How the Fatherless Choose a Father

Over the last few years, I have found myself writing from a place of relative neutrality. After some soul-searching, I’m not sure I quite like that. I want to give room for people to think and have differing opinions. However, in my writing, I want to share my genuine thoughts. Here we go.

This year has been a bit weird, and the weirdness continues. The presidential election has come, and we find ourselves in the throes of civil unrest and political upheaval. Corruption has been found flagrant; yet the media remains silent.

In June 2015, President Trump announced his presidential candidacy for the 2016 election. The moment I saw the announcement, I heard God speak, “He’s the one.” Amidst all the ups and downs leading up to Election Day, I had an unwavering confidence in what I heard God say. It was a bit strange because almost everyone I spoke with didn’t just disagree – they often disagreed vehemently.

It was even more strange to me when people in prophetic movements around the nation voiced their adamant opposition to Trump’s campaign. How was it that the church could not see? How was it that the prophetic voices in our nation could not hear? I had many questions.

After his inauguration, President Trump quickly got to work. Through his actions, he slowly won over many within the church who initially opposed him. I was happy to see that, but I was still concerned with what I saw.

I could write many things regarding Trump’s accomplishments during his presidency thus far, but those things can wait. My interest for this article lies elsewhere. Instead, I will tell you what I see.

The United States of America is a beautiful land full of promise. Even though she’s broken my heart numerous times, I love her with all my heart and will for all my days. Our steps as a nation have not always been perfect. We’ve been clumsy and at times naive.

But she’s learning. She’s growing. She’s maturing. She’s still beautiful.

Recently, I heard America described as a benevolent superpower. I think that’s a good summation. Although we’ve made many mistakes, our intentions have largely been noble. Americans fundamentally want to make the world a better place. We want to help people. We want to make a difference.

Sadly, we’ve often seen injustices in foreign lands before we have seen it in our own. I think it has perhaps been easier to right wrongs in other nations before having the courage to address the wrongs at home.

A nation is much like a family. There are many dynamics at play, and it’s beautifully complex. Sometimes, it’s harder to see the beauty than others, but it’s still there. Our greatest strengths are often found in the midst of our difference. Do not be discouraged. To fly requires two wings.

I have seen the absence of fathers plague this land for decades and now generations. This alone creates repercussions that far-outweigh any issue raised from any political platform.

Fatherlessness has created a bitter root in the heart of this nation toward leaders and any in authority. And what I have seen over the last four years is much like a father being introduced to a fatherless nation. The children rebel. There is no trust. They push back because their heart does not know how to receive. Bitterness and distrust causes every act to be felt as vinegar on a wound.

The role of president acts as the father to this nation. The church too easily forgets where the nation was heading before Trump. I remember a time when pastors and Christians were indicted and jailed when unwilling to violate their conscience by officiating homosexual weddings. The church was afraid to use its voice. Trump became our voice even before he became president, and our freedoms were quickly restored.

How does the fatherless choose a father? I’m not sure we know how. It is through bitterness and resentment we see. We side with whoever gives voice to our frustration. This only further solidifies the foundation of our hatred. How can anyone lead when all they bring is the furtherance of victimhood to the masses?

I have been praying since before the election. God has asked me to pray for unity amongst His people and a steadfast resolve to see God finish what He has begun. The truth is we, as the church, give up far too easily.

In the past few days, I have heard Christians endlessly recite, “Regardless of outcome, Jesus is still on the throne.” I could not agree more. However, I sometimes question if this is not a simple stale expression to escape the moment we find ourselves. Is it an excuse to give up and settle back into apathy? After all, “God is in control.”

Yes, make no mistake. Jesus is Lord. However, we have our part to play. This is not the time to disengage. There is a belief within many churches that whatever happens is God’s will. I respectfully but wholeheartedly disagree.

The Bible describes the road to both blessings and curses that can come upon a nation. If a nation honors God and His ways, they experience blessings. If they turn away from God and do what He detests, they experience curses. This showcases the freedom and responsibility attached to our choices.

I do not believe God chooses leaders who support the very things He says will bring a curse upon a nation. His heart is to extend mercy and allow opportunity for His people to turn back to Him. He is a good Father and very patient.

The Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20 says we are to make disciples of nations – not only save souls. I’ve often wondered if we’ve gotten things backwards. Evangelism has sought to save souls while the church has disengaged from influencing nations. However, in discipling nations, we will save souls.

Evangelism has always been a big question mark for me. I am in no way judging people’s efforts, but I have wondered if there is a better way. It seems the church has relegated itself to a perpetual defensive approach. We wait until every governing institution has failed people and then we approach them with the Gospel. We surrender our authority and allow the government, education system, and every other industry to lead first. And when they fail people, we come to the rescue. But is that all the Gospel is? A last resort when all else fails?

Obviously, when a person is in need of rescue, it is saving grace. I absolutely love and celebrate that. But surely, it is far more than that. Is the Gospel not powerful enough to lead the way? Must we forever pick up the crumbs? Should we not work toward having more influence? I believe evangelism should look like leading from government, education, media, and so on.

Maybe, my questions will become your own. What does it look like from God’s perspective when we declare “Kingdom come”?

I don’t know if you are familiar with the prophecies about Trump. Trusted prophets across the nation and the world have prophesied Trump will be re-elected going back as far as 2007. God has spoken the same to me. The road getting there may be a bit bumpy; but perhaps, the bumps are a blessing. They’re waking us up.

The church has done a great job of becoming innocent as doves, but we have fallen very short in becoming wise as serpents. 2020 has revealed, for many, how woefully unprepared we are. If the church is to represent God on the Earth, we must recognize the season and act accordingly.

I’ve poured my heart and soul into praying for this nation for most of my life. Over the years, God has spoken many things to me about America. I refuse to give up now. On the contrary, I have more hope for this nation than ever before because I have seen where we are going.

Many I know in church have no interest in government or politics. I have never cared for politics, but I love government. For all those in the church who do not find interest in government, I would like to challenge you to look deeper. Government is God’s idea. The church is government.

If you speak with most Christians about the passions of their heart, it normally entails helping people. It’s beautiful. My heart beats for the same. But we must understand, we can spend our entire lives focused on helping those in need and not create lasting, effectual, change. In order to create sustainable results, we must influence the structures and governing agencies that create culture. That is often government.

I’m concerned we as the church have fallen into the same trap as our culture. We believe the government or those in leadership are the enemy. They are inherently evil and irredeemable. If we view government as either evil or of no concern, we lose influence within our culture because we isolate ourselves within our church buildings. The same buildings we coincidentally are unable to meet within presently because our state governments forbid it.

As the church, we must wake up and engage. It is not enough just to pray. We must do something. We can no longer complain about our government, our education system, or our police departments. If you see a problem, I invite you to become part of the solution. We are to be the visionaries who pioneer what God wants to release to the world.

Revival and awakening are coming, but it may not look like what we have thought or expected. It may look more like reformation. I believe racial reconciliation, exposure of corruption within our government, and justice will play a very large part.

Let freedom ring.

AR

All Aboard!

My grandfather, Jerry Hanna, was a locomotive engineer who worked for the Santa Fe Railroad. He grew up in Texas, and in this part of Texas, most were either ranchers or railroaders. My mother’s family was pretty much equal parts both. So in a sense, I imagine it’s fitting enough for me to say my family built the West.

I’ve always loved trains. I grew up listening to the trains blow their whistle as they rumbled through town each night. Everything about an old locomotive is filled with nostalgia. They represent a bygone era. This town owes much of its heritage to Santa Fe Railroad, so there’s remnants of that history all about. There’s even a locomotive called “Whistle Stop” in the midst of Cleburne’s Hulen Park, and it’s the center of our Christmas parade each year.

My mom’s father was killed in a car accident when she was only a very young girl. It was an immeasurable tragedy that had a tremendous impact on our family, and the reverberations of that event are still felt to this day. I know him only from stories and pictures, but I am often told how my brother and I remind everyone of him. My hope has always been to live a life that would make him proud and further build upon the foundation of faith, family, and honest hard-work, he and so many others in my family have laid.

In the last few months, the Lord has spoken to me quite a lot about my grandfather and His desire to restore all that was lost. In the midst of this season of praying into these things, my mom gave me two very special gifts, her father’s pocket watch and railroad pin. It’s a beautiful Hamilton pocket watch that was widely used by the railroad because of its reliability. It has a well-worn patina in places from his daily use. It was with him in the accident, so it still bears a scar upon its face. The glass was replaced, and it was then put away in a box not to tick for decades, until recently.

I love pocket watches and antique clocks and so did my grandfather. He collected clocks, dogs, and high-end guns. We would have had a lot in common. He even played bass guitar. My mom has two of my grandfather’s antique clocks. One has not worked in nearly a decade while the other has not worked since he was alive. I decided to take both to a local business that cleans and restores clocks, recently. For about a month now, they have been working and chiming again. In the midst of getting all of these clocks and watches working, I cannot help but consider it significant symbolism. With each tick and chime, they seem to say, “It is time.”

AR

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Goals – A work in progress

I routinely find myself encouraging the people I train both in fitness and nutrition the importance of creating goals. There are countless books, articles, podcasts and other mediums on the power of setting goals. I often relay this information without hesitation, but as of late, I have begun to feel slightly hypocritical in my advice-giving. To have a season where you do not have a goal you are working toward is less than ideal. However, the true danger lies in allowing that solitary season to become routine and expand into months and even years. This is a familiar trap for many. Recently, I have felt myself in that very trap.

Goals are funny things. We can easily rattle off a few, without any true inclination toward pursuing them. It is normally paired with thoughts such as, “It would be nice if…” These are not goals. I would more classify them as vain ambitions. These grandiose ideas make us feel somewhat better – as if they are some momentary escape from the water-treading we have been doing. But they are nevertheless meaningless until we are ready to pursue them regardless of cost and sacrifice.

I just returned home from the Dominican Republic a couple of days a go. While there, I had quite a bit of time to reflect – where I am, where I am going, what I want, and so on. Reflection can be a good thing. Although, I often do better while focusing on minimal reflection. I have a tendency to over analyze most things. This causes great passion in the beginning pursuit of something until a few obstacles arise. These obstacles begin to feel more like warning signals rather than obstacles to overcome, so I find myself wavering on whether I made the correct decision in starting the journey. This sounds ridiculous, but many do the same thing without realizing their pattern until a lifetime of unfinished journeys has led them to a place they never wanted to be.

I love to read history, especially biographies. All of my favorite men and women in history were relentless with their goals. What impresses me most, I think, is how many never had moments where they sat wondering what they wanted or ought to do. They simply gave themselves over to a goal – any goal, often from a young age, and they tirelessly pursued it until completion. They never wondered whether they had it in them to complete it. It seems many of them were wildly insufficient when they began the journey, but through the process, they became the person necessary to complete it.

The power in a goal is not the goal or the completion of it. The power lies in the pursuit. This has led me to believe the goal itself almost does not matter. It is whether or not you are willing to give all you have over to its pursuit. Will you sacrifice what is needed? Do you simply dream of doing more – of being more than you presently are? Or have you truly committed? How much time we waste in trying to find the perfect plan or the perfect goal. Life has a fluidity that is hard to understand. When you truly live, life finds a way of unfolding before you. Life favors the bold and relentless. I believe God designed it that way.

In my circles, there is never a shortage of talk or ideas. There is rarely a shortage of prayer. I can speak only for myself, but I find the paucity in my life lies in the committing to a solitary idea. This is not something that improves over time on its own. It is a facet of self-discipline that must be addressed. And moreover, I believe each person must have a grave realization that life is not about pursuing or preserving comfort. This alone relegates ninety percent of the distractions around us. (I suppose this would be a good plug for Teddy Roosevelt’s book, “The Strenuous Life.” He may very well be my favorite person in history.)

This is where I am. Transition lies in heaps all about me and uncertainty with every step. However, the beginning of faith and hope is to trust God’s ability to pick me up when I fall and to clean up the messes I make along the way. My aim is to live a life in which I can readily say, “This one thing I do.” This naturally demands a great ability to say no to most other things. We live in a world where everything and everyone will place a steady stream of constraints upon you if allowed. But boundaries are easily set when you have committed to a thing.

I hope my meanderings may help someone in a similar place. To that, I leave you with this. The end game is not the completion of a goal, but whatever you do – see it through. Not for the sake of the goal but for the sake of your character and the person you hope to become.

AR

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Éireann, táim ag teacht.

When I was around the age of five, my dad brought me to one of his bookcases in his study. He reached for the globe and pulled it down for me to see. He turned it and pointed to a relatively small island in the North Atlantic and explained this was where our family came from. He was pointing to Ireland, and I’ve dreamed of going since that day. I’ve studied the history, the culture, the language, and the music most all of my life.

On April 12, 2018, a life-long dream becomes reality. I will be flying to Dublin, Ireland, and then driving to Cork. I’ll be the first person in my family to return to Cork since they came to the States. It’s honestly still hard to believe the time has finally come. There aren’t really words.

I’m very excited and grateful. I am still working on the routes I’ll be taking, but it promises to be an adventure. So here’s to the journey ahead.

Éireann, táim ag teacht.

AR

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The typewriter

I sat down at my old Smith-Corona late last night and began to write for the first time in a while. It’s a 50+ year old typewriter in a strange shade of green. Some of the keys show a bit of wear, but it’s actually in remarkable condition considering. Around the time I first got it, I was asked by many why I would want an antiquated machine most are all too eager to dispose of in a garage sale.

It’s clunky and a bit worn in places, but there’s a beauty to it. What first drew me to it was the thought of limiting distraction. When you sit down to a typewriter, they’re a bit of a one trick pony. They type. That’s about it. When using a computer, distractions are readily available. I appreciate the simplicity of it.

There’s something about the rhythmic striking of the keys. The ebb and flow seems to tell a story of its own. At the very least, it accentuates the story being told. Its typeface also has quite a lot of character. Each typewriter has its own individual fingerprint of sorts. I’ve heard detectives of the past used typeface to sometimes lead them to perpetrators. Perhaps, that’s why criminals began using letters cut from newspapers instead of typing or writing their messages by hand.

Typewriters have recently experienced a bit of a resurgence in popularity. I suppose Tom Hanks and hipsters are to thank for this. I prefer to thank Tom Hanks. Nevertheless, it’s the literary greats that inspired my acquisition. Quotes from Ernest Hemingway for instance, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” It doesn’t get much cooler than that.

My fingers have yet to bleed. Although, I believe that was mostly meant as a metaphorical expression. With Hemingway, it’s a little hard to tell. Regardless, I’ve found my typing speed is improving quite a lot. My hope is to one day write something of substance using it — a book maybe. A short book. Ha.

There is an arcane draw to archaic machines. It is not shared by all, but if you’ve ever seen the beauty of a well-preserved WWII airplane, a sextant, or even a typewriter – perhaps you understand. These old machines may be considered antiquated technology with little to no purpose today, but they serve as reminders of eras gone by. They were built during a time when things were built to last.

AR

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