Game of War
by
Sally Marshall

 

Why do God's people always seem to be at odds with each other? Why do churches contend? Why do families fight all the time? Why are so many marriages breaking up? Why do people hate? Why do countries war? These issues have never seemed simple, but to me they are much less complicated now.

One night in great frustration, I poured my heart out in prayer, and I was given the answer in poetic form. Previously I had always thought contention a struggle between good and bad. Now I know it is not that at all. Well intentioned, peace loving people will always contend if they behave according to the precepts of war. And that's easy to do. Those precepts are misunderstood; not only misunderstood but maligned. What are the precepts of war? What are the precepts of peace? It's a paradox. Sometimes it's hard to tell just exactly which is which. For me the poem made it clear.

As a young married couple, when my husband and I first became serious in seeking the Lord's will for us and our young family, we realized changes were needed. In making those changes, we found we unknowingly upset our church friends. We became the objects of scorn, ridicule, and even some downright nastiness. I suppose this was only fair, as months earlier we had participated in targeting others in much the same way. In getting to be the target myself, I learned a huge lesson. I saw that the "good guy"/"bad guy" label can come solely from a matter of perception. No one had questioned us or our intent. If they had, they would have seen our commitment and efforts to repent. Instead they made erroneous assumptions. A huge mistake and I was well aware of it, for I knew that I had done it myself not so long ago.

So we became the culprits. By simply questioning standard operating procedure and choosing a life we felt was more in keeping with God's will, we were labeled "the bad guys." At the time I was appalled, and misunderstood what was happening. For weeks and weeks I went through my daily routine in frustration, and eventually even quit going to church.

I could not comprehend that we had offended our church friends in our attempt to follow our Lord. Now I know they felt a challenge to their own lifestyle and reacted out of fear. But it was not until this poem below was given to me that I began to understand what was going on, and with the passage of decades I now realize that God was calling me away from war to find and practice peace.

Normally, I am no poet. I do not think in rhyme. But my frustration and the answering understanding came to me as poetry, and I found myself madly writing, so I wouldn't forget it. The poem singles out three components of all war that exist in every aspect of thought and deed way before the fight begins. These components are necessary to contend. Good people will frequently practice them in all innocence but their ignorance allows them to create and prolong strife. It they only knew what they were doing, they would make the simple moves to stop contention and move toward peaceful resolution.

Now I know that almost everything in western society is based on war; that we think it almost noble to be warring and dominating, bestowing upon it other less harmful names. We call evil good, and in doing that, we assume the opposite - that good is evil. War is so much an ingrained part of us that peace will not feel natural, nor will it come easily. But in eliminating the 3 habitual behaviors of war cited in the poem below, we quit blocking peace, and this is a good beginning.

The poem was first written right after a group of fighting Christians split up. I participated in the fight, rejoiced in the split, then was appalled to observe the same contrary behaviors beginning all over again, now with different targets, one of whom was me. I was led to understand this habitual cycle of repetitive behavior was happening not just in that specific group but everywhere on earth, in all circumstances. So this poem below, although originally targeted at one situation, applies universally.


Game of War

One time in my life, I remember when
There was a game of war among some men,
With hidden, subtle, dangerous end.
It seemed that only I could feel it,
And so I took up pen.

I'd played the game before, you see,
Duped to think it noble then.
But when the shooters aimed at me,
I saw the mind trap I'd been in.

That first time I saw the game.
I knew not of its long play,
That centuries of enemies,
Played it every day.

Yes, this time at war playing,
Left me lost and lone.
Self defense, and shame combined,
My quandary made me moan.

I asked my God to tell me,
What was happening - how to be.
Everyone had answers,
That would never set me free.

Some called it hate, some called it love,
Some called it one big fight.
Some called it lies, some called it truth,
Some called it wrong, some - right.

But now, I call it a game of war,
Because wars hold in one big fight,
Hate, and love, and lies, and truth,
And yes, both wrong and right.

A game of war I say again,
And for another reason,
For once you've learned to play a game,
You can play another season.

That other season's coming now,
And we have not forgotten.
A game once played, is mastered now,
We remember fields last trodden.

You see it not? Then look again.
You'll see it, feel it, hear it.
The stakes are dearer now my friends.
We must not play that game again.

Some lives are ruled by fear for one.
That fear controls our reasons,
For our acts, our works, our goals in life,
That fear controls our seasons.

Another sad thing felt and heard,
Is a thing that's called assuming.
Assuming right, assuming wrong,
Assuming that we know the reason,
For the things our brethren do and say.
We must not assume this season.

But the one thing that jangles God's nerves,
And rattles His mind and tears His heart in two,
Is the one thing, the very one thing,
We'll not admit we do.

For in the game of war we've learned,
As part of necessity,
To out-think our brother, to outwit our neighbor,
To control his agency.

"Oh no! Not I! Not me! Not I!
Net we! Not us! Not I!
I would not do such a horrible thing,
For that is not of God,
'Control' is not the word for what I do.
I nudge, I lead, I express my thoughts.
I promise to be true.

My brother sways at times I think,
And needs a helping hand,
To keep him on the path of truth,
Towards the 'Promised Land'."

Examine your thoughts, examine your fears,
Examine your lives this season.
For Satan, I'm sure said all of these,
And all for a very good reason.

I cannot play this game of war,
Although I know the rules,
Although I know the tactics well,
I know that we are fools to play the game again.

The game of peace is the one for me,
And there are many reasons,
And all of them deal with the life of man,
In the new and coming season.


The Poem DefinesThree Components of War
#1: Fear

The scriptures that say "fear not" are not just highfalutin platitudes telling us to have faith in God's protection. Fear is in all base humanity. A child might fear she won't get the doll she wants. A wife - the kind of love she wants. A husband - the success he wants. A church - the members they want. A country - the power they want. Those scriptures are telling us that living fearfully is dangerous. It's goal setting - programming our mind to accomplish what we focus on. If we live in fear of anything, we will draw it to us. We program our heart and mind to accomplish our thought goals. This can be easily blocked merely by being proactive and creative or by letting go and giving the outcome to God. If we recognize a real danger or risk, if we see the writing on the wall, if we have warning, or qualms, being proactive about our desired goal of safety, peace, and happiness is being responsible and eliminates wallowing in fear and doubts. If we cannot be responsibly proactive then we can let go of our desired result in that one area and move our thoughts into other realms and be creative about those new goals. Anything we might encounter in life can be treated in these two ways. By letting go we practice faith. By learning proactive and creative behavior we practice responsibility. Both are necessary to peace. Fear is not. It kills peace.

#2: Assuming

But if instead we do entertain fear then we allow the dangerous practice of assumption to happen. Assuming the intent or mindset of others is suicidal. We all know the saying: "to assume is to make and ass of u and me." Jumping to conclusions without understanding the whole story just causes erroneous judgment and suspicious abuse of other people. We first live a fearful life, full of all sorts of cautions and reservations and negative imaginings. Then something occurs, or someone speaks, or we observe some behavior that triggers any one of our collection of fears, and from that observation we make an assumption without even going after the truth. No dialog, no confrontation, no research, no questions, no love. We just decide that our fear is being realized and we panic.

#3: Controlling Agency

Next we squash the panic by working out how to control the perpetrator or the offender. It can be open, it can be subterfuge, or it can be hidden trickery. We begin this process in our minds, but soon it moves to our mouth and our body. The language of both becomes dabbled with subterranean messages sensed by almost everyone. That begins an escalating spiral of reciprocating language and behavior that more and more become involved in. Of course with time we become more vocal, and so do others. Eventually sides are chosen and then real war begins. It's out in the open now, everyone involved in the destruction of each other, but no one ever initially tried to find out the original truth. Indeed, most of the time, the original offense is completely forgotten.

Peace is not about controlling others. It's about repentance - controlling our self. War is just the opposite. We justify excusing ourselves for many reasons, but actually we just don't want to do the work of repentance. We don't want to even figure out what is required to cast the beam out of our own eye. Instead we want to make someone else responsible for that work. They are the culprits, and they have to change. Our unhappiness is caused by them. This kind of thinking is sick. It is called co-dependence. It is lazy. It is choosing to make ourselves victim, not to someone else's real thoughts and behavior, but to our imagined perceptions of outside infractions to our selfish personal agenda. If you will read the very beginning of Genesis, you will see that this is the very essence of evil.


Avoiding War Mentality - Smothering Evil

Let God Control

So how do we change? I suggest doing things backwards. The habitual behaviors are fear, assuming, and desire to control. If we do things backwards, we start with "control." We have to let God be in control of the general picture and let other people do their own controlling. Paramount is to control our own path. We are responsible for our own outlook. Blaming others is escaping responsibility. Running to so called experts in scripture is call "trusting in the arm of flesh." Mass media promotes both behaviors incessantly. So me must get away from its brain washing influence.

Look for Jewels in Our Assuming

I think there is a fine line difference between the word "assume" and the word "presume." "Assume," besides meaning jumping to conclusions, also means to take over a position for which we are capable. I want to suggest that erroneous "assuming" is something we think of others that we ourselves are capable of. "It takes a crook to catch a crook." When we think ill of someone, it is because we have been there our self.

In dictionaries the word "presume" is more based on believing something based on a smattering of evidence. "I presume you are tired since you have traveled all day." I suggest we presume someone virtuous, based on any piece of goodness we can see and then run with that. Look for the jewels and mine them. Bring them to the light for all to see.

Relieving the Stress of Fearful Thinking

Ask questions. Now that we are no longer trying to control others or outcome, and now we are seeing the jewels instead of being suspicious of behaviors we ourselves own, what do we do about a fear? I remember being targeted. If those folks had not made assumptions, but instead presumed our goodness and asked curious questions, they would have seen our commitment and been able to let go and let us grow. Instead they clammed up and mired in escalating negativity. If they had taken the time to get to know us better, if they had done the Christian work of being interested, they would at least understand and who knows - perhaps even agreed.

Asking questions is not being nosy, as long as we are asking the one who can really give the answer. Don't ask his neighbor. And remembering that everyone is growing and changing all the time, so as long as there is forward motion, God can steer the ship. Taking care of our own ballpark is our task. If we fear something will hurt our efforts, then we have not only the right but the responsibility to ask.

Don't Get Snookered

Peace is a paradox. It is easy to be duped into confusing good and bad, war and peace. The world has applauded war and made it a goal. Winning is not only good. It is God. It is promoted as if it is the flag of righteousness. The attributes of peace are upstaged by the attributes of war. Sincere Christians need to be careful and not get snookered. War is disguised in wholesome terms and we must be wary. Some of them follow:

"Competition:" My Own Experience

"If the Marshalls can win without drugs, so can the rest of us."

The scolding from Sandy elicited only silence. Was Herb's eloquent plea more to their liking? Herb needed our support. He'd been caught cheating - his horse testing positive at the state show. Now he wanted the association to back him and come to his defense, but Sandy for one, was not willing.

Just one more time our success was rubbing people the wrong way. Sometimes I wondered why we were doing this.

....................................


I didn't know then, but now I do. Competitive horsemanship, and in fact all competition is just another game of war. I have been there over and over again.

My husband died when the oldest of our five children was almost twelve and the youngest twins were sixteen months old. Afterward I tried to continue in the path we had begun together. We lived in the country and 4-H horse riding was thought to be a wholesome youth activity. We had begun to participate in this when my husband died. I carried on, started a group, and watched. Soon it appeared obvious to me that excellence would be proven only through comparison with other excellent riders, and therefore we began to compete. It was the "natural" route to go.

But with not much money, we had a hard row to hoe. Most of our fellow competitors were friendly and cheered us on, but they paid horse trainers for their mounts, and instructors for themselves. They also bought expensive outfits and tack garnished with silver. We could do none of that. We used magazines, books, videos, and clinics to educate ourselves and then we arose at 4:00 AM every morning to practice and perfect all that we had learned, much of it by trial and error. We found likely second hand clothes and altered them for riding outfits, buying only the absolute essentials. No fancy silver on our tack, just clean and polished leather. Boots bought large to last more than one year. Where others used their money and influence to get the win, we used hard work and ingenuity.

Over time, all of this payed off and the "good, clean" coveted prizes began to come our way. Then as Paul Harvey would say, we got to know the "rest of the story," and there was nothing good and clean about it. As soon as anyone begins to perceive you as a threat to them in any way, you begin to see all sorts of bad, dirty behavior. And even within our immediate family of 5 children, I sensed ugly undercurrents. But of course. Why didn't I predict that earlier? They couldn't all take home the blue.

We didn't only do horses. The tension brought on by competition was witnessed in gymnastics, dancing, and ice stating too. With hard work and consistency, we seemed to excel in almost everything. And then we got to see how it could go sour. People quit rooting for us as soon as we started winning instead of them. And of course once we started winning regularly, we became aware of the pressure of that reputation, and the shame and ignominy of the occasional losses. Horse showing sort of lost its joy and became part obligation and part stamina.

The closer to the top we got, the more corruption we saw in our fellow competitors, the more pressure on us to cheat too, and the more sabotage from other competitors trying to prevent us from performing at our best, out of fear that our best would be better than theirs.

Yes, we were good. We achieved it in the pursuit of excellence. Is there no way to use and prove excellence outside of competition? What about performances? What about exhibitions? What about entertainment? The Harlem Globetrotters seemed to be able to convince us of their superior skill without having to crow about their win.

I feel I missed the mark when I took our family into competitive sports. True - I was influenced to do it. Others saw our potential and approached me to make the move, but I could have stopped it then and there. Instead I got snookered. Beginning competition, you see, actually is sort of good and clean. It's not 'til you are moving toward the bigger of the small leagues that you begin to sense what you've gotten into, and by then you have invested so much time and effort, that it's very hard to quit. It's a trap. So is all war, big and little.

No Contest: The Case Against Competition - Alfie Kohn

For anyone who thinks there is such a thing as "good, clean competition" read the book referenced above. With 67 pages of authoritative footnotes for 245 pages of text, Mr. Kohn makes mincemeat of the idea that there is nobility in competition, and he pretty much proves that mankind is innately non-competitive by nature and has to learn to compete.

Competition in Education

"Michael, no. Not there. A little farther away. There. That's right. Do them all like that, OK?"

Michael complied. Mischievous Michael. Failing Michael. But the only kid in the whole class of twenty-eight who could follow my verbal instructions and thumb tack up the bulletin board display accurately and attractively. Retarded? No. But failing? Yes. Why?

.........................................

Being an educator, and having worked in both the public school system and our own homes chool, I can tell you that the education system is set up as a game of war. We pit student against student, insisting each child stays isolated in his own sphere, calling cooperative learning "cheating."

The late John Holt made it clear in his famous book How Children Fail. "We destroy the love of learning in children, which is so strong when they are small, by encouraging and compelling them to work for petty and contemptible rewards -- gold stars, or papers marked 100 and tacked to the wall, or A's on report cards, or honor rolls, or dean's lists, or Phi Beta Kappa keys -- in short, for the ignoble satisfaction of feeling that they are better than someone else."

The biggest lesson these children learn is how all of life is a game of war. What if we should cut out the competition? What if we let children cooperate in school. What if we left off with grades, and percentiles, and even tests? What kind of kid does it generate?

Well I feel like I can partly answer that, because basically that's what we did in our home school. And if you will recall what I said above, my children really could perform, not only individually, but as a team. We didn't like the dirty aspects of war that we saw in competition, but our family was known for the ability to learn, and to use that learning successfully in whatever situation they encountered. They also learned that "learning" never ends, that it is a joy, and how to find whatever extra learning they might need when and where they need it. They were always eager to jump to the aid of those needing service, and could verbally communicate with anyone of any age. This was all taken for granted in our home. But in public they became a marvel.

I remember the first few times when my older children began to operate in the adult world. Those adults astounded me. First they couldn't believe my children were even talking to them. Then they couldn't believe they were volunteering to actually help with the work load. They thought my children wouldn't have the ability to handle the adult tasks. I couldn't believe it. If they only knew what my children accomplished at home. Well, they finally condescended to give my kids a trial run. And - they were very surprised.

Children in a mixed group who are allowed to grow at "their own rate" cooperatively, achieve far more than children who are all mashed together homogenously, with only others of the same age, intellect, and abilities. Make them compete and you shut them down. Make it clear that they are to grow and blossom and help each other, free of competitive pressure, and they will become responsible and far exceed your expectations.

Don't teach your kids that they can only function around those their own age, or ability. In doing that, you teach them to assume they are not to approach anyone else. You mire them down in their peer group. And peer groups can go really sour. Open up the whole world to them. Let them choose where they should be and just watch them go.

Justifying Deceit: Little White Lies

"Don't Forget:1. Remind Charles - if Joey sees the cake for his surprise party - tell him it is for the potluck.
2. Remember Tooth Fairy money under Katie's pillow tonight.
3. Easter Egg Hunt this Sunday at church."

............................

I think everyone would agree that lying and peace don't go together. We would all say this but we don't do it. We lie all the time and justify it by calling the lies little and white. We assert that circumstances frequently necessitate a degree of lying. I want to examine that practice and expose it for what it is. Lies, of all sizes, contribute only to the mindset of war. They are meant to deceive. They are subterfuge for the purpose of attaining your own agenda and controlling the show. Doing that insures that God does not control the show and therein annihilates his plan of redemption.

I want to ask a few questions. I think about the traditional holidays that I have not only accepted in the past but participated in with abandon even though they are basically lies. Why can't the truth be just as exciting? Why can't we watch our children, family and friends participate in truth with just as much enjoyment, as watching them participate in lies? Why do we think we have to lie to ourselves? Do we think that facing the truth is somehow distasteful, or extra hard on us? Do we think that only a lie can be anticipated and celebrated with smiles and fun? Is truth somehow dour and stern? The scriptures say that God's people will be sober, but that does not mean we should not celebrate life and each other with passion. The whole problem with truth is that we would have to change. We would have to take the initiative and lead the way into a new way of life.

Lies perpetuate lies. It's an ever escalating cycle that we must break. If we lie, we teach all around us to lie. We show them that we accept the process of lying in ourselves and they correctly assume that we will not only accept it but expect it from them. And they are right, especially if they can make the lie look like the truth. But of course, we show them how to do that too. One becomes very skilled at lying, but anyone close will eventually observe it or surmise it and therefore begin their own habit of lying back. Why are parents appalled when their children lie to them? They're just getting with the program.

Truth is the only way to go. Starting with our self, and then moving on to all those we deal with, truth is absolutely necessary to salvation. If we live in denial, just so we don't have to change, we will suffer the consequences of being obstinate sinners. Truth works. Whether dealing with our own life or with others, coming out of justified denial and entering the world of truth, will become obvious as the only way to go.

Practice Peace in health

"Sister Sharon has passed on. She fought the good fight for nearly four decades, but finally succumbed to the cancer. They did everything they could. First surgery, then radiation and chemo. God must have wanted her home. We'll miss her and of course so will her husband and three young children."

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War requires fighting and conquering. Peace requires understanding and cooperation. True health can only be established through understanding what is going on in illness and cooperating with our body to achieve health. We can control symptoms by attacking disease with drugs, surgery, and side effect inducing treatments, but that only masks a problem that is still there and creates new ones. By understanding the principals of health and taking our body into that realm, we can engender permanent healing and health.

Many might not want to think about alternative medicine, but there's so much to maintaining good health long before medicine is needed. Most of the simple things our bodies require to live are corrupted by our modern living. By knowing this we can easily change things for the better.

For example, most of us breathe wrong. This is my major weakness. Because of stressful mindset most of us breathe shallowly, not getting the benefits of normal deep breathing. You would be surprised what that one difference can make. Of course if we are breathing polluted air all the time, maybe we have good reason for shallow breathing, but instead, maybe we should look into improving the air quality, so we can breathe the way God intended. The delivery of oxygen and the relaxation caused by normal deep "belly" breathing are paramount to good health.

Next we all have to drink to supply our body with moisture. There are all sorts of stuff used to achieve that goal, and most of it supplies our body with a lot more than needed moisture. Sugar, chemicals, and toxic substances accumulate over time and gradually work to kill us. Discussion abounds on what is best to drink, but it's clear that most are far from even thinking about what's best, and any one of the healthy options is a good beginning.

Next of course, is what we put into our mouths. We have to eat. But we don't have to eat worthless, even harmful junk. We have allowed ourselves to become like spoiled children insisting on a certain taste or crunch or threatening that we won't eat at all. Not eating at all is better. Yep. It will make you dump the toxins you've accumulated from all the junk, and it will make you hungry so that all of a sudden you will be able to stand the idea of eating real food.

Next we have to move. And how we hold our body when we sit, stand and move can create health or illness. Posture is not for just looking pretty. If you don't have correct posture your body gets ill. And much of making our body well requires nothing more than to relearn correct posture. You can take muscle relaxers, you can go into traction, you can go to chiropractors, or you can hold your body right. Put the stress on muscles not on the joints through correct posture. Make those muscles strong and you can do without pain.

Next we should combine moving and breathing. Little kids do it all the time, but by the time they reach maturity, they are somehow allergic to it. Move fast to make breathing fast. Your body is meant to do it. Like liquid roto-rooter, circulation cleans out the buildup in your body's pipes, and if you don't do that you are going to be very, very sick. No, you don't have to do the "no pain, no gain" bit. No you don't have to do the "grit your teeth and bear it" stamina thing. Like that kid above, you move fast for the physical enjoyment of it. You do this frequently, 2 or 3 times a week. Over time you will have to move faster and longer to get your breathing up. You will get stronger. Put aside half an hour for a workout, cleanup and changing clothes. Have fun. What do you like doing? Do it inside or outside. Walking/fast walking, Running, Rowing, Cycling, etc. You choose. Yes it requires consistency. A lot of it might be boring. But there's ways around all that and the benefits are huge.

We do have to clean our body after that exercise or after getting dirty, and the way we do that also affects our health. Our skin is not a barrier. It is an organ that absorbs whatever is put on it. Put chlorinated, fluoridated water on it and those toxic chemicals get absorbed. So do the chemicals in makeup, lotions, creams, and ointments. Get out in the sun and the oil on your skin generates vitamin D which also gets absorbed - over the next 48 hours. Take soap and detergent and wash all that oil off and you have just washed off all the vitamin D.

Next is mindset - our outlook on life. That exercise is only boring if we perceive it that way. We don't have to. We can change how we feel about exercise and everything else in life by choice. We can change whether we participate in war or in peace solely by mind set. Part of being a responsible mature individual is to learn the skill of happiness. Victor Frankl while in a Nazi concentration camp made it clear that we can choose to be happy no matter what and that choosing happiness has wide ranging effects. There are all sorts of ways to be delighted with life, to look for the jewels of beauty and excitement. Dwelling in the negative is totally unnecessary, and it will establish a mindset that will create illness, tension and depression. Find the jewels of your life. The skill of looking for the jewels is key to peace.

In Conclusion

Peace is a paradox. There's a lot more to it than meets the eye. What appears good is sometimes bad. And the undesirable may be the very thing we need for satisfaction. And it's so easy to be deceived. But if Christians will just begin to eliminate warring habits, we will gradually grow in discernment. Peace is a skill, but it can be learned if we are willing to go there.