Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The color green

The Color Green
Second Chronicles 13:18, Psalm 24:1-10

by Rich Mullins

And the moon is a sliver of silver
Like a shaving that fell on the floor of a Carpenter's shop
And every house must have it's builder
And I awoke in the house of God
Where the windows are mornings and evenings
Stretched from the sun
Across the sky north to south
And on my way to early meeting
I heard the rocks crying out
I heard the rocks crying out!

Be praised for all Your tenderness by these works of Your hands
Suns that rise and rains that fall to bless and bring to life Your land
Look down upon this winter wheat and be glad that You have made
Blue for the sky and the color green that fills these fields with praise!

And the wrens have returned and they're nesting
In the hollow of that oak where his heart once had been
And he lifts up his arms in a blessing for being born again
And the streams are all swollen with winter
Winter unfrozen and free to run away now
And I'm amazed when I remember
Who it was that built this house
And with the rocks I cry out!

Be praised for all Your tenderness by these works of Your hands
Suns that rise and rains that fall to bless and bring to life Your land
Look down upon this winter wheat and be glad that You have made
Blue for the sky and the color green...

Be praised for all Your tenderness by these works of Your hands
Suns that rise and rains that fall to bless and bring to life Your land
Look down upon this winter wheat and be glad that You have made
Blue for the sky and the color green that fills these fields with praise!

Alleluia!

God bless you, Rich. Your heart and voice go on, even as you dance in the presence of God...

We share your joy and praise, and dance, here and now, with Creator...and the Color Green!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Dei providentia juvat: soli Deo gloria!

I've climbed some mountains this summer, in the spirit...mountains which I could not go around, and which, frankly, were quite beyond my human strength. But I stand now, at the waning of this month of August, in grace...looking out over the top of mountain ranges. And so I bow before my Creator, and make my confession to the goodness and providence of God. He has led me all the way: His mysterious signs, Spirit voice, and overwhelming love have carried me to these demanded heights! I confess Him, in it all, moving in grand design, even in difficulty. May He be praised, and may the words of this ancient confession echo as my prayer, and for your encouragement...

Q. 1. What is your only comfort, in life and in death?

A. That I belong -- body and soul, in life and in death -- not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, who at the cost of His own blood has fully paid for all my sins and has completely freed me from the dominion of the devil; that He protects me so well that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that everything must fit His purpose for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for Him.


Q. 2. How many things must you know that you may live and die in the blessedness of this comfort?

A. Three. First, the greatness of my sin and wretchedness. Second, how I am freed from all my sins and their wretched consequences. Third, what gratitude I owe to God for such redemption.


Q. 26. What do you believe when you say: “I believe in God the FatherAlmighty, Maker of heaven and earth”?

A. That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who out of nothing created heaven and earth with all that is in them, who also upholds and governs them by His eternal counsel and providence, is for the sake of Christ His Son my God and my Father. I trust in Him so completely that I have no doubt that He will provide me with all things necessary for body and soul. Moreover, whatever evil He sends upon me in this troubled life He will turn to my good, for He is able to do it, being almighty God, and is determined to do it, being a faithful Father.


Q. 27. What do you understand by the providence of God?

A. The almighty and ever-present power of God whereby He still upholds, as it were by His own hand, heaven and earth together with all creatures, and rules in such a way that leaves and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and unfruitful years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, and everything else, come to us not by chance but by His fatherly hand.


Q. 28. What advantage comes from acknowledging God’s creation and providence?

A. We learn that we are to be patient in adversity, grateful in the midst of blessing, and to trust our faithful God and Father for the future, assured that no creature shall separate us from His love, since all creatures are so completely in His hand that without His will they cannot even move.

Alleluia!

Dei providentia juvat: soli Deo gloria!


Sunday, August 21, 2005

Victory occurs first in the mind

Israeli blogger Alisa gives an incisive quote, borrowing from Wretchard. She notes that 'defeat occurs first in the mind.'
Historically, most catastrophic defeats -- at Gaugamela or France in 1940 -- have not been consequent to inferiority in arms but to infirmity of concept. Defeat occurs first of all in the mind. By that standard the Global Caliphate is well on its way to imposing its will on Western politics which is intent, like some demented person, on rearranging objects on a green baize table.

The context of the quote aside for the moment [i.e. the intent of terroristic, militant Islam and necessity of strong minds and hearts to combat it], I'd like to highlight the integral principle: defeat occurs first in the mind.

Defeat occurs first in the mind.

This is a spiritual principle, vast in personal implication. As Jesus said, "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he." "As a woman meditates in her spirit, so is she." "Out of the heart flow the issues of life..."

When Jesus went into the wilderness to be tempted by that powerful, dark spirit -- the archenemy of humankind -- the battle was framed in the mind. The issues were first conceptual, then concrete: an appeal to desire, in a wrapping of needs.

When that same, dark spirit tempted Eve in the Garden, the battle was the same: first for the mind, then for the deed which would imprison. "Did God really say?" he asked our first mother. "Then eat!" He defeated her conceptually, then trapped her physically.

Thus does temptation come: For the imprisoning of nation or person, defeat occurs first in the mind. Guard the mind, the heart! Give in on the plane of the spirit, and physical limitation will follow.

It is an impressive and foreboding principle, which is only mitigated by its corollary: victory also occurs first in the mind.

Victory occurs first in the mind.

Before every great victory is a great thought. Before every great creation is a great thought, a great mind enthralled and dedicated to purpose and freedom...to destiny.

Before this great creation, a Creator. Before this planetary physicality, spirituality. Before matter, energy. Before the world, the Word.

As the Book of Beginnings states: "And God spoke...and it was." Also, the psalmist: "By the word of the Lord were the heavens formed." And, the great prologue of John: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...all things were made by Him, and without Him nothing was made that has been made." Or, the Book of Hebrews: "By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible."

Jesus won in the wilderness, facing down that dark spirit, triumphing over that archenemy of humanity...by the power of the Word, the true thought. "It is written..." Jesus said. So He claimed Divine order and intent -- the true thought, the spirit -- and so won cosmic victory that echoes for all time, for all persons of every place...

Victory occurs first in the mind!

The lesson is abiding: for those in need of freedom and place...dare to think that great thought, that true thought of divine purpose and calling. Let your mind be captured by the thoughts of God, and physical release will follow. The spacious place will be gained, and an echoing blow struck for freedom and purpose...in your life, and around the world, for those who need it most.

Alleluia!


Friday, August 12, 2005

Fire that brings new life



Tonight during informal prayer someone shared with the group a lesson that he learned from the volcanic eruption of Mount St. Helens. Quite amazingly, the pine cones of that area are so tightly knit, so wound, wrapped and sealed with resin that only fire could open them and allow the seeds to grow.

These pine cones are of such nature that only the disaster of fire could cause them to begin to grow; only great heat could open them to new life and beauty.

So from the ashes of that great disaster, molten fire and eruption...a new forest has sprung: the smell of verdant pines, sage-brush flowers and fireweed, the chatter of squirrels and call of songbirds...new growth wrapping old destruction -- these seeds of life only released through intense heat...apparent, total devastation.

The point that this person made for our prayer was that God knows what He is about, and knows what it takes to release the new life He intends. Even when there is great fire in our current life, the lesson is not destruction, but renewal: there are seeds being opened by present trial...whereby God will bless us throughout future generations!

Listen to how one article describes the current beauty of this new volcanic forest, grown from the ashes of great fire:
Nurtured by the ash-enriched soil, aspen saplings and small lodgepole pines are slowly but steadily replacing the mature stands of lodgepole pine consumed by the flames. Surrounding meadows are dappled with bright blue splashes of lupine and flax, contrasting with purplish pink fireweed. Woodpeckers feast on the insect-riddled remains of the older stands, while mountain bluebirds dart among the wildflowers...

Examine the recovering forest. See how new growth overruns charred tree trunks. Run your hands over a boulder literally baked by a wall of flames from the Wolf Lake fire. Sit on one of the trail's benches and test your senses. Close your eyes and listen to chirping songbirds, catch the rustle of scurrying ground squirrels and the flutter of aspen leaves. Breathe in the pungent aroma of sage-brush and the rich fragrance of pine. Understand that when fires race across meadows and through forests, the flames don't signal an end but...regeneration.

As one forest sign says: "Lightning has been starting fires for thousands of years, yet forests have not vanished."

Indeed!

It seems somewhere I hear a Voice say:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior...

Since you are precious in My sight, You are honored, and I have loved you...fear not, for I am with you -- you who are called by My name, whom I have created for My glory!

Alleluia!

Amen.


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Hallowed ground

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Gettysburg ghosts II


More documented stories


Several people responded well to my last Gettysburg post, with some requests for more...so, here are a few more stories to hold you over -- especially since I may not be able to Blog much for the next couple weeks.


But before I share these stories, I just have to add a caveat regarding 'ghost encounters.' Please be aware that not all ghost stories [or sightings, etc.] are equal. Not all are benevolent. And not all are human spirits. We live in a spiritual world with both good and evil, with humans called to choose sides, to actively live out good through our Lord Jesus Christ. And many manifestations do not encourage such true life under Christ...


There's a whole cottage industry grown up around ghosts and contacting 'the other side,' or "Crossing Over" as one show puts it. I am against that, strongly, for several reasons...which I'll be glad to share [if you email me]. There is also a very malevolent side to some 'ghost encounters,' which results in fear, control and possession.


However, much of what I hear about Gettysburg battlefield incidents makes them seem a different class, for several reasons: one, they are not sought after; two, they are usually seen by multiple witnesses; and three, under conditions which are known to mimic original battle conditions -- almost as if real events are dimly replaying through the fabric of time, with spirits of real men focused on a given mission, not on 'haunting' per se.


Many of these sightings occur during re-enactments of the Battle of Gettysburg, as if the replayed sights and sounds of the acted battle trigger some response in the unseen world. I've heard several amazing stories from the filming of
Gettysburg, filmed for several months in the summer of 1992. Some of these stories are very moving...like the thousands of men who reenacted Pickett's charge, as they moved through the waving fields of grain, being overcome by such great emotion that they began to spontaneously weep. One reenactor general on a horse, felt the wave of emotion, looked behind him only to find his two adjutants in open tears, streams covering their face as they strode with pride and sorrow toward the bloody stone wall. Literally hundreds of these men on this same charge tell of the hotness of the day -- one of the hottest on record -- and crossing that field in great heat...and tears...only to suddenly enter a swale where the temperature dipped below freezing. Looking at one another with shock and surprise, they saw their breath in the air...frozen...only to pop out on the other side, back into the relentless summer heat.


There's just something about the
Gettysburg battlefield. Once you've been there, and felt the greatness of the place, the mingled sorrow and joy, great devotion and peace, peace built upon unmatched turmoil and tears...you'll know what I mean. Great deeds were done on that day, which human tongue nor pen will ever tell.


Perhaps it is that sense of greatness, or duty, which compels me to memory of these men...in stories not of this world? Perhaps! Perhaps it is the fact that great heroes are dying, even as we speak, for freedom. Perhaps it is the fact that great deeds are being done, in the souls of great men and women, as they carry out duty unseen...for Christ. Perhaps!


And so, for your enjoyment, and recalled duty, here are several stories, most from the 1992 filming of
Gettysburg, witnessed by multiple persons. The stories here are chronicled and retold by Mark Nesbitt. The first is one of my favorites, of Confederate battalion forming for battle in a thunderstorm...

No reenactor is foolish enough to march around in a thunderstorm.


One night during the first few days of August a typical summer thunderstorm with lightning, roiling thunder, and a solid wall of rain advanced, like some infernal army, from the bins to the west across the encampment site. A lone reenactor ventured from his tent out into the night to watch the majesty of the battle in the sky, and was surprised and a little shocked to see a battalion-size group of Confederate infantry forming up in line and coming to attention across the road from the camp. He called to some of his friends in the surrounding tents and those who peeked out saw the same thing: uniformed men, seemingly driven by foolishness, or an inconceivably strong devotion which appeared to conquer even the fear of death by lightning strike, to reenact a Civil War era scene. They could be seen clearly through the rain, but even more distinctly during the lightning, making preparation for battle. The men in the tents watched. They saw the battalion finally aligned; a great flash of lightning illuminated them one more time. As the observers' eyes adjusted to the darkness after the flash, they saw that the unit was gone -- vanished in an instant, called suddenly into some unseen combat, crossing through time's illusionary wall.


Though the timing is uncertain, either shortly before or after this event, a lone
Confederate battalion was seen, in swinging route step, marching along one of the [reenactment] camp roads through the Union campsite. Was it the same group seen in the field outside the camp? For that matter, was this phantom battalion perhaps the same one seen by dignitaries on Little Round Top years before? Or the one that continues to be seen to this day near where battalions of live men were mown like so much grass in the once-deadly Wheatfield? [1]



Then Nesbitt tells riveting story about a pastor who missed an opportunity to bear witness to a group of spirits:

There was the pastor -- a minister in real life who reenacts as a man of the cloth -- who had gone out of the campsite to get something out of the trunk of his car. It was around 10:30 p.m. and most of the reenactors had bedded down after a sunrise-to-sunset schedule of shooting the film. As the pastor was moving things about in his trunk, he felt a sudden uneasiness...as if be were being watched.


Turning, be saw that he was virtually surrounded by a company-size group of what he thought were reenactors. But the looks on their faces seemed to indicate serious work ahead. Inconceivable as it was -- for reenactors are by nature nice people -- he felt as if he were about to be attacked. Nervously he asked, "What's the problem here?" The entire group slowly melted away, back into that strange land where there is apparently no leave from duty for those soldiers caught there...


And restless a few of them were indeed. About three-and-a-half hours later, at
2 a.m., one of the reenactors was at the phone bank calling his wife on the West Coast. The conversation went on as they discussed with her when he'd be coming home. He wanted to stay in Gettysburg for more of the filming and figured he'd be home in a few more days, or perhaps as long as a week. Over his shoulder he saw several men in uniform behind him whom he hadn't noticed before. He told his wife that be must go now because there were others waiting to use the phone. He looked back at them and, as he stood listening to his wife ask again when be was coming home, they simply dematerialized. There was an uneasy silence coming from his end of the line until he finally answered his wife: "I'll be coming home tomorrow." [2]


Not all of the ghost stories visual. Many are auditory: sounds of horses galloping, neighing, and breathing; cannons in the distance, musket and rifle fire, shouts, cries for help, cries of victory or sorrow or pain...and many of these are also witnessed en masse.

A young woman wrote to tell of her experience with the 6th New Hampshire reenactment regiment on the 130th anniversary of the great battle. They were encamped on the 4th of July not too far from the wooded area in the campsite. It was a week of record high temperature in Gettysburg, aggravated by the lack of any breeze on that particular night. She and a few of the regiment were gathered around the cooking fire, finishing off some dinner. Suddenly, one of the men stopped eating and cocked and ear. "Listen," he said. He stood, looking toward the darkened woodline. As the others stopped eating and put down their plates, from the woods came the unmistakable sounds of a large body of troops moving. There was the clatter and clank of bayonets against canteens, the rattle and murmur of thousands of men shifting and adjusting personal things like packs and rifles, the low rumble of what sounded like a wagon, and random but rhythmic shuffle of feet as men moved wearily through the woods.


The reenactors looked at each other with anxiety -- they all heard it. One nervously suggested that it was only the wind, but his theory was belied by the motionless, oppressive heat around them and the campfire smoke rising in a straight column. From less than a hundred yards away -- the young woman thought the sounds came as close as only fifty yards at one time -- echoed the rumble of an invisible army. The sounds apparently came so close that someone in the group nervously suggested that perhaps they should go for a walk to another part of the large campsite. The young woman later frankly said that the stroll was prompted not so much for the exercise, but by fear. [3]



What do you make of these stories?


There are too many multiple witnesses to discount them utterly. And yet the train moves on, unexplained. Perhaps it is best captured, with other things, by Maj. Gen. Joshua L. Chamberlain:

The invisible, ethereal soul of man resisting and overcoming the material forces of nature; scorning the inductions of logic, reason and experience, persisting in its purpose and identity; this elusive apparition between two worlds unknown, deemed by some to be but the chance of intersecting vortices of atoms and denied to be even a force...[yet] lives on.



Well, said, Maj. Gen. Chamberlain!


These sightings presage the greater truth of a great morning in the by and by, when we will "know even as we are known," through faith in Christ, and duty well done!


And, speaking of duty, again I ask an interest in your prayers in the next three weeks. My schedule is duty laden with things beyond me, and I seek an interest in your prayers, for strength of body, clarity of mind, peace of soul, and purity of spirit...to accomplish Divine will!


God bless you one and all.


Good night!




Tuesday evening prayer of George Washington

I recently bought a used book entitled "George Washington: The Christian," by William J. Johnston. It is an old book, first published in 1919...but filled with riches. It basically traces textual and personal evidence of the deep faith of George Washington. Hopefully I'll share more on this subject later, but I'll just say this for now: I've been stirred, powerfully challenged the life of Washington -- a life of such deep discipline, faith and commitment that I've seldom seen among living men. Here, for this evening, is a prayer from his journal entitled, "Tuesday evening." Perhaps it will reach your soul as it [and others] reached mine...

Prayer for Tuesday evening
From the journal pages of George Washington

Most gracious God and heavenly Father, we cannot cease, but must cry unto thee for mercy, because my sins cry against me for justice. How shall I address myself unto thee, I must with the publican stand and admire at thy great goodness, tender mercy, and long suffering towards me, in that thou hast kept me the past day from being consumed and brought to naught. O Lord, what is man, or the son of man, that thou regardest him; the more days pass over my head, the more sins and iniquities I heap up against thee. If I should cast up the account of my good deeds done this day, how few and small would they be; but if I should reckon my miscarriages, surely they would be many and great. O, blessed Father, let thy Son's blood wash me from all impurities, and cleanse me from the stains of sin that are upon me. Give me grace to lay hold upon his merits; that they may be my reconciliation and atonement unto thee, -- That I may know my sins are forgiven by his death & passion. Embrace me in the arms of thy mercy; vouchsafe to receive me unto the bosom of thy love, shadow me with thy wings, that I may safely rest under thy protection this night; and so into thy hands I commend myself, both soul and body, in the name of thy son, Jesus Christ, beseeching Thee, when this life shall end, I may take my everlasting rest with thee in thy heavenly kingdom. Bless all in authority over us, be merciful to all those afflicted with thy cross or calamity, bless all my friends, forgive my enemies and accept my thanksgiving this evening for all the mercies and favors afforded me; hear and graciously answer these my requests, and whatever else thou see'st needful grant us, for the sake of Jesus Christ in whose blessed name and words I continue to pray...

Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done in earth,
as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
forever and ever.
Amen.


Monday, August 08, 2005

Kierkegaard: Give us the strength

GIVE US THE STRENGTH


Lord our God, Thou knowest our sorrow better than we know it ourselves. Thou knowest how easily our fearful soul entangles itself with untimely and self-made cares. We pray Thee: Let us discern their inappropriateness and scorn them proudly, these busy self-made cares. But whatever Thou dost place on us, let us receive it from Thy hand with humility and give us the strength to bear it.


THINE INFINITE WISDOM


O my God, how often have I not rejoiced, given thanks, been unspeakably grateful in discovering how wondrously events have been ordered…that I would do something and only later I would fully understand that the course of events was significant and just. But at times I also have had to say with overflowing joy: “My God, Thy wisdom disposes – in making use of my stupidity.” I do not fail to act with considered judgment, but I still do some stupid or imprudent things, and I am at the point of losing courage, thinking that now even everything is lost, and then afterward I understand that exactly this stupidity Thou hast turned into infinite wisdom. Infinite love!


WHITHER SHOULD WE TURN?


Whither should we turn, if not to Thee, Lord Jesus Christ? Where might the sufferer find consolation if not in Thee? Ah, and where the penitent, if not with Thee, Lord Jesus Christ?


Ah, Lord Jesus Christ, we turn to Thee! Grant us Thy consolation and healing balm. Grant us Thyself for our prize and reward -- forgiveness and restoration in Thee, O Lord Jesus Christ!


Alleluia! For Thy good purposes, strong Son of God, we praise Thee!

Amen.

__
____________________

Cf. Perry D. LeFevre, The Prayers of Kierkegaard, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963.



Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Gettysburg ghosts

Two documented stories

Recently, I’ve learned several lessons of Providence from the Battle of Gettysburg. And, on the lighter side, I’ve also learned a few rollicking ghost stories! :-) No, no…I’ve never seen a ghost, nor do I want to [unless it fits a clear divine plan], but I find some of the Gettysburg stories compelling.

I’ll share a couple stories, and then talk about metaphysical implications. [For those of you who know me, I wouldn’t want to ruin your day by ignoring metaphysics, lol!]

Every year the Battle of Gettysburg is reenacted by thousands of dedicated re-enactors, who take vacations and personal time to pay tribute to the great battle fought there -- three fateful days in July 1863. Many of these re-enactors experience paranormal events: sounds of drums, crackling of muskets and crashing of cannons in the distance, sights of campfires and lamps in the night, ghostly figures on horseback and shadowy lines dressed for battle, fellow ‘re-enactors’ who suddenly just disappear into thin air.

Mark Nesbitt, former ranger from Gettysburg National Park, tells one such story from 1981, on the 118th anniversary of the battle. A large re-enactment was planned, and carried out on July 1, 2 and 3 -- just like the original battle. Here is the story in Mark’s words:


A friend of mine who is as serious a re-enactor as one can get. Who, in fact, actually makes the reproduction uniforms from originals that he has studied, was participating in the mock battle of July 2, 1981. He is a collector of original weapons, accoutrements and clothing, and studies them almost under a microscope to make sure the clothing he reproduces is completely authentic. He is well known among re-enactors for his knowledge.

The day was incredibly hot and humid even for Gettysburg in July. The men were soaked to the skin and covered with grime and powder stains from the re-enactment. But, as uncomfortable as they were, they seemed to appreciate it since that was the way it was for their ancestors who fought 118 years before.

The day was drawing to a close and camp duties were over. My acquaintance and a comrade, still dressed in the uniform of Union soldiers, took a walk on the battlefield to cool off in the misty twilight. They reached Little Round Top, the scene exactly 118 years before of some of the most savage fighting in the Civil War, now part of the gentle National Military Park where visitors come to ponder. They climbed the small hill and sat on the slope to watch the sun set magnificently over the South Mountains to the west.

Perhaps there were some moments of contemplative silence between them as they looked out over the now peaceful valley between Little Round Top, and Devil’s Den and Houck’s Ridge. It doesn’t take much in the cool evening, sitting on that historic hill to imagine scores of troops surging back and forth, leaving bloody heaps of bodies like gory footprints through the wheatfields and pastures. Through the valley -- now named by someone who knew it well, the Valley of Death -- meanders a small stream. Once hailed as Plum Run, it was re-named after the battle “Bloody Run,” for the few horrible hours in American history that it literally ran red with the blood of the men who were wounded and crawled to it for succor.
Being familiar with the battle, they probably could have named some of the men who fought there, on the slope before them, 118 years ago almost to the hour. No doubt they thought of Joshua Chamberlain and his rugged men from the rocky coasts and forests of Maine, who fought with the desperation of men in the last ditch -- which is exactly where they were at: the very end of the entire Union line -- and died that way as well.

Looking out over the valley, perhaps they thought of old Lieutenant Colonel Bulger, commander of the 47th Alabama, silver-haired, shot and bleeding through the lungs and slumped down by one of the trees and left behind as his men were driven back. A young, upstart of an officer from a New York unit demanded his sword or he would shoot him. You may kill and be [darned],” the old man wheezed, unafraid of neither the youngster or that much older imposter, death.

They could have remembered Confederate General Oates’s comment that the blood stood in puddles in some places on the rocks. Looking just beyond Houck’s Ridge, they may have seen in their minds’ eyes courageous Colonel Edward Cross who, despite his week-long, recurring premonitions of violent death, still strode at the head of his men into the hissing maelstrom, black handkerchief tied bandanna-style around his head rather than the customary red one he always wore into battle, called out to him the promise of promotion: “Cross, this is the last time you’ll fight without a star.” “Too late, General,” replied the morose colonel, already resigned to his fate, “This is my last battle.” He was cut down to bleed and die amongst the rapidly reddening stalks of wheat.

In the distance they could see the Peach Orchard. Perhaps they thought of young corporal Thomas Bignall, Co. C, 2nd New Hampshire, who had, along with others of his company, been issued the hideous Gardiner’s explosive mime ball. An artillery shell struck his cartridge box driving the 40 or so rounds of explosive bullets into his body and igniting them. For nearly half a minute his friends watched horribly transfixed as the bullets continued to explode within his quivering body in its prostrate dance of death.

From the scrub brush just down the slope they heard a rustling and saw a soldier of the Federal persuasion emerge from the bushes on the rocky hillside and begin wearily climbing toward them amid the lengthening shadows and cooling air.

Hello, fellows,” he said with an excellent northern twang. “Mighty hot fight there today, weren’t it?” My friend and his associate agreed as to the heat of the day as well as smiling at the authenticity of the man’s kit. Sweat stained his indigo hat and black grime still blackened his mouth and teeth from where he had bitten numerous cartridges to pour their powder down the barrel of his musket.

They were about to compliment him upon his authenticity when he reached into his cartridge box and pulled out a couple of rounds of ammunition. “Here,” he said. “Take these. You boys may need ‘em tomorrow.” He gave them a strange, wizened look, then turned and began making his way back down the slope of Little Round Top.

My friend and his companion watched for a few seconds as the stranger began his descent of the slope back into the evening. Rolling the cartridges over in his hand, my friend looked at them more closely, and remarked at the incredible amount of work it must have taken to produce such authentic-looking cartridges. They seemed to be original: Tied, folded correctly, with just a hint of beeswax for lubrication, in every way seemingly an exact replica of Civil War era ammunition. Then he felt the minie ball inside each one. Re-enactors are forbidden by organizers and National Park rangers to carry either ramrods or “live” rounds onto the field of a re-enactment for safety purposes, yet these contained the minie ban rolled within.

They looked down the slope on Little Round Top into the Valley of Death but could no longer see the soldier. A few yards down the slope he had simply vanished into the gathering, pale mists which at Gettysburg have that distinctive shape of long, strung-out lines of infantry mustered in formation.

My friend still has the ancient rounds of ammunition, treasured yet somewhat confusing mementoes of a small hole between worlds, a tiny glitch in the seeming, but often illusionary continuity of time. [1]

Nesbitt recounts numerous sightings of ghostly horsemen around the battlefield, and on roads leading to and from. One of the stories that can be traced with certainty comes from a Gettysburg Police officer. In Nesbitt's words:

A member of the Gettysburg Police Department told me of his experience late one night, at the High Water Mark in the early 1970s. Though some parts of the battlefield are officially closed to visitors after 10:00 p.m., local law enforcement officials would sometimes enter the battlefield roads on quiet nights so that they could be a stone’s throw from their patrol duties and still be able to catch up on some paperwork.

Settling down with a cup of coffee and his forms, this particular officer had parked at the famous “Angle” in the stone wall where Southern valor passed its most trying test. Pickett’s Charge -- or Longstreet’s Assault, depending upon which historian you talk to --had punctured the Union line at that point.

During the assault, by practical necessity, only a few Confederate officers were allowed to ride their mounts because of the perfect targets they would make. Those who did ride were shot down in the titian mist that rose from the fields in front of the stone wall.

The officer was deeply into his work before he paused for a minute. He looked up to see some sort of movement out in the darkened fields across the wall. As another minute passed he realized that it was a man in uniform on horseback, riding up to the wall only a dozen or so yards away.

The officer knew that the National Park Service had obtained horses the year before and was successfully using them for both historical interpretation and law enforcement. He even knew one of the rangers who rode, but couldn’t tell as he waved to the late night equestrian, whether it was his acquaintance or not.

As if oblivious to the of the officer’s wave and even of the presence of a police patrol car, the mounted man continued to scan the once ghastly, darkened fields. The officer said the horse and rider stood several minutes, then, still scanning the night, slowly he rode off into the darkness.

Later, the policeman confronted his ranger friend and asked him why he didn’t acknowledge his presence when he was off on his midnight ride. Confusion crossed the ranger’s face as he listened to the story. It wasn’t him that took the horse out on a midnight ride. Nor, to his knowledge had any other ranger; the horses were on a full, strict, daytime riding schedule, and to his knowledge, needed their rest and were not allowed to be taken out on dangerous night-time rides by anyone.

Incredulous, the Gettysburg Police Officer was left pondering what it was he had seen so distinctly across the wall once fought over by American Cains and Abels. [2]

Indeed!

And, a third vignette which I heard secondhand:

A lady decided to walk the mile of Pickett’s charge with her young daughter. For anyone who has walked these fields, the sense of destiny and sorrow is unmistakable. The energy is palpable. As this woman walked, she was overcome with these strong emotions: inner tears, mingled with respectful awe…of the human blood poured out like water.

But her young daughter was undaunted, and ran ahead of her mother, carrying a Confederate battle flag that she had just purchased in a gift shop. The girl shouted with glee and carried the flag forward, her mother following.

Impulsively, the girl planted the flag in the ground and turned back to her mother with a smile. The mother smiled back, and strode forward to pick up the flag. But as she leaned down to get the flag, in the corner of her eye she sensed movement.

She looked to her side and rear, and gasped! For there, in the bright sunlight of that summer day, rank upon rank of shadow forms moved with her, in battle-dress file, following the flag up that fateful hill…

Physics, metaphysics and implications

What can be said about stories such as these? Are they just stories -- people’s imaginations playing tricks on them…in stereo?

Or could they really be seeing, hearing and sensing glimpses of another world?

As I understand physics, it seems as if there might be something legitimate in these sightings. Einstein showed us that time is related to density of matter: time is relative to gravitational pull. There are places in this universe where we could go, with our current physical bodies, stay there one year, and come back to earth only aged one day in earth time. This is not a question; it is fact. These places are not only theoretical, but observed.

Einstein’s legacy is that he proved that matter is a form of energy, matter is condensed energy. From a Christian standpoint, we knew this all along. In the beginning God spoke the worlds into existence: Everything that is is founded upon the Word of God: Divine energy precedes and creates all matter. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God…all things were made by Him [the Word] and without Him nothing was made that has been made” [John 1:1f]. And, "By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God's command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen." [Heb. 11:3].

Einstein showed this in physical terms: all matter really is a form of energy. And, Louis De Broglie went one step further and proved that matter has related to it a wave length and a frequency of that wave, a certain number of wave cycles per second.

Einstein and De Broglie reveal two counterintuitive laws of physics: 1. Physical matter is not matter, in essence; and, 2. All matter, including you and me, is made of wave particles.

Time is a dimension -- a dimensional wave, as it were. In our current bodies, we can only move one way in this dimensional wave: forward. For us the tide of time goes one direction. That is the way God has set it up. But for a person not bound by his or her body, released back to pure energy by death [only pure soul and spirit], time would stretch out back and forward and sideways. It is in this light that Jesus speaks of Abraham and Moses as living and speaking even as He is speaking, even though they have been long ‘dead.’

Theoretically then, in death, the human person is released to the time wave in ways that living humans are not. If allowed by God, that person could interact with human time in a non-linear manner.

Now, it appears that God does not usually allow such interaction, at least in a two way sense. Two facts that bear this out: First, God commands us not to seek contact with the dead [implying that such contact is possible]. Secondly, the Book of Hebrews sets up a construct whereby our earthly existence is viewed as a racetrack of life, with the saints of the ages filling the grandstands, watching us run, cheering us on…this circle-track of life.

Even though we cannot see those who have departed in faith, apparently they can see us, and interact [in some limited manner] with our current time.

There are many implications here, but back to the issue: Does this shed any light on the subject of ghost activity, such as Gettysburg?

Perhaps.

Perhaps for us the time wave is not as linear as we supposed, in all places. Perhaps the human spirit imprimaturs itself into space/time at moments of great action or agony, and when this wave rolls over itself, we see there the past, dimly replayed…awesome actions on a cosmic screen, or scroll. Or, perhaps God allows the human spirit some latitude in this time wave after it leaves the body -- for these spirits, it would not be 142 years since Gettysburg, but only a moment…a fraction on the time where a thousand years is but a day, or a mere watch in the night.

At the very least we can say that those who have departed are not gone, but only moved to a different dimensional reality -- a reality bounded and formed by the grace of God, the same God who spoke us into existence in the first place.

“God is not the God of the dead, but of the living,” Jesus said. Meaning: It is impossible for anyone who relates to God to be dead, categorically.

Of course, the lesson for us is not to get caught up on visions or apparitions of the dead, but on the meaning of their existence, what such glimpses would tell us about current life and life to come.

The significance for us, the earthly living, is to take renewed devotion to the Lord of Life, and purpose to live as unto Him, in new life, learning from those who have gone before…to live for great things, not lesser things. Perhaps this is what Lincoln intimated, in his words that still echo on those green Gettysburg fields:

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

When the curtain is made thin, between the worlds, it is for us to learn the lessons of eternity.

Last week I dreamed of my father, who has been on the other side now, for two years. It was a powerful dream, a life-giving dream. In this dream, I heard my phone ring, and went to answer it. I started to pick it up…and was surprised, because the phone was exactly like we used to have in the old house. But I kind of shook my head, and answered it. Immediately…the voice on the other end shook me to my soul. “Booner Dan!” he said. It was Dad. His nickname for me was “Dan’l Boone,” taking my middle name and matching it with my prowess in the woods and on the field. Eventually he morphed it to “Booner Dan,” and that’s where it stayed! But this was him, calling me by his pet name…his voice so healthy, so strong, every fibre full of love: “Booner Dan!” “DAD!” I said, stunned. Even in my dream I knew he was calling from heaven. He laughed…so hearty and full of resonance…his lungs clear, no more cough or weakness or sickness. “Dad! How are you?” “It is so good to hear your voice!” “I’m doing well, son. I just wanted you to know that I love you and am pulling for you.” “I love you, too, Dad!” I said, through my tears. Still stunned, I asked a dumb question: “How’d you get my number?” He laughed again…laughter full of joy and love and comfort and understanding…and then static came on the line. I snapped awake, my cheeks wet with tears…the presence of love all around me. Just hearing his voice, the fullness of health and presence of love -- a gift beyond price…

In one instant heaven had reached to me, and I to heaven, and again the words of Christ echoed: “I am the God of the living!” “Live in Me!”

Never have I been so convinced of eternity.

And never have I been so convinced of destiny in history, past actions pointing to future glory.

As one has said, “Not only is the past part of us, the past is not yet finished.”

Indeed.

May ours be an abiding part, of this road that winds on, through us, into eternity!

Amen.

UPDATE: More stories here.