A Kairos Moment at Culp’s Hill

by Josh Bottomly

Down through the centuries, theologians and mystics have spoken of divine experiences in human time as kairos moments.  By definition, a kairos moment is an event used by God to impact one’s life.  It involves an intersection of sorts between the horizontal and vertical, the humdrum and holy, where, for a fleeting moment, one experiences God’s nearness in his life and God’s hereness in his world.

Kairos moments have happened infrequently in my life.  But none was more pivotal and life changing than the karios moment on an obscure battlefield at Gettysburg.

The months leading up to this event had been colored by deep darkness.   It had been almost two years since my wife and I first visited the fertility clinic.  Now the “I” word was not some distant and remote diagnosis.  It was a sobering reality.  By this time, my prayer life had been reduced to a whimper of faith.  The silence of despair grew firm within my chest.  On the brink of a spiritual breakdown, I prayed as a desperate man for a break through.  Little did I know how God would answer my prayer.

Culp's Hill

While attending a leadership conference at Gettysburg, one night I was approached by Marty, a conference leader.  He asked me if I wanted a personal tour of Culp’s Hill, a famous battle during the Gettysburg campaign.  I grabbed my Mountain Gear fleece;  I was definitely up for it.

After snaking our way up through hills exploding with green April foliage, we stopped at a tiny knot of cedars surrounded by large boulders and scattered tree logs.  “This was the Union army’s extreme right position,” Marty exclaimed as he pointed to a breastwork of cobbled stone covered in moss and dirt.  “It was here that the fate of the Union army largely hung in the balance.”

As Marty began to lead me around the markers that jutted up around the hill, the whole scene suddenly transformed before my eyes into a dramatic amphitheatre of war.

The main battle commenced at dusk on July 2, 1864.

As darkness moved in amongst the thick trees at Culp’s Hill, the NY 137th disbanded in a thin line from the saddle down to the lower hill.  Below the hill, gathering in a swale, and quickly filling up many trenches was a Confederate brigade led by General Steuart.

About that time, General Meade of the Union Army sent orders to Colonel David Ireland, the twenty-five-year-old commander of the NY 137th.  General Meade’s orders were short and exacting.

“Colonel Ireland, hold the line at all costs.”

Soon Steuart’s men moved into position behind the low stonewall in rear of the 137th.
They quickly unleashed a staccato of gunfire.  Before they knew it, the 137th was taking heat from front, right flank, and rear.  Their position, as Marty described it, was “like a finger, surrounded on three sides.”

At about that time the 71st Pennsylvania regiment showed up.  They were backups sent by General Hancock to assist the 137th.  But seeing Ireland’s men taking heavy musket fire from all directions, the 71st fired off a volley or two at Steuart’s men and quickly withdrew from the line.  Their position was untenable.

Union fortifications built to ward off the Confederates.

With half his infantry dead, resources depleted, and reinforcements in retreat, Ireland decided to order one final defensive tactic:  commanding his regiment to stack up granite rocks to form a stone wall.  There, entrenched on the saddle back between the hills, Ireland waited with his men.

As Marty showed me where Ireland had burrowed in with his men, I tried to put myself in the young colonel’s shoes.  I got down on my knees behind the stonewall and peered out into the thick darkness with only the silhouette of the overhanging limbs visible.  I wondered how Ireland held his men together as trees splintered from canon fire, bullets pinged off granite rocks, and hot metal tore through sinewy flesh.  I suddenly felt like I could hear the shrieks of young men as they breathed their last breath and their souls slid out of their bodies.

Effects of Union shot and shell on Culp's Hill - photo by William H. Tipton.

Somehow through the long and unrelenting night, Ireland and his men found the strength and fortitude to stymie every Confederate charge up the hill.

At around three a.m., Steuart’s men suspended their attack due to complete lack of visibility and thus an inability to determine who was who.  They feared they were shooting and killing their own men.  As their attack subsided, the 137th found renewed strength and hope as the 14th Brooklyn and the 6th Wisconsin showed up with reinforcements.

Had the Confederates known the 137th was the end of the line, they could have advanced toward the Baltimore Pike and overrun the Union army, changing the outcome of the battle at Gettysburg, probably turning the tide of the whole Civil War.

But the line never broke.

After Marty finished telling the story, I stood in complete silence, as I suddenly felt like Culp’s Hill was becoming holy ground.  I didn’t see a burning bush or hear an audible voice.  But as the wind rustled through the Pennsylvania birch trees and I stood against the cobbled traverse, I sensed somehow that God was near.

A scripture came to mind, one that I had memorized early in my life.

Let him who walks in the dark,
who has no light,
trust in the name of the Lord
and rely on his God.

~Isaiah 50:10a

For two years I had endured what St. John of the Cross called the oscura noche, the dark night of the soul.  During that time, I felt like Job—confused, doubtful, and befuddled by God’s seeming absence and deafening silence.  My prayers were punctuated by sighs and groans.  I came closest to God in my questions.  I wondered not whether God existed but if God knew I existed.  Did he know my pain?  Did he see my suffering?  Would he respond to my cry?

As I walked the hallowed grounds at Culp’s Hill, I began to pray.  Specifically, I echoed Peter’s prayer: ‘I do believe, Jesus, help me overcome my unbelief!’ (Mark 9:24).  I confessed to him that I felt like I was living within a precarious space between two parenthetical opposites: one being faith, the other being doubt.  The bitterest pill I felt I had been forced to swallow involved watching Amy suffer and hurt and not knowing how to palliate her pain in any way.

In that moment, though, as the moon rose high into the starless sky and the leaves turned silver, I felt that God was near.  For so long, God had seemed distant and remote, like a satellite.  Sensing God’s closeness now, I cupped my ear and leaned into the silence.  What I heard filled me with a renewed trust that the night would give way to the day.  And somehow, in some way, against all odds, pressed in on all sides, he would hold the line.  Like Col. Ireland and the NY 137th, Amy and I would see the first gleam of dawn burst through the darkness.  We would feel the sun on our faces again.  We would hear a new word heralded through the clouds:  a new day had arrived!

~~Note:  Josh and his wife Amy documented their journey, struggles and resolution to travel to Africa and adopt a child in their book, “From Ashes to Africa.”  This post is a revised piece from that book.  For more information visit http://fromashestoafrica.com/

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Burn

by Mark “The Howard” Hinderliter

If you happen to read this, know that it is being written through insomnia.  Not that I’m incoherent but, occasionally something just takes up so much space in the head that sleep won’t come, TV won’t help and there’s no compelling novel waiting to lull me.  Just an engineering textbook.  The textbook could actually work as an insomnia cure on another night, but not tonight.

Let me say first that I’m not a political liberal.  I think our country’s founders were pretty smart guys who enacted the best system of government they could given their study of history and the political and societal realities of their time.  And this system has withstood the test of time:  self-centered politicians, elitists and those who believe they are entitled to something that belongs to another.

Having said that, I am deeply bothered by the church in Florida whose pastor wants to burn a Quran to commemorate 9-11.  Apparently, this man is disturbed by the proposed Mosque planned near the site of the World Trade Center in New York City and what he sees as the world’s cowering to fanatic Muslim extremists.  Burning a copy or copies of the Quran on 9-11 is his and his congregation’s response to these current events.

When I first heard a news report of this planned burning, it was in the context of General David Petraeus warning that it could fan the flames of hatred and endanger our troops in Afghanistan.  And I have to admit, I was not swayed by the General’s argument.  My first reaction was, “Tough, what goes around comes around.  Burn our flag and the Christian Bible, we’ll retaliate.”

I am frequently a very conflicted man on these sorts of things.

Left to my own devices I’d probably join the pastor.  Left to my own devices I’d promote the death penalty for murderers and rapists.  I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve said out loud when hearing the report of a homicide or a rape, “bullet in the head will put a stop to that.”

But I have to admit something.  I’ve read the words of Christ.  I’ve read the words of the Lord spoken through the prophets of old.  Sometimes they confuse me and seem to conflict.  But when I think about the actions of Jesus on earth and I ponder what he would do in a given situation, I don’t reach the conclusion that he would act hatefully or act in retaliation.

Now there were certainly things that irritated him.  Turn his Father’s house into a goat market? Serious irritation.  The hypocrisy of religious leaders, those who should know better? Their behavior earned a tongue lashing that may not be over yet!  But burn someone else’s religious book?  I can’t see it.  Jesus was and is a walking endorsement of the love of a Creator God who would do anything for any of us.  Including radical Muslim haters.  Because if they took the time to know Him their behavior would change.  Children of the King learn to act like the King.  If they seek Him over self.

I don’t know anything about this preacher in Florida other than he wants to burn a book.  But I can look at history and see that when people follow a charismatic leader rather than the King, hatred and destruction usually follow.  Waco, Guyana…but from Waco came Oklahoma City.  And Jonesy didn’t go alone.

Those who would call themselves Christian are called to love their enemies and pray for them.  Vengeance is for the Lord.  If a Koresh or a Jones claims to be the Lord’s instrument of vengeance or retaliation, run away.  Leave them to their own destruction.  Do not join them until you have read the red letters for yourself.  That one chooses to be tolerant of another’s beliefs does not mean he condones them.  He chooses to love that person until the light of the Kingdom shines through.

Maybe I can sleep now.  If not, the text book awaits me.

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The Ping of Your Relational Sonar

I liked this photo so much that I decided to use it and give nanukphotos.com a free ad shout-out. While I'm not in the mood to pay $60.00 for the rights to use it (we do our own photography, although I do purchase iStock photos occasionally), I am willing to reference back to them and their very cool work. The photo shows the same sky type of sky mentioned in this essay.

It’s about 9:00 p.m. Labor Day night and I’m putting the last check into the last envelope as I finish paying my monthly bills.  The day has been a long one with the majority of my time spent in my office reading and working on my statistics homework.  I get up from my chair, stretch, grab the stamped envelopes on my desk and head to the mailbox.

I head down the long slope of the paved driveway.  It’s getting dark and my mind switches from wondering if my bare feet are going to find a wayward stone (protective-mode thoughts) to the overwhelmingly beautiful twilight sky (refreshing, happy thoughts).  My pace slows and I remember that my hair is pulled up into a ponytail, bound with a brown velvet scrunchie; perfect for a little pillow to rest my head on the concrete.  I drop to the warm pavement, lay down, breathe in the cooling air and take a few moments to study the sky more closely.

It’s beautiful out tonight.  The sun has dropped below the horizon so far that only the slightest hint of light shows along the western line.  From there sweeping upward is light blue, medium blue, dark blue and the deepest midnight blue right over my head.  The stars are beginning to show and as I lay still and focus, more and more tiny lights begin to peek out of the deep blue.  I can now see about 30-40 stars, but one in particular catches my eye.  It’s brighter than the rest and seems to be moving.  I assume at this point that it’s a satellite and I watch it travel ever-so-slowly across my view.

My body begins to relax as I start realizing how many layers of sound are filling up my ears.  I can hear the distant click of a katydid, intermittent bursts of cicadas, a constant tree frog sound, and another rhythmic frog sound over that.  There is a dog somewhere in the distance that barks occasionally and every three or four minutes a car passes down the street, headed toward their homes for the evening.  I look around for the satellite and find it again.  I started thinking about my husband.

On the way down to the mailbox, I had hugged him goodnight because he was heading to bed.  He gets up at 4:00 a.m. every morning to go to work.  I had said, “I missed you today.”  He said, “I missed you too.”  We talked a bit about the homework I was doing and said goodnight.

I watch the satellite another minute more and my mind drifts back to a conversation I had last week with a colleague.  He had written a blog entry for contract work we do over the topic of “checking in” with your spouse during the day.  I’m watching the satellite and thinking about that topic when I link a thought about the sonar pings made by satellites, submarines or other devices that also “check in” with those monitoring their progress.  I begin to play that sound in my head and think about parents monitoring their children as they grow and develop, spouses checking-in with each other to make sure all is good between them, leaders checking in with their team members in places of employment.  Ping, ping, ping.  The satellite has now passed two stars as I watch it continue to creep across the sky.

I start thinking about satellite orbits and how they decay over time.  Without the sonar or other monitoring devices, there could be no awareness of how that orbit had decayed or whether it was stable and in good working order.  Mother mammals of tiny babies constantly check to see if all their offspring are accounted for, birds guard their nests, alpha males of various species watch over their herds in case they are threatened.

I want to think about this balance or out-of-balance checking in between couples just a bit more so I reluctantly get up, walk the rest of the way to the mailbox (I only step on one small pebble), and head back to my office.  On my way back up the driveway I hear a car leave our neighbor’s driveway, muffled rap music coming from the interior.  I wonder what type of sonar is going on between he and his parents as he drives down the road.  I get to my office and begin searching for sound files of sonar pings.  I find some cool files of a WW II submarine sonar.  CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE SOUND.

While I’m playing with these sonar sound files I begin thinking, “They sound a little bit like a heartbeat.”  My mind drifts back to all my relatives who have been in the hospital with heart monitoring devices…ping,  ping,  beat…beat.  I think about the inordinate amount of journal articles I’ve been reading the past six months over a person’s physical well being and how it relates to their relational well being.  People who are stressed because of unhealthy relationships actually have different vagal tones when on a heart monitor than when their relationships are better, or when they feel closer to their partners.

I make a mental note of this thought process and head back into the bedroom to tell Mick goodnight a second time.  I need to check in with him and make sure our orbit is not in decay.  He’s fine.  We’re fine.   I’m glad I check, however.  He tells me goodnight a second time and that “All systems are go.”

How about yours?

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Labor Day Weekend In Oklahoma, 1960

I don’t envy the library employees who labored to document, scan and archive electronic images of The Daily Oklahoman from the day OPUBCO opened its doors.  But I sure do appreciate them.

Last year I was doing some research that led me to discover this feat had been accomplished, so last night I logged on to do some more.  This time for the Chronicles.  I wanted to see what Labor Day Weekend was like in Red Dirt country fifty years ago.

Italian sweater jersey dresses were $21.00; John A. Brown's was having a "door buster" sale - shirts for $1.00

What I found was a slice of life that made me laugh, frown, send a clipping to my colleague at OSU and think about my friends who are politically active.  I experienced quite an array of emotions for the hour I perused the September 1st, 2nd and 3rd issues of the paper.  Then I tried to decide how I would put all that information into a small Friday morning blog posting.

The decision I arrived at was to provide you bullet points of what stood out to me, provide you with a few visuals, then encourage you to try this type of exercise on your own if you enjoyed it.  Here we go…

  • The Oklahoma local and county fair scene was being announced in several sections.  In Beaver, OK they were announcing festivities in a recently completed complex that cost $150,000 to construct.
  • H.E. Bailey and group were doing the final studies to put in a turnpike to travel eastward.  I’m sure the Tulsa World reported the project as traveling westward.
  • Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee  were preparing to “tie the knot.”
  • OU and OSU were gearing up for their first football games of the year to be held later in September.  OSU was celebrating being voted into the Big 8 conference; 1960 would be their first year to compete although they had petitioned many years prior.  OU had just finished a pre-game scrimmage and was concerned about two injuries they sustained during the contest.  They did win the scrimmage, however.
  • An OU professor was being investigated.  He was under suspicion for being a “Red.”  The “Red” theme was all over the paper.  “Red China” was the title they used for that country in a national headline.  This professor story was sad to me.  From what I could tell, all they knew at this point was that he and his wife had “legally updated their passports while in Moscow” on an academic trip.
  • And speaking of Moscow, Khrushchev was in the news because the US had refused to provide him an actual red carpet to walk on into the United Nations building due to a classification of his status “being one of the 60 states represented” rather than “a dignitary.”  There was another international article wherein a student from Africa was warning her fellow students back in her home country not to attend a Russian university, as she had, because of extreme derogatory names she was called while there.
  • People were gearing up for their Labor Day weekend cookouts.  Sound familiar?  I’ll bet you wish we had 1960 grocery prices!
  • In fashion, the new fall line was being introduced at Peyton-Marcus in downtown Oklahoma City.
  • People were getting married, people were dying and babies were being born.
  • The weather was exceptionally hot for this time of year.
  • "Er, I ran into a door!" - political cartoons changed? Not much.

    And, Governor Edmondson was trying his best to educate the state about several legislative measures going to a vote of the people very soon.

  • I noticed that in the business section there were many announcements from local business and industries about new hires or new appointments to management.  All of the names were male.
  • A young pro golfer had been found murdered in Lawton.  There were other crimes and murders as well.
  • And, I read a nice recipe in the food section on how to prepare garlic bread with a clove of garlic, butter and Parmesan cheese.

So I wonder…what has changed?  The Oklahoma culture is still here:  Football season, Labor Day cookouts (standard across our country), the local and county fairs, community, politics and the news.

Milnot: Make it a NO Labor Day!

It seems that most of what has changed, besides the fashion, are socio-political factors.  There isn’t a “Red” scare any more…but there are others, right?  Are people of various skin colors still being threatened with persecution and derogatory name calling?

Okay.  Perhaps not all that much has changed.

However, the technology to retrieve this information is a huge difference.  People will cook with technology that wasn’t invented in 1960.  The football games will have real-time updates on the internet and entertain the crowd with multimillion dollar big screen “wow factors.”  Brides-to-be will be utilizing event management software by an account set up online within their wedding planner’s website.  People will take digital photographs of their fair entries and send them to their family around the country.

There are differences.  Perhaps a bit of the socio-political paranoia is gone…maybe.

But there sure are similarities as well.

"The Big Red Will Rise Again" (Article in the Dec. 2nd edition, AFTER the football season was completed) Click for larger view.
"Rattlesnake Roundups," fair news, stock shows and rodeos...News from Around the State.

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Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch: Divide and Conquer…..Together

It’s a Saturday.  The nine-to-fivers are reveling in the covers that hide the dawn’s glare this A.M.

Purple Martin house
Purple Martins found a home out here at the ranch just one week after it was built.

But not us.  My husband and I begin our weekdays before some people go to bed,  and the weekend is no different.   Like every household, we have things to do.  OUR problem is that usually we have each created our own lists (hidden in our own minds) and have divided the chores out between us without telling the other about the plans.  It could be a problem if we let it.  We don’t.

I stopped picking the last of the tomatoes to watch Greg lower the Purple Martin house to get it ready for the winter and ultimately next spring.  He joined me in the melon patch to check on our first watermelons.  We are both amazed at how much fruit our only two melon plants have produced.  I made a mental note to put the tomato cages up for next season.  He set up the sprinklers to water the yard.  I fed the kittens.  He fed the cats.  I carried my coffee across the pasture to give the horses some carrots.  They knew it was not my usual time with them, and they seemed grateful.

Fence
Turning the corner on fence painting.

There is always so much to do out here, but neither of us seem to mind.  We have stopped to sit on the backporch to have some coffee.  Greg remembered that the front gate doesn’t latch.  We have got to fix that.  It’s added to the list.  Before noon we will have added as many chores as we have completed this morning.  Maybe he’s right next to me; maybe he is across the pasture.  Either way, we are content to divide and conquer our chores for today, so we can spend the evening……together.

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Showcasing Red Dirt culture ~ authored and managed by contributors with connections to the great state of Oklahoma.