June 27, 2005
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank

Dear Marketplace Friend, 

    It would be a great game show question: Who was Ernie Pyle? Ask it in my third-year Master's group in Orange County, and someone will take offense at the past-tense; Ernie is a member of that Master's cohort ... but, he was named for a famous - though unrelated - predecessor. Who was Ernie Pyle?

    A farmer's son, born in 1900. Journalism degree from Indiana University; a series of conventional newspaper assignments until 1942, when he became a war correspondent, accompanying US Forces in North Africa and Italy. He experienced D-Day at Normandy, witnessed the liberation of France, won the Pulitzer Prize for journalism in 1945 ... and was killed by a Japanese sniper in Okinawa on April 17th that year. Ernie Pyle was embedded.

    The term denotes a journalist assigned to travel with a military unit during an armed conflict (Webster). Someone who is more than just "along for the ride;" his role is to tell - or, retell - what really happened, for people who were not there but are interested, nonetheless.

    I'm spending the week in Queens - New York City - embedded. This weekly e-column makes me a de facto journalist. I'm embedded because I've been assigned to travel with a military unit during an armed conflict: I'm with Billy Graham and his team, engaged in a spiritual battle in the Heaven vs. Hell war that started at Eden and will culminate at Armageddon. Melodramatic? I don't think so; I've read the Bible, and that's the picture painted by the indelible influence of the invisible Spirit, looking down on Battlefield Earth.

    For three nights, Mr. Graham committed to lead the charge of his spiritual/military battalion, one last time. The stage was set in Flushing Meadows - site of two World's Fairs - with ancillary overflow areas sporting wide screens and 50mm audio cannons to recreate the booms and bugles from the musicians on the main stage. Famous faces came; some stayed, most lingered ... and passed on. Saturday night was special ...

    Behind the scenes (we embedded observers get go-everywhere clearance!) was a veritable political rally. Mayor Bloomburg "officially" welcomed Mr. Graham to New York City. Senator Schumer was alongside him. Finished, they - and their entourage - moved along. Tree63, Nicole C. Mullen, Jars of Clay were next: it was, truly, music for the Next Generation. Franklin Graham took five minutes to tell his own story: raised in a decidedly Christian home, his restlessness and rebellion took him on the road (spiritually) until, at age 22, alone in a hotel room on another continent, he came face-to-face with his father's Savior ... and made his own decision to trust and follow the Lord Jesus.

    What followed was unannounced and intriguing. As Mr. Graham came to the stage to occupy his pulpit - for the next-to-last time, by his own admission - he was followed by an ex-president and a current senator. Mr. and Mrs. William Jefferson Clinton came past me, up the stairs ... and to their seats on the platform. For the next 25 minutes, they listened as Mr. Graham spoke ... and watched, as thousands of people answered with their feet and responded to his invitation to find forgiveness and life at Calvary.

    I was struck with the contrast embodied by those famous faces, and their embodiment of different perspectives on a matter that constantly occupies my thinking. The subject: Kingdom calling.

    Both confess personal faith in Jesus as Savior. Mr. Clinton is - regarding his career - an "ex-President." Retired from career; what about calling? Was his political career a Kingdom calling? Mrs. Clinton is - if you read the political gossip - on her way into national political pursuits. Is a successful political career akin to a significant Kingdom calling? For both Clintons, that question carries incredible weight-of-importance.

    Then, the man with the walker. A quarter-century older than the Clintons, Mr. Graham was there to "do his thing," one more time. Share a simple presentation of the Old, Old Story ... and, then, "call for the question." People voted. The winners, in that election, were the people who came forward. They were confirmation of what happens when a person pursues - and, fulfills - "the work God gave them to do." No one would argue the obvious: For 60 years, Mr. Graham has lived his calling. How about you?

Bob Shank

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