By Scott Harrup | July 28, 2014
The original film version of The Manchurian Candidate (1962) includes this snippet of dialogue between Frank Sinatra’s character, Maj. Bennett Marco, and Col. Milt, played by Douglas Henderson:
Col. Milt: [gesturing toward a pile of books] You read them all?
Marco: Yeah, they also make great insulation against an enemy attack! But the, uh, truth of the matter is that I’m just interested, you know, in, uh, Principles of Modern Banking and, History of Piracy. [picking up books] Paintings of Orozco. Modern French Theater. The … Jurisprudential Factor of Mafia Administration. Diseases of Horses and novels of Joyce Cary and … Ethnic Choices of the Arabs. Things like that.
Marco is on medical leave from the Army due to an unexplained psychological breakdown, later revealed to be the result of communist brainwashing techniques applied while he was a prisoner of the Chinese during the Korean War.
I was born more than a decade after the Korean War, and the only brainwashing I’m aware I’ve endured has been from the advertising industry, but I identify with Marco when it comes to selecting a book to read.
After a full day of work, with many days including time spent on a second job, the simple task of picking a book to browse at bedtime can feel monumental. I’ve kept just about every book I’ve bought since college, so there are plenty of subjects and titles from which to choose. Unlike Marco, I start far more books than I finish, which complicates the process further.
Regardless of how successful I am in completing some section within a partially consumed tome, I reflect on other aspects of my evening reading process and count my blessings. A few examples …
• Most nights, Jodie is sitting next to me engrossed in a book of her own. Twenty-eight years of marriage have filled my life with more joy than I can quantify.
• The books in my library were never subjected to government review in a totalitarian state. Who knows how much of my library the Nazis would have consigned to the flames? How many titles might have earned me a prison sentence had I lived in Eastern Europe during the Soviet era? Even today, I’m sure my Bible commentaries could land me in hot water in nations where those who share my Christian faith are an oppressed minority.
• Used books can be purchased in these United States for mere pennies on the dollar, literacy programs for every age abound, and our culture promotes education for everyone.
So, tonight when I stand in front of my shelves, I’ll probably be scratching my head again over which title will best transition my thoughts from the workaday world to eight or so hours of repose. As on countless other evenings, my readings may carry me through several volumes of disjointed content.
But I’ll read all of it gratefully.
By Scott Harrup | July 25, 2014
One of my most frightening dreams is the “being chased while stuck in molasses” nightmare. Someone or something is coming at me, and I try to run; however, no matter how frantically I scramble, I can’t get my legs to move faster than a labored walk.
Closely related to that dream is the “paralyzed in bed” variety. In sixth grade, a really nasty dream was still hanging on as I was waking up. I became aware that I was dreaming and desperately wanted to get out of bed and end the nightmare. I tried to lift an arm, even a hand, anything to get my body moving. By the time I could swing my legs to the floor, I’d become so frightened by the struggle I half ran and half stumbled across the house to my parents’ room. Dad was on a trip, and Mom woke up startled at my panting, bug-eyed entrance.
I came across a brief online Scientific American article today that describes some of the chemical processes in the brain that influence how much of a dream a person remembers. Two examples of vivid dreaming in the Bible came to mind, with very different levels of dream memory described.
Genesis 41 records two dreams of an Egyptian pharaoh, both of which were interpreted by young Joseph, son of Jacob. Pharaoh’s dreams sound an awful lot like nightmares to me, at least the part about seven lean cows eating up seven fat ones. Interestingly, Pharaoh remembered his dreams in detail, so the neurological processes mentioned above must have been divinely optimized.
Daniel 2 describes a dream by Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar, this time with the king claiming amnesia regarding the dream and just a lingering sense that all was not right with the world. That too is consistent with the Scientific American article. I’ve awakened plenty of times with a vague sense of dread but no way to connect it to any oneiric images. Of course, the context of Daniel 2 suggests Nebuchadnezzar likely feigned forgetfulness in order to reveal as charlatans the mystical advisors in his court.
We use “dream” in another fashion, connecting it with our most cherished life goals. With that focus in mind, I leave you with a verse from my Bible reading this morning: “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
Nothing nightmarish about that scenario.
By Scott Harrup | July 16, 2014
The staff of the Pentecostal Evangel just returned to the office after a bittersweet experience.
Editor Ken Horn has officially retired, and we shared a heartfelt lunch with him at a local restaurant to wish him and Peggy Godspeed and every blessing as they embark on this new chapter in their lives.
If you want to get a picture of the kind of man we will miss, pay a visit to pe.ag.org and read any number of his archived Vantage Point editorials. Or any one of his cover features or international ministry trip reports.
I’m blessed that Ken has never been just my boss. He’s always been, first and foremost, my brother in Christ and close friend. That he was always an excellent boss and a mentor was just icing on a very rich cake.
So, now our team somewhat glumly counts down the minutes of the final hour of this day with the realization that Ken will be a temporary visiting presence his final day tomorrow.
There follows a string of Monday staff meetings with his chair empty. A string of editorial pages without his picture. An empty and too quiet office.
The flip side of this dismal coin is that Ken and Peggy have not announced any plans to move. Our team can easily stay in touch.
And that team? Thankfully, today is not their last day. I have the continued blessing of their rich friendships in the weeks ahead.
By Scott Harrup | July 11, 2014
I finished reading the Book of Job again today. Even if you’re not a regular Bible reader, you’ve probably heard the name.
Job’s the guy who has become synonymous with life’s troubles. If the old Hee Haw song “Gloom, Despair and Agony on Me” ever applied to anyone, it fit Job. And that’s only if you’re willing to place a little comic relief between yourself and the book’s pages.
Reading Job without such a buffer zone is tough going. At the beginning of the book, Job loses practically everything in life except his own life. His wealth evaporates. His children die. His body succumbs to a disease that covers him with oozing sores and wracks him with fever.
Some “friends” show up to try and help Job come to grips with what he’s facing, and that’s when the book gets really interesting. Drop the “r” out of “friends” and you get a picture of the deeper character of Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar and Elihu.
Their compassion for Job goes only so far as his verbalized woes fall in line with their “God in a box” personal theologies. As soon as Job’s laments jar their pietistic ears, they shift from “We’re here for you, Job!” to “How can you possibly say that, you reprobate?!?”
You could easily fill a shelf with books and commentaries written on Job. I’m just going to note a few quick takeaways.
1. As uncomfortable as it can be, I need to put myself in the place of Job’s friends. Sure, I want to always see myself as Job, the suffering hero and spiritual giant. But I’m way too prone to direct my own “God in a box” explanations at others who are going through pain. I need God’s help to avoid that path and come alongside others in genuine compassion.
2. When I’m struggling to voice to God my own pain and need, I can take heart from Job’s many anguished prayers. No, he wasn’t perfect by any means. But his honest grappling with God never changed his relationship with God or caused God to give up on Job. That’s why God placed the record of Job’s prayers so prominently in Scripture. They are proof positive we can come to our Heavenly Father in absolute naked honesty.
3. Context is everything! You’d be amazed how many little quips about God and His creation that end up on Scripture calendars or posters actually fall in the middle of long and hateful diatribes from Job’s “comforters.” In following God, as these passages well illustrate, we can so easily fall into the trap of leveling little truisms at each other in attempts to defend any number of bogus assertions.
4. Finish reading Job, and you run into the Psalms. Yes, I know the placement of the Bible’s books is not deemed an act of divine inspiration so much as an act of various historical committees. At the same time, I don’t believe it’s mere human accident that billions of Bibles have been printed with these two components side by side. Psalms reminds us that no matter what happens to us, life is to be lived in songful praise to God and with the attendant joy such praise brings. Like Job, the Psalms can be gut-wrenchingly honest about life’s pain. But keep singing!
If you’re at rock bottom today, take heart. You may need to lay it all on the line in honest painful prayer, but don’t flinch. So long as you refuse to allow rebellion to trump reverence for your Creator, you can be sure He is with you and will bring you through.
By Scott Harrup | July 7, 2014
Another Fourth of July has come and gone. Another fifth of July as well. In our home, we celebrate the first day with gratitude for this wonderful nation, and the second day with gratitude for another year of God’s blessing on our marriage.
America turned 238, and Jodie and I celebrated our marriage turning 28.
I attribute much of the health of our relationship to the many lifelong partnerships we have been blessed to observe and emulate. As well, I turn regularly to the greatest book on marriage anyone could read.
To me, the Bible is the ultimate marriage manual because it offers solid principles as well as clear life examples from the Author’s omniscient point of view. In this case, omniscient refers to genuine unlimited knowledge rather than a writing trick.
You can find a wealth of passages that describe how people should relate, both inside and outside the bonds of matrimony, and a staggering array of life stories revealing how those principles play out in life.
Marriage and family take center stage early on in the Bible. As a little mental experiment, the next time you begin a “through the Bible in a year plan,” take some time to tally how many family stories crop up in Genesis. How many husbands and wives are mentioned, how many parents and kids, how many family arguments and reconciliations. Trust me, Genesis is just the warm-up for all the stories to follow.
Jodie and I joyfully married in 1986 with several firmly entrenched beliefs: God had brought each of us into the other’s life, we each had become the other’s closest friend, and each of us would strive to be the other’s most valuable ally in meeting all the life challenges we would surely encounter.
Those principles hold true to this day.
Every Fourth of July, I pray our nation will persevere — not just surviving, but thriving as “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
In a similar vein, I pray that only death with part Jodie and me, so that we will live out “one marriage, under God,” with all His attendant blessings on our home and children.
If that is your prayer for your nation and home, I believe we share a bright future.
By Scott Harrup | July 3, 2014
I learned today of the passing of Louis Zamperini. The Olympian and World War II veteran was the subject of Laura Hillenbrand’s 2010 best-selling biography, Unbroken. Angelina Jolie is directing the Universal movie of the same name based on the book.
Unbroken follows Zamperini’s life in unflinching detail. Particularly the years during World War II when he survived a plane crash in the Pacific, 47 days adrift on a lifeboat, and then two years in Japanese captivity.
I read Unbroken in 2012 while working on an article for the Pentecostal Evangel’s Summer Olympics edition that year. Like two other great Olympic runners of the last century — Eric Liddell of Chariots of Fire fame, and former U.S. House of Representatives member and sub-4-minute miler Jim Ryun — Zamperini was a committed follower of Jesus Christ. His story of encountering redemption at a Billy Graham crusade in 1949 was, for me, one of the most moving portions of Hillenbrand’s gut-wrenching book.
Zamperini lived out his faith in a manner most of us would find almost impossible to emulate. Because he was convinced Christ had forgiven him of his own sins, he was determined to share that forgiveness with the Japanese guards who had tortured him. He traveled to Japan in 1950 and personally forgave every guard he could find. For years he tried to make contact with Matsuhiro Watanabe, known as “The Bird,” the most notorious of the Japanese soldiers who had abused him. Watanabe, who became a successful businessman in the decades following the war, refused to ever meet with Zamperini. Watanabe died in 2003.
Zamperini has at last completed his own 97-year race of life. Had Watanabe been willing to hear and accept what his former prisoner had to tell him, they would be enjoying an amazing reunion. But whatever Watanabe’s final decision in life regarding God’s offer of salvation, Zamperini had made no secret of his grateful acceptance of that offer.
Because of Jesus, Louis Zamperini is not only “unbroken.” He is forever alive and whole before the throne of God.
By Scott Harrup | June 26, 2014
Our family used to gather regularly at my grandparents’ home in Virginia. Granddad and Grandmom (Obie L. Harrup Sr. and Esther L. Harrup) lived near the shore of the Potomac River at Hallowing Point (which typically shifted to “Halloween” Point in my child’s mind).
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, uncles, aunts and cousins all enjoyed sumptuous meals together followed by patches of conversation, occasional disorganized slow-pitch whiffle ball games, or walks to the river for a possible boat ride or just to sit on the pier.
My cousin Bill Munsie and I opted for that final activity during one gathering. If memory serves, it was an Easter Sunday dinner in 1971. Passing by the main pier, we moved down the riverbank a short distance and began climbing on an older, decaying pier no longer in use.
I slipped and scraped up against a pylon. To my dismay, I discovered a splinter had pushed into my thin, first-grade, “I stink at kickball” left leg.
Going back to the house, I alerted Mom to my mishap. For the next number of excruciating minutes, I became the center of the family’s attention. I was seated on a chair near the large living room window where plenty of sunshine could illuminate the extent of my injury. Some form of household antiseptic was retrieved and applied. My short pant leg was hiked up higher to make room for whatever medical attention would be required.
The trauma reached its peak when Granddad seated himself down in front of me. He was not a particularly tall man, but had a larger-than-life aura about him and, at about 200 pounds, a wrestler’s low-center-of-gravity heft.
He assured Mom he could squeeze that splinter out of my leg.
“Give this boy a bullet to bite,” he said. Then he planted a meaty thumb to either side of the entry wound and pressed down. It felt as if he shoved that splinter all the way into my femur.
The splinter was not about to come out. My tears soon convinced Mom I needed a reprieve. She assured everyone we would attend to the splinter later.
Later, as I recall, was a month or so. Mom had figured the splinter might work its way out or dissolve. She kept the site under observation and regularly cleaned it.
But the splinter had other plans. Coming from that pier, that piece of wood was probably weather treated with some exotic chemical bath. Who knew how many rotting fish and decaying algae colonies had washed up against it. In time, a boil appeared an inch or so above the splinter. That part of my thigh became feverish.
Now there was nothing for it but to take me to the family doctor. He promised he could preclude all pain with a spray-on surface anesthetic. He was wrong. When he managed to get the splinter out, it proved to be about three-fourths of an inch long. It had pushed almost straight into my leg. I’d practically been harpooned.
Forty-plus years later, I still have two tiny scars in my left thigh. They look like twin impacts from a pellet gun.
My long-ago pier adventure reminds me to this day how important it is to address life’s unpleasant issues, particularly in relationships, quickly and thoroughly. Leave a “splinter” of resentment in place, and next thing you know a boil is festering in your spirit. You can probably offer a metaphor of your own.
The apostle Paul cautioned against the effects of prolonged nastiness between followers of Christ.
“‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26,27, NIV).
Don’t give the devil a foothold, or a splinterhold.
By Scott Harrup | June 2, 2014
The customer waiting room in this Walmart Auto Care Center seats seven. There are only two of us here, since business is slow on a Monday morning while the world’s workweek kicks into gear. I’m typing out my thoughts during an oil change and tire rotation. The other gentleman appears to be texting. With both of us attending to clearly vital tasks, each of us has an excuse not to engage in conversation.
The coffee is free, but smells a little burned.
Waiting. Whether at Walmart, or earlier today at a clinic, or a month ago at the Department of Motor Vehicles, waiting crops up and I join the rest of the planet in humanity’s least-loved but most-common pastime.
Our van was overdue for maintenance, and I had a road trip crop up unexpectedly this week. My last grandparent, known as “Granjoan” to a passel of grandkids and great-grandkids, passed away yesterday. The funeral will be in Memphis on Wednesday.
While I’m waiting, I think of Granjoan’s wait. As life’s demands take their toll on the body and mind, it’s only natural to look forward to that final call over heaven’s intercom to step out of our common earthly waiting room and step up to eternity’s grand stand.
Granjoan waited through years of crippling arthritis. She waited in the aftermath of losing Poppy, her dearest friend and life-mate of three decades. She waited in her quiet corner of the world while the world at large shook itself into a new millennium jarred by the same wars and famines and upheavals large and small that have marked every other millennium since creation.
And then, the wait was over. She received the call to leave our waiting room never to return. To leave behind forever every variety of pain and sorrow and weakness and worry. Why should that make us sad?
Well, of course, on one level we feel sorrow. Because we’re all here in the waiting room still smelling the burnt coffee. We’ll miss Granjoan. Her smile. The gentle Southern cadences of her speech. Those eyes that sparkled with a song the rest of us might not be ready to sing until we met up with her and remembered from her example that God’s blessings are always present even when our circumstances would try to blind us to His bounty.
Our seats in the waiting room come in all shapes and sizes with every level of comfort or discomfort making itself known from time to time. None of us knows when we get to leave. Sadly, not all of us will choose to go through the door afforded to Granjoan.
That’s the most personal decision of all, and so carefully outlined in God’s Word with God’s very own repeated invitations. One of my favorites is found in Revelation 3:20:
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and eat with you, and you will eat with me” (NCV).
That particular door of the heart, of course, lies on the same set of hinges operating the final door through which Granjoan passed to meet the Savior with whom she had supped on so many occasions.
Those shared meals with Jesus all along made it possible to bear the arthritis, to bid a long but temporary farewell to Poppy, to watch in a challenged but unwavering faith as this crazy world went on spinning in its countless crazy ways.
And now, that meal is uninterrupted. Poppy, Finley, Fred, loved ones from far and wide and through the generations, all join the table.
That feast will last a very long time. Every last one of us has been invited to join the guest list.
I’ve accepted my invitation.
Granjoan’s question to each of us would be, “What have you done with yours?”
By Scott Harrup | May 19, 2014
As a writer, whenever I work on an assignment or a personal project, I seek to use words that allow the reader to visualize the concepts and events I describe. There are always gaps. Were I to attempt to report every detail of even a short event, I could fill pages and never finish the job. But if I use the right words in the most efficient way, my audience can discern what transpired with a great deal of accuracy within a few paragraphs.
Visual artists undertake a similar task — cartoonists, I think, with the greatest economy. Consider, for example, the few lines and swirls and simple shading Charles Schulz employed in creating the world of Peanuts. And yet, through the years, Schulz’s cartoon panels of his characters’ interactions captured themes as large as life itself.
The reader or observer becomes a partner with the writer/artist in giving meaning to a creative work. If there were no one to read an essay or novel or to view a drawing or painting, what value would reside in that piece? You could argue for a certain amount of value inherent in the joy of creation. But such joy is short-lived if unshared.
The simple concept of shared experience points me so often to the love of God. An infinite Being with the power to create the universe ex nihilo has gifted this planet with innumerable expressions of beauty, and He values our responses to and admiration of His handiwork. In our response, we often discover a salve for life’s wounds, strength for daily challenges, and a renewed hope for the future.
Perhaps a sunrise bursts into view after a night of worry and little sleep. A few notes of birdsong may reach the ear following unexpected bad news. Think how many people have been uplifted by a walk through a park or along a beach, or by picking a flower or scratching the ear of a favorite pet.
Here’s how God the Creator invited one man overwhelmed with grief to gain a perspective that would buoy him from crisis into triumph.
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone — while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’?” (Job 38:4-11, NIV).
If this week confronts you with the impossible or the sorrowful or the doubtful or the regrettable, cast your mind’s eye to the dawn of creation. Connect the dots between the God who spoke this world and every other into being and the God who would invite your trust today.
By Scott Harrup | May 2, 2014
If you’re old enough to remember the 1970s, you probably remember mood rings. If you missed the ’70s entirely, or have never heard of mood rings, they were cheap costume jewelry that combined a layer of thermochromic liquid crystal with a quartz or glass fake gemstone. The liquid crystal changed color with changes in temperature, and that color showed through the stone.
Manufacturers claimed a person’s mood influences body temperature and, thus, the color of the ring when worn. Looking at your mood ring, you supposedly could tell if you were stressed or happy or sad based on the ring’s hue of the hour. Never mind that air conditioning or a move from shade into bright sunlight creates much greater temperature shifts than the human body can exhibit.
It doesn’t take a ring to tell me if I’m stressed or happy or sad. Most of my internal organs seem to conspire in response to life’s crises or serendipities, either wrecking my digestion or making me feel as if I could run a 4-minute mile. Should I try to disguise my mood, Jodie has done a remarkable job during nearly 28 years of marriage of tearing through my façade and insisting on emotional honesty.
Mood rings came to (my random) mind when I saw a tech article online today about a new color-changing film designed to reveal mechanical stress.
According to Gizmag.com’s Ben Coxworth, scientists at the University of California, Riverside, “have created a film that changes color when subjected to pressure, making it easier to see where objects coated with the film may need reinforcement. … When little or no pressure is applied to the film, the closely spaced particles reflect light in a blue color. As pressure is applied and the film stretches, however, the spaces between the particles become larger. This causes them to gradually change in color, until they appear completely red.”
It’s one thing to identify mechanical stresses and remedy them with structural support. Human emotional stresses are less tangible. Beyond their physiological manifestations, human stresses connect with our spiritual identity, the greatest intangible of all.
I’m grateful for God’s personal interest in my deepest emotional needs. That divine compassion comes through in the heartfelt pleas of biblical writers.
“I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:15, NKJV).
“From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2).
“Trouble and anguish have overtaken me, yet Your commandments are my delights” (Psalm 119:143).
“Oh, that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (Jeremiah 9:1).
And God’s response?
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. 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” (Isaiah 43:1-3).
What color would your mood ring be right now if you were wearing one? More importantly, to whom will you turn to find solutions to today’s challenges? If you make the right choice, I can promise you will make it through your day and be able to face tomorrow confidently.