THE PHISHING SCAMS OF LIFE

The emails look like they are from my daughter, because her name, which is unusual, is spelled correctly. They come to my personal email address, not the office. They say something innocuous like, “you might be interested in this,” and include a link. I almost clicked on the first one, but paused because something didn’t feel right, and looked at the return address. Not my daughter’s address!

I marked it as phishing and deleted it, grateful that I caught it before it infected my computer.

Something similar happened, long ago on a moonless night that changed the outcome of World War II.

Major William Martin, a British subject, was the bait in the greatest phishing expedition of the war. Martin had recently died of pneumonia, and never saw battle. But the Allies, who had just invaded North Africa, thought they could use him, even in death, to great effect.

The Germans thought the next logical attack was coming in Sicily, but needed more accurate intelligence before they could deploy their defenses. Thus: Operation Mincemeat commenced.

One dark night, an Allied submarine came to the surface off the coast of Spain and put Martin’s body out to sea in a rubber raft with an oar. In his pocket were secret documents indicating the Allied forces would strike, not in Sicily, but in Greece and Sardinia. The Allies had calculated the tides and currents in the area and knew within reason where the raft would land.

Major Martin’s body washed ashore, and Axis intelligence operatives found him, thinking he had crashed at sea. They passed the secret documents through Axis hands all the way to Hitler’s headquarters. Thus, while Allied forces moved toward Sicily, thousands and thousands of German troops moved to Greece and Sardinia. Hitler fell for one of the biggest phishing scams of the war.

But phishing scams aren’t limited to wars and computers; they happen in everyday life: in marriages, in jobs, in government, and churches. Jesus called them “temptation,” and we need to know how to avoid them.

Temptation is sophisticated. It presents itself as what we think we want or need. It comes to us in a crisis of desire, or danger, when necessity is upon us, and the stress is overwhelming. We’re looking for the solution, the release, or the fulfillment, all at the same time. The Axis needed inside information. The Allies gave it to them. Temptation gives us what we think we need.

Temptation is rarely hasty. It is, like the sunrise, a gradual reduction of rational arguments against error along with a slow but sure gathering of seemingly sane, balanced, and coherent reasons. Little by little the unthinkable becomes the ordinary, rational answer to our problem. The information planted on Major Martin slowly made its way up the chain of command to Hitler’s headquarters. Each office that passed it on gave it one more stamp of validation. Like my daughter’s name in the address bar, temptation validates itself in order to draw us in.

Above all temptation feels right. It feels like the natural way out of a difficult, intractable situation. It feels like “the answer.” The doors are all open. The path is smooth. We want it to be so. The Nazis wanted Greece secured. They wanted to believe what the information told them. We want to believe what our feelings tell us, even when it is not so.

Finally, temptation makes the alternatives seem harder. There is always another approach, another way to solve the problem, or meet the need. But that way seems unnecessarily inflexible, demanding, and more than our resources can handle. The Nazis knew they could not cover both fronts effectively. They had to choose where to concentrate their resources. Operation Mincemeat made it easier to choose Greece. Temptation always presents the easier path. Why go to the trouble of vetting? Just click the link.

Jesus said, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”[1]

In other words, pay attention to what’s in that address bar, and pray for the wisdom to spot the phishing scams of life.

[1] Matt 26:41 NIV

VETERAN TEACHERS

I’ve never met a perfect soldier. Let’s get that out of the way up front. Veteran’s and Memorial Days tend to bring out the worst in those of us prone to purple prose about our heroes, so it’s important to be clear that the men (sorry, I don’t know any female soldiers) I’m about to recognize were regular guys with all of the problems and faults of all the regular guys you’ve ever known. What sets them apart are the values they espoused and aspired to, values they passed on to me and that I hope to pass on to you.

I was born fifteen years after the end of WW II. As I was growing up and going to technical school, college, and seminary, the men who fought that war and the ones that followed were living through mid-life and beyond, serving as leaders, teachers and mentors to those of us who were to inherit what The Greatest Generation had fought to preserve, nothing less than Western Civilization.

Their names won’t mean much to you, but the dross was burned off the values they held by the battles they fought. So here are their names and the things they taught me.

Lewis Askew, who flew Corsairs from the deck of the Benjamin Franklin in 1944 and shared his story about the bombing that took 750 of his shipmates, taught me that men can persevere through the deepest tragedies if they know why they fight. John Durden, who repaired tanks in General Patton’s Third Army and taught me transmissions and drivelines, showed me that honor lost was hard to reclaim. Phi McClain who drove a Jeep across booby-trapped roads in France and became my spiritual mentor taught me the importance of knowing and being who you are, and that fun can be found just about anywhere. Mark Walters, who built bridges and runways from Normandy to Berlin and on through Korea, taught me leadership under pressure and the value of listening. B. Gray Allison, who flew the B 24 bomber over Western Europe with the 8th Air Force and founded the seminary I attended, demonstrated the power of faith and a positive attitude as well as scholarship coupled to a passion for souls. L. R. Barnard, chaplain to his majesty’s armies and master of theology to me, taught me the value of history and the wisdom of a wider perspective. Master Chief Bob Bennett, whose friendship, loyalty and encouragement taught me to believe in others, even when they don’t believe in themselves. Paul Steube, who flew Huey gunships with the Sea Wolves in Vietnam, demonstrated duty, and the power of sheer determination. These and so many others who are passing from this earth, and many thousands more coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan and dozens of unnamed battlefields in the war against Islamo-facism, knew things about duty, and honor, and sacrifice, which can only be learned in combat.

It is a beautiful and majestic thing to see a man take up a commission, a role, a service, to become an agent of a higher, nobler purpose than self and persevere in that mission to the absolute end of endurance or even life itself, for the sake of others. That’s what men and women like these have done for us as they serve in our nation’s military. Let’s remember not just to honor them, but to honor the values for which they stand.

2 Timothy 2:1-4