fairly harmless. I am prepared, however, if someday indeed the sticks and stones do come.

Christ is risen! Happy Easter everyone!

The Prince of Peace is a Warrior

Every Christmas season you can count on some variation of a nativity scene to make its annual appearance, pulled out of a storage box in the closet onto someone’s family room tabletop or a life-sized version all aglow welcoming church goers to holiday services.

Looking at “the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay” one might not think about spiritual warfare as an aspect of an “all is calm, all is bright” Christmas. It seems incongruous — that is, until we look at the whole picture. Thirty-three years later, the long-awaited savior, “born of a virgin” (Isaiah 7:14) “in the city of Bethlehem” (Micah 5:2), had fulfilled hundreds of additional Messianic prophesies about his life, death and resurrection, the earliest being found in Genesis 3:15. God tells the serpent, who had just beguiled Adam and Eve into sin, that One is coming Who will “crush your head.” Thus the battle began. The alarm was sounded, echoing around heaven and earth and to all who revel in darkness: My Anointed is coming. Coming to rescue and reconcile, to renew what was lost and broken, and to defeat the enemy of our souls and even death itself. Isaiah’s prophesied Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) is just as much a warrior. (Isaiah 42:13)

“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil,” 1 John 3:8 reports. In plain terms then, Christmas celebrates the much anticipated arrival of God’s own Son to ransom the captives, advance His kingdom and take back what the enemy stole away. (Isaiah 61:1-3) That sounds like warfare to me. Revelation 13:8 states the Lamb of God was “slain from the foundation of the world.” Long before Adam even fell, the rescue mission was ready to roll out, “in the fullness of time.” (Galatians 4:4)

So this season, in the midst of all the bright lights and candles, carols and shopping, all the baking and decorating and gift giving, maybe we should remember that from the day of His conception, Jesus was on a seek and save, search and destroy mission on our behalf so that we might declare “thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57)

I wish all my readers the best Spirit-filled Christmas ever. May you recognize that a foreshadowing of the cross was cast upon the manger crib at that first nativity, and that the Christmas Story is fulfilled at Calvary. But it doesn’t end there. For those who believe, the story never ends. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) One of my favorite Christmas carols is Charles Wesley’s “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” It includes the lyrics “God and sinners reconciled.” That’s the gospel message in a nutshell, the “Good News.” May you find comfort and joy in that realization today. MERRY CHRISTMAS!

*The artwork featured is from a 6th Century mosaic in a chapel in Ravenna, Italy, titled Christ the Warrior. 

My Holiday Obsession

The following was originally posted at this time three years ago, but with some editing I decided to re-post because back then I think I had just a couple of readers!

Have you ever had an excessive attraction to something and had a hard time letting go? I’m not talking about hard-core stuff like drugs and alcohol. I mean like chocolate, or TV, maybe a hobby like golf. I must admit I have dealt with my share of personal abuses throughout my adult life, principally smoking for decades until finally giving it up a little more than eleven years ago in favor of a healthier lifestyle. A compulsion, however which seems to annually trigger at this time of year is my fixation upon certain amenities used to embellish gift giving during the holiday season, that being, um, well it’s . . .  wrapping paper and greeting cards.

Shocking and embarrassing, yes I admit it. No, I haven’t shared this in Aberrational Holiday Behavior Group Therapy. I don’t know if there is such a group to address this particular psychological urge. Certain family members are aware of the situation, but prefer to snicker and shake their heads. My wife, the designated intervention specialist, instinctively grabs onto my coat as we walk past the displays at the Hallmark store or SuperTarget, tugging me away from certain temptation. I mean, it’s everywhere — even at the gas station! Yes, I know that to most people, gift wrap is . . . just gift wrap.

For weeks way before Christmas the shelves are loaded up and bins are full of wrapping paper rolls. Stuffed full with different lengths, metric and standard measurements. Cheap, easily torn paper and the expensive kind with lines on the inside so you know exactly where to cut; shiny foils, and some with sparkles in the designs. So attractive, it’s blatant Christmastime eye candy. And, almost irresistible.

The issue is even more disturbing when I confess that we already have enough wrap on hand at home to wallpaper the entire house at least a couple of times. We have grownup wrap with designs both modern and old-fashioned. We have diagonal stripes, plaids and poinsettias and snowflakes ad infinitum. We have kid-specific wrap with Jolly Old St. Nick, wreath and  tree pattern prints in festive colors, gingerbread men, candy canes and probably even sugar plums dancing off the sheets.

Then there’s the greeting card isle. Box after box of gleaming, glittering options for expressing one’s best holiday wishes to anyone, or from anyone – even the cat. The scenes on the cards are so inviting, like the comfy home all aglow in the gently falling evening snow, lamppost decorated with ribbons and holly. A huge Christmas tree in the window, lit and adorned with treasured family ornaments. A happy snowman in the front yard, dressed up just like Frosty, and across the top, a warm-hearted message set in a fancy reflective gold metallic script.

Oh! (hand on my chest) I’m gasping, and a bit choked up, I want to be in this Thomas Kinkade fantasy. I’ll take a dozen boxes. And each box usually has 12 to 18 cards with an appropriate number of envelopes plus one, because they know you’re going to mess up on at least one address. In reality, I don’t have more than a few friends and relatives to whom I might mail such a sentimental card. That along with increasingly outrageous postage rates is probably why I haven’t sent any out for years.

I must say that I have done relatively well so far this year. I did nab a couple wrapping rolls at the craft store last week, my wife not being on hand for restraint. They were 60% off. Who could resist? Just need to get through the next few days, then we can pack up the unused hoard and forget about it until next October, when holiday decor gradually begins to emerge restocked in the retail world and we can start all over again!

PS: There is a problematic issue with Christmas candies and cookies too, but that’s a story for some other time.

October’s End

Our neighbor’s apple orchard looks sadly bare,
the harvest’s bounty now pressed into cider and jam.
In the fields, pumpkins and gourds have succeeded
summer’s bumper crop of watermelons,
long gone off to Fourth of July picnics and
family reunions.

moon2_0

By sunset our last pile of leaves had been raked,
left glowing orange in a lazy bonfire, its wispy
shaft of smoke curling upward in the chilly twilight.
Autumn’s lackluster constellations can’t compete
with this evening’s gibbous moon, rising golden
just over the eastern horizon, silhouetting
a lonely grove of bare-boned maple trees.

This year’s festive All Hallows’ Eve begins
to wane into sleepy solemnity as packs of
costumed children retreat indoors to inspect
their cache of candies while jack-o-lantern faces
gradually go dark. Excited laughter dissipates,
leaving the night to echo only the rhythmic
chirping of crickets and an occasional hoot
from a hidden barn owl. My midnight hike
through crumpled beds of zinnias and
marigolds withered dry by frost gradually
turns melancholic.

Such a metaphor, these changing seasons,
to the passage of time and life.
Almost instinctively drawn to muse upon
a sad stanza or two penned by Shelley,
I wonder how a poet so enchanted with
beauty and romance could just as well
be obsessed with graveyards and doom.
Can love and loss be hopelessly connected?

And so I say Good Night, and Farewell
again to yet another October of another year.
I’m walking briskly now, my shoulders
hunched and coat collar turned up turtle-like,
trying to protect my tingling ears from the
pre-dawn’s sudden drop below the freezing
mark, while from a distant church’s steeple
the matins bell of All Saints Day, like an
old man’s lethargic heartbeat, begins to toll
a doleful lament: Death is coming.
Death to all.

Take a knee, now or later.

It seems that last week the prominent national news was more about NFL players protesting than about North Korea, hurricane recovery efforts, or even about the deadly church shooting in Antioch, Tennessee, where one person was killed and seven others injured, all white victims, by a 25-year-old Sudanese immigrant.

No, the headlines were all about football players “taking a knee” during the national anthem – imitating a passive, symbolic gesture started by the then 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who first expressed the defiant pregame posture last year in a protest, he claimed, against shootings of black men by white police officers.

This issue is simple and terribly complex at the same time. Diverse political views and constitutional interpretations usually are. Dr. Martin Luther King’s protests against obvious civil rights injustices in the 1960s were neither silent nor symbolic. During that same time frame of social upheaval, the establishment told Vietnam War protestors to “Love it (the country), or leave it,” a rather stern dictate to a generation sincerely crying out for “peace, love and understanding.” Both controversies were violent and deeply polarizing for the country, each side wrapping themselves up in Old Glory. So I’m supposed to think that this juvenile, misdirected kneed-bending by supposedly social-conscious millionaires has any real weight to it? Have these pseudo-pundits ever heard of Gandhi? Nelson Mandela? Tiananmen Square, 1989?

The Star Spangled Banner, so much more than just a song, commemorates the bravery shown by outnumbered and outgunned American soldiers when they nevertheless defeated the British at the Battle of Fort McHenry in 1814. It celebrates, for all of us, “the land of the free, and the home of the brave.” The flag is not just a piece of cloth. It’s a symbol for what America at its very best has to offer: equality, justice, boundless opportunity, and freedom of expression. Countless brave men and women have suffered, sacrificed and died for what it represents, to make sure the stars and stripes continue to unfurl across our nation every morning. Do those who choose to do so have the right to show disdain and discontent for social and political issues? Yes. Should they show blatant public disrespect for a symbol representing the country that allows them the liberty to do so? I say No. Some things like baseball, motherhood and apple pie should be off limits because of the idyllic goodness they represent. Can any one of those entities be flawed and corrupted? Yes. I’ve had a mediocre apple pie. Do some major leaguers abuse drugs? You know the answer. And yet we continue slicing up the Dutch Apple and scramble to fill the best seats behind home plate. Our government and its representatives can be flawed, too. Stop whining. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Get involved and do something about it.

I find it interesting that the same crowd that applauds the kneelers drawing attention to themselves and their “cause” before kickoff are the same bunch of public haters and arrogant sports analysts who not only criticized but actually ridiculed Tim Tebow for being vocal about the role of his Christian faith in his career and for taking a prayerful knee on the field. Tebow’s practice of humility and thankfulness to God reminds me of a verse from Philippians 2:10-11 that says “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” This passage along with volumes of verses from both the Old and New Testaments tell us Who is the ultimate authority and that either now by choice in this life or by compulsion when it’s too late in the next, all will concede to His sovereignty. This silly NFL genuflecting will eventually fade away to another hot news topic, but the reality of deciding who shall be exalted as Lord in my personal life – me and my selfish nature or Christ my Savior – must be faced . . . either now or later. Have you made your decision?

5 People I’d like to have lunch with.

Or, to be more grammatically correct, “with whom I would like to have lunch.” So, now that’s out of the way, here’s the list and why:

The Dalai Lama. I’ve always found him to be such a jolly fellow. Always smiling. Very caring and gentle. I’d probably mention my long-ensuing fascination with the Himalayas and the Buddha’s teachings. I’d mention I’ve seen Seven Years in Tibet several times. I’d ask him to read my post from early 2015 titled “The Pursuit of Happiness,” about the life of Peyangky, a nine-year-old Buddhist monk in Bhutan. I’d like to discuss with him the Bodhisattva’s teachings, and ask how can there be so many similarities with the morals and ethics presented in Bible and yet the purported spiritual outcomes are so different. I’d also ask what good is the cycle of reincarnation if you never know you’re reincarnated? And yes, I’d have to eventually mention that I’d been a fan of the Seattle grunge band Nirvana, and ask if was that wrong.

John Lennon. Man, where do you start? How ‘bout, “We miss you terribly. You left too soon. But you left us with so much — to sing, to think about, to remember that ‘All you need is love, love.’ I really like those glasses. Yoko, not so much.” I’d let him know that I’ve seen Help countless times and it’s still fab.

William Shakespeare. My collection of The Complete Works, I’ll never get through. There may be a comment made hinting about his authorship being in question, now a legitimate field of scholarly inquiry. I’ll mention that I saw Richard Burton portray his best Hamlet at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on Broadway. I’d ask if he liked being known in literary history simply as “The Bard,” and if those frilly, starchy Elizabethan collars were terribly uncomfortable.

Abraham Lincoln. I’m not sure if I could actually eat in the presence of this giant figure of Americana. Maybe we would both weep most of the time, for the nation, then and now, and about the bloody Civil War battlefields, where so many gave up their lives for causes so opposed. Barefoot boys shooting at each other with rifles that just weeks before were used to shoot squirrels, holding the line alongside decorated academy trained men smartly uniformed in blue or gray. I’d tell him I actually did weep when I visited his Memorial, overcome with a sense of the awesome weight of his presidential burden, that carved solemn face forever musing his beloved country’s heritage and destiny. Wonder what he’d think if I shamefully confessed that moral principles and incorruptible integrity were apparently no longer valued by our government today? Then I would honor him by reading a stanza penned in 1865 by Walt Whitman lamenting his passing: “O Captain! My Captain! rise up and hear the bells; Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills; For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding; For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning.”

And lastly, Kim Jong Un. Never really cared for Korean food, so on my side of the table it will be a water and appetizer event. Maybe I’d at least order a side of Mandu, the Korean version of a pot sticker. But since I’m German, I’d be more comfortable just calling them dumplings. First question: “With all due respect, sir. Are you nuts, or just a self-styled Asian Napoleonic megalomaniac?” But wait. There’s really no difference. (Pausing for translation and response, if any.) Next question: “So unlike the millions of devoted followers who literally worship you as The Supreme Leader, you seem to be eating pretty well. Must be all that Chinese take-out you order.” The interview might be headed South from here (pun intended) and besides, I find the man’s presence in the civilized world so creepy, I’d probably have to excuse myself and head for the shower just to try to feel clean again. — Actually at this point I’m hoping to get this posted before Big Kim pushes the blinking red button launching a nuke-loaded ICBM aimed at my backyard.

If you know me at all, you’re probably saying, “What? No Jesus Christ on the short list?” Interestingly, it is He who makes the divine offer to dine together. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (Rev. 3:20) This is both a metaphor describing God’s desire for personal relationships, and a prophetic promise for those who choose to realize that relationship by sharing an actual meal with Him at table. Barry Jones, writing for the Dallas Theological Seminary’s blog, says “I’m becoming increasingly convinced that food is one of God’s love languages. It’s worth noting that at the center of the spiritual lives of God’s people in both the Old and New Testaments, we find a table: the table of Passover and the table of Communion.”

Dining together in ancient times and even in our current day culture conveys the idea of intimate fellowship (Luke 19:5-7; John 13:1-5; Matt. 9:10). Jesus, looking ahead in anticipation of that kind of fellowship with his followers, promised not to partake of the Passover meal again until He dines with them in the Millennial Kingdom (Isaiah 25:6; Mat. 8:11; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18).

So in this case, my “lunch” will not be a fictional fantasy. Jesus has already booked the reservation. The menu will certainly include fruit from the tree of life and fountains of living water, but most importantly, the breaking of bread in the pleasure of the company of the One who is the Bread of Life. (John 6:35)