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20160219_211406I participated in a discussion recently that was really rather stimulating, and with such discussions, as many of you most likely know already, it is a hard thing for me to restrain the yields produced by such occasions.

I’ve learned a few very valuable lessons in recent years. Well, maybe I haven’t necessarily learned them. It’s more like I’ve discovered the need to affirm them more resolutely.

The first can and will sound nothing less than pompous, and yet it remains true no matter how offensive it may be to the reader.

It is a very precarious thing to be set upon a vantage point which sees the fuller horizon, all of its topography, its rising and setting sun, and from this to be right about the way forward when most, if not all, around you are wrong. There’s a fervor and precision of leadership that must be enlisted, or the sometimes irreparable wrongness will most certainly have its day. Even more challenging is the dexterity required of the one given into leadership to be mindful of the fragility of “person” while at the same time maintaining the careful balance between dictatorial mandates and democratic initiatives. It really is a rather meticulous – nay, exhaustive – pathway. I’ve both gained and lost confidants in my practicing of these things, to be sure. Ah, but retirement is only twenty years away.

Another is to acknowledge the “sinister” within all of us. And while it seems genuinely true that most would prefer to avoid conflict (unless, of course, it involves a more preserved participation by way of social media), there remains the need for someone to be ready to steer into it as needed. And while this is happening, there will be those who say that man is genuinely good, and that when troubles arise, it is merely the collision of different, and yet equally valid, opinions. This may be true as the occasional exception, but it is rarely the rule. If man were genuinely good, there would be no reason for laws to quell badness, but rather to control the overabundance of goodness. The need for civil law is your first proof.

The second might be that each of us – and it doesn’t matter where we come from, the system of government that cradled us, the temperament of our parents, or the veracity or timidity of our individual personalities – has a basic sense of what we believe to be our liberties. Sinister man believes one of those liberties to be the license to exact revenge – to get someone back who appears to have gotten the upper hand. And if that interest is denied, then the “offended” feels almost as if a fundamental underpinning of his or her freedom has been stolen away.

I often give a grin for those cinematic expressions which portray the villain fulfilling his vengeful devilry and then appearing to experience a personal emptiness following the event, as if to teach that retaliation, in the end, only hews a deeper, more cavernous hole. Sinister man would exists to teach otherwise. Someone in a position of leadership must not only work to subdue these efforts, but must persuade and compel others to a heartfelt willingness to do the same.

I suppose the last lesson that comes to mind right now is more so a bit of curative counsel that I work very diligently to accomplish as a pastor.

It was George Herbert who said, “Living well is the best revenge.” And while what he means by this may be far different from my practical interpretation, I’ve gathered at least a morsel of its rightness to understand that in the midst of times of internal or external struggles which threaten the vigor of the people in my care, I become acutely aware of the need to provide them with opportunities to be victorious, both big and small. Success in the face of another’s devout prayer for your failure is one way to dampen enemy zeal.

It is for lessons like these that the Creator allows for a portion of His creatures to say, most heartily, “Τὰ ἅγια τοις ἁγίοις” – the holy things for the holy ones. Not all are meant for the holy things, but those who are blessed to survive and thus to continue in the fray, they’ve a privilege as few others.

This privilege was mine in the gifting of the Chateau Chantal Cinq à Sept brandy by a friend and parishioner who remains a confidant even after he beheld his church experiencing darker hours. He picked it up in Traverse City, Michigan while vacationing and thought that I’d appreciate it. He was right.

I’m not one for Brandy, neither the singer nor the liqueur, and yet the corked bottle of five-year-old oak-aged Cinq à Sept is a single exception between the two I’ve been quite pleased to make. In fact, I often complain to my wife that Michigan has very little to offer to the Union. We have lakes and terrible roads – and lots of both – but not much else. Cinq à Sept is perhaps an exception.

The nose of this Brandy is quite heavy, bearing a luscious perfume of what I imagine is a unique combination of sweetened oak sap and mead. The palate substantiates the speculation and then adds a chunk of uncooked oatmeal raisin cookie dough to the experience.

The finish is as thick as the sip. Its texture is milky, but its exit is a medium fading of oak spice and a tinge of fruit strudel.

I do believe that this particular edition is one worth raising at the banquet table of victory, and perhaps, as a kindly gesture of peace, it might even serve to extinguish the streams of fire coursing through the veins of the ones who’ve sought our demise and yet continue to discover us well situated atop the hill.