Friday, January 22, 2021

To the Father or Fear

“Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life” -Phil. 4:7 (The Message)

Fear is…weird. There is no sin in the fear, but what we do after it hits us makes all the difference. We all have emotional “buttons” in our soul that get pressed by a variety of circumstances. And the circumstances over the past eleven months have pressed away! What we do after the “pressing” makes all the difference.

First off, it’s not wrong to have buttons that get pressed. As long as we have a pulse, we’re going to have particular triggers in our psyche that get triggered. Yes, in the absence of fear there is faith. But faith is found in the process. The Gospels remind us that “Jesus began to be greatly distressed and troubled” in the garden before His crucifixion. He even said, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death” (Mark 14:33-34).

Jesus experienced stress and anxiety? Yes, but they were but a springboard to take Him to His Father. His journey to the cross was so difficult but freedom came when He surrendered Himself to His awesome Father-God.

That’s where we get tripped up. Often, we don’t run to the Father first. Perhaps that’s part of God’s providential purpose in difficulty and trial. As Oswald Chambers wrote, “God engineer’s circumstances to bring us closer to Him.”

The truth is, difficulty, trial and fear either bring us closer to God or drive us away from God. We fear what we don’t understand; we fear what we can’t control; we fear unplanned surprises.

It comes down to this question: When (not if) I experience fear, where do I run? Where do I go? “God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love and self-discipline.” This verse means we have to discipline ourselves not to meditate on thoughts that increase fear. It means we meditate on the Word of God.

That’s why Jesus never sinned even though He experienced anxiety and stress. He went straight to His Father with it. Even in His humanity He cried out to the Father. After all, there was nowhere else to go.

Unfortunately, sin crept into the fabric of mankind and has provided all kinds of places for us to go. They are tidy, logical places to run to, but none fill the void of purpose and safety.

We run to:

Information: watch the news! No surprises if I’m up to date
Money: the crisis may hit, but the more cash I have, the more secure I feel
Seclusion: if I get away from people and their opinions, I’ll feel better
Exercise: if I’m in perfect shape, then I’ll never get sick

There are many other places we run to, but all are empty, because none are truly secure.

There is certainly nothing wrong with being in shape and watching the news, but when those things become “THE source” instead of a “RE source”, then we’re in trouble. None of those resources ultimately fill the gap.

That’s why David reminds us that our loving God is the only truly helpful place to run and seek peace. “For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of His sacred tent” (Psalm 27:5).

There are no guarantees that God will deliver us out of the difficulty, but He does promise He’ll grant us peace in the midst of the difficulty.

So, buckle your seatbelt and be aware when your triggers get pushed. When they do (and they will), call time-out. Re-create the “Jesus in the garden” experience in your soul and take it to the Father. (Mark 14:32-42). As happened to Jesus, the Father met Him there and Jesus intimately connected with Him. He took some of the disciples with Him and they fell asleep (bless their hearts). It’s a subtle reminder that as important as people are to us, they are never the ultimate answer.

As difficulty and fear fill the air, run, not walk, to our awesome God. Like Jesus, the gift of prayer is our connection to Him.

May we be driven closer to Him…

…as we rest in His care.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Friday, January 1, 2021

Hindsight is 2020

“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” -Phil. 3:13-14


Wow! Here we are: New Year’s 2021 and most of us aren’t even sure what day it is! 

This past year has been interesting, to say the least, but the truth is, every year is “interesting.” Someone said, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another.” Life has always and will always have difficulties and trials, but how we let go and move forward through them makes all the difference. 


The church in Paul’s time was much like the church today: a crazy mixture of people from all kinds of backgrounds, races, creeds and nationalities. God delights in the unity of varieties of people who surrender their lives and confess their loyalty to Him.


The church at Philippi was the first Christian church in Europe, planted by the apostle Paul on his second missionary journey around AD 50 or 51. The initial converts of the church at Philippi were Gentiles, and the congregation developed into a predominately Gentile fellowship. Women also played an essential role in the life of the church at Philippi. 


Like every church, the Philippian church consisted of Jews and Gentiles, men and moment, people trying to move on and live in the freedom of Christ. Times were hard in the New Testament world. Multiple empires claimed control, wars ravaged the land and epidemics took many lives. 


Paul knew that for these young churches to survive difficult times, they would have to embrace the moment, cling to Christ and stay focused on the call of God.


“…but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead…”. It would appear that Paul wasn’t good at math, as he said he did “one thing” but then listed two things. But he actually wrote it correctly. His point was that “forgetting” and “reaching” are meant to be “one thing.”


If we focus too much on “forgetting” without “reaching,” we can actually get sucked into focusing too much on the past. Like someone said, “Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.” Healthy “forgetting” isn’t stuffing or repressing past events and choices but processing through past issues and in a healthy way, filing them away and letting go. Not literally forgetting, but “putting them away” by giving them over, in trust, to a loving God.


If we focus too much on “reaching” without “forgetting” we drag our past into the future, and it can cloud up our new plans. “Reaching forward” is the act of replacing “what was” with “what will be.” It means we’re taking steps forward to let go of the past, forgive ourselves and others, and move in a positive direction. 


The “goal for the prize” is for us to “let go and let God.” True, now that we’re in 2021, hindsight IS literally 2020. But our goal is to avoid living life in the rear-view mirror. The “upward call of God in Christ Jesus” is being “present” with God today. It is being with God NOW. 


And being in that presence with God always produces peace and contentment and purpose. God is the Rock that we can lean on. He becomes the strong tower that we can run to and be safe. 


Of course, we need to “pray without ceasing” to stay present with God. Even as the current Pandemic fades into the past, there will always be other “challenges” on this side of heaven. May we all avoid living in hindsight…


…but live in foresight, in the presence of our loving, wonderful and strong God.


By Eric Joseph Staples ©







Sunday, November 29, 2020

The Waiting Room

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you” - 
Is. 43:2

One of the truths of this life is that we’re always waiting for something. We gain false confidence when we feel like we have nothing to wait for. “I have it all under control”, we think. Then, the waiting for something always begins.


Oh boy! Am I disqualified to write about this or what? Being the youngest of four brothers, I grew up selfish and entitled and spoiled. I don’t have a self-image problem- it’s just the truth. I’ve never liked to wait!


Thankfully, many years of walking with the Lord Jesus have helped develop some confidence and security. But I’m still “under construction” for sure. 


Think about it. We wait for our next appointment. We wait for that phone call. We wait for tables at restaurants (and some wait tables). We wait for that package to arrive. 


Waiting is just hard! And “waiting rooms” don’t help much. A typical waiting room has outdated furniture, old magazines and screaming kids. Some appointments are tougher than others. 


What we’re waiting for is something we feel we need…something that will bring peace to our hearts. But it’s rarely a peace that lasts. 


We wait for the huge game Friday night and we win! There. The wait is over? Nope. There is a game next Friday. Suddenly, the game we won is a faint memory. 


Waiting becomes a problem when our peace lies on the other side of the waiting. 


But there can be peace IN the waiting.


Someone said, “Ships don’t sink because of the water around them; ships sink because of the water that gets in them. Don’t let what’s happening around you get inside you and weigh you down.”


We’re waiting well when our peace and contentment aren’t dependent on what’s going on around us. It’s what Paul wrote in his Philippian letter in Chapter 4 verses 11-13, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things 1through Him who strengthens me.” 


The Pandemic is getting so old. Like you, I’m tired of masks, cancellations and sickness. But true peace won’t come with a vaccine or cure. There will most certainly be another “disaster” around the corner. In “Lady A’s” song “I Run to You”, they sing these words: “This world keeps spinning faster into a new disaster, so I run to you.” We need to run to the One who can bring true peace and contentment to our hearts. God alone, through Jesus Christ, brings a peace that most certainly surpasses all understanding. That is the place we need to run to-not consider or walk to, but run to!


Because God is such a phenomenal Father, He knows that the best way to grow us up is to orchestrate circumstances in our lives that will produce faith and trust. He knows we’re at our best when we’re on our knees depending on Him. So, He’ll engineer circumstances for us to “wait”.


As we’re sitting in the squeaky waiting room chair today, may we run to our loving God. Don’t let the crazy circumstances get inside of you. Fight for that space and let it be filled with the peace and security of our loving God and Lord Jesus Christ. 


May we set our minds on things above. If we get weighed down, may we run to Him and empty ourselves into the care of our loving God. 


May the God of Peace be the ruler of our lives today…


…as we’re waiting in the waiting room.


By Eric Joseph Staples ©


Wednesday, October 21, 2020


“And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them…” -Luke 18:15

Physical touch is a beautiful thing, but emotional touch is absolutely essential. For our souls to be whole, we need touch.

Someone sent me the attached picture. Sweet, interesting and beautiful. It reminded me of last week when I experienced the joy of holding our newest addition to the Staples family. One-week-old, Felicity, is the third child of my son, Eric, and his wife Jennifer who live in Nashville. Though the sweet little thing is hungry and sleepy most of the time, she cherished and embraced whoever was holding her. She longed to be touched.

Much like Felicity, we crave touch. The power of touch is crucial, not just from a loving God, but from those we walk through life with- our family, neighbors and friends. Even our enemies.

Webster defines touch as the ability “to handle or feel gently, usually with the intent to understand or appreciate.” Bill Gather wrote a song in 1964 called “He touched me”. The main chorus reads, “He touched me, oh, He touched me. And oh, the joy that floods my soul…”. Research would suggest that there is always a byproduct of touch. Something always “floods our soul” afterwards. And it is absolutely necessary if we’re to be healthy.

Research on newborns reinforce this need for touch. A baby’s sight and hearing are affected by the degree of touch and stimulation in the early years. The famous Romanian orphanage studies showed delayed psychological and physiological development in babies who are not touched in unstaffed orphanages in Romania in the 1970’s and 80’s. Kids were rescued but the delays were evident.

According to Attachment theory (which is really not a theory anymore), “the most important tenet of attachment theory is that an infant needs to develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver for the child’s successful social and emotional development, and in particular for learning how to effectively regulate their feelings.” In the Romanian orphanages, children had grown accustomed to neglect in early infancy. Because of the struggle to form emotional attachment to others, such as adoptive parents, children had trouble adapting to their new lives after being adopted.

The great news is that healing happens! Even for those who have had attachment deficiency, touch makes a huge difference. In God’s realm of influence (which is pretty wide, to say the least), the healing of the soul is possible. It’s not just the snap of a finger (though God can produce miracles any way He likes,) but typically a progression of healing through the love and touch of family, neighbors, friends, and God. All those variables are important, with the touch of our wonderful Savior God being the most crucial. Somehow, they all tie in together. That’s why God proclaimed in Genesis Chapter Two that, “It’s not good that man should be alone.” And, of course, God took care of that problem.

During these COVID days (and beyond), it’s important that we all keep reaching out to touch and be touched. Sometimes it can’t be physically, but it can always be emotionally, even from a distance.

When your soul is stirred (and it will be), make that phone call or type that email or send that text. Let your friends and neighbors know where you are and how you’re doing. And check on them as well.

Most importantly, when your spirit is stirred, say that prayer. Be a pray-er that prays unceasingly (1 Thess. 5:17). Stay connected to our wonderful God through the amazing privilege of prayer.

Touch is indeed a beautiful thing. We have the privilege of touching those around us through building up and encouraging them. We also have the opportunity of being touched ourselves by allowing others into our souls.

May we practice Mark 12:31 and “love our neighbors as ourselves”. Provide love and let them love us as well. It’s a beautiful picture of synchronized touch.

May we all reach out and embrace it today…

…as we touch and are being touched.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The Redemption of Nathan Bedford Forrest

“…for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’ -
Rom. 3:23


(Most of this post comes from the excellent research & interviews by Shane Kastler, pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Lake Charles, Louisiana. He is also the author of the book “Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Redemption”)


Two weeks ago, no one knew who Nathan Bedford Forrest was. Okay, maybe you’d heard of Forrest Gump who, in the movie, was named after him. But social media posts did their thing about him and a petition circulated to remove his statue from somewhere in Nashville (and from history itself apparently). As is true with a lot of our past leaders, curiosity has been stirred up to find out more about who these people were and what they did to deserve such demands nearly 160 years later.


I don’t write this blog to offend anyone. I’m actually writing it to encourage everyone. No matter our vices, praise God for the power of redemption and change. Like Nathan Bedford Forrest, may we all be willing to grow and rest in the peace of Christ. 


And at first glance, everything that pops up on Google certainly does show a “snapshot” of a man who was a wicked racist most of his life.


He was born in Chapel Hill, Tennessee in 1821. He would eventually settle in Memphis by the age of 20. Memphis is where he would gain his massive wealth as a slave trader before he joined the Civil War in 1861. During the war it was under his command that in April 1864, the Fort Pillow Massacre occurred where roughly 200 black (and several white) soldiers were brutally killed after they had just surrendered. After the war he joined the KKK in 1867 and was given the title of Grand Wizard. The end. 


No sorry, that’s just the 30 second blurb that the majority of people behind these petitions know or, for some, all they want you to know. 


In the famous words of Paul Harvey, there is a “Rest of The Story.”


In 1869, just two years after joining the KKK, Forrest expressed disillusionment with the lack of discipline among the various white supremacist groups across the South, and issued a letter ordering the dissolution of the Ku Klux Klan and the destruction of its costumes. He then withdrew from the organization. 


You see, Forrest was married to a godly woman who prayed for his salvation. He came to know Christ as his personal Savior. When he became a Christian, he called for the KKK to disband, and began speaking out in favor of black civil rights.


Perhaps the most poignant aspect of Forrest's transformation occurred July 5th, 1875 when he was the first white man to ever be invited to speak by The Independent Order of Pole-Bearers Association (predecessor to the NAACP). One of their early conventions was held in Memphis and Mr. Forrest was invited to be the guest speaker. In this speech he said that there was no reason that the black man could not be doctors, store clerks, bankers, or any other job equal to whites. They were part of our community and should be involved and employed as such just like anyone else. 


Forrest encouraged them and promised to be with them in "heart and hand." He told them to pursue careers, even politics, and use their newfound freedom to make a solid life for themselves. 


After the war, Forrest worked tirelessly to build the New South and to promote employment for black Southerners. Forrest was known near and far as a great general and was a well-respected citizen by both blacks and whites alike.


Nathan Bedford Forrest passed away in 1877 from complications of diabetes. When Forrest died it is noteworthy to add that his funeral in Memphis was attended not only by thousands of whites but by hundreds of blacks as well. The funeral procession was over two miles long and was attended by over 10,000 area residents, including 3000 black citizens paying their respects.


I understand that most people have good intentions and feel the need to just do something during this intense racial time. Petitioning for the removal of a statue physically or a figure historically may sound like a good noble gesture based on the above 30 second Wikipedia blurb. But once you learn the whole story wouldn’t it be something if people today would instead point to Forrest as what they wish every racist would become? Although late in life, God changed him. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if his repentance of his former sins, as terrible as they were, could be a message to all people that God’s grace is available even to the worst of us? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this part of Forrest’s life was more popular on social media than what’s trending now?


I have a feeling that Forrest would be the first one to say, “sure, take down my statues! I don’t deserve them anyway. I was a lost, but now I’m found. The best place for me to be remembered is by my Lord God in heaven anyway.”  


There’s a bigger story here of hope, grace and forgiveness that we all need to soak into our souls. I’m so glad that I came across Shane Kastler’s research. It allowed me to dig a little deeper into the life of Nathan Bedford Forrest. And that’s why it’s worth sharing. In the end, evil did not win in this man’s life. He came to know the Lord and his eternity was changed forever. And that, my friends, can’t be undone by any petition. 


I am so glad we are not ultimately judged for our past. Life moves on. We all have made mistakes- some small and some huge- but redemption is truly a beautiful thing. 


Forrest was ahead of his time regarding race relations. Rather than a villain, he should be held up as an example of what the community should desire a “racist” to become. America needs to heal and the South has many problems. But Forrest isn’t one of them. Let us commit to letting historical facts speak for themselves and show the same grace toward others (including Forrest) that we want shown toward ourselves. Jesus said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Put down your rocks America; and bend your knee to the God of all mercy. Forrest found grace. And so can you.


After all, Jesus calls us to "love our enemies" and when we do this we sometimes find that our enemy isn't really our enemy at all.


By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Holding Patterns

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” -James 1:2-3

I can’t remember when I first heard someone share about God’s “holding patterns,” but I thought the illustration was SO good, so wanted to pass it on. In these crazy times we’re in, it’s a good reminder about who is truly in control.

Many times, God will allow a painful situation or a painful circumstance in our life to "swallow us up." These days, it just happens to be the Corona Virus, but, over the years, God’s “instruments” to teach us have always been very creative (to say the least). 

This season in our spiritual growth is a holding pattern. We can't move to the left or the right. All we can do is sit, like Jonah sat in the belly of that great fish, so God can have our undivided attention and speak to us. God put Jonah in a holding pattern because He needed to speak to his heart. Jonah was all alone. There were no friends to call, no colleagues to drop by, no books to read, no food to eat, no interferences, and no interruptions. He had plenty of time to sit, think, meditate, and pray.

When we're deep down in the midst of a difficult situation, God can talk to us. When He has our undivided attention, He can show us things about ourselves that we might not otherwise have seen. Of course, we won’t see it if we aren’t willing to look. 

I have a friend who is dealing with a difficult physical illness. There seems to be no solution to her problems. The doctors haven’t found a solution or cure. But she is holding on to the truth that God’s holding pattern is a pattern of healing and health.  

A few of God's holding patterns:  
•When you are sick in your physical body and you have prayed but you're not yet healed, you are in a holding pattern.  
•When you are having problems with your children and you have put them on the altar, but God has not delivered them yet, you are in a holding pattern.  
•When you are in a broken relationship and you have given it over to God, but it has not been restored yet, you are in a holding pattern.  
•When the doors slam shut before you can even knock on them, you are in a holding pattern.  

When we are deep in the belly of a difficult situation, there are no interruptions. God has our undivided attention. All we can do is sit, think, meditate, and pray. Like Jonah, we cannot run from God, because there are no mountains that are high enough, valleys that are low enough, rivers that are wide enough, rooms that are dark enough, or places that are hidden from Him.  

We must remember to praise Him while we're waiting, and remember three things (even of it makes no sense):  
•The pattern has a purpose. 
•The pattern has a plan. 
•The pattern has a process.  

So, if you’re struggling, start listening, praying and trusting. He'll keep you right where you are until you can clearly hear Him say, "I love you."  

Even if the circumstances don’t make sense, keep listening. Remember Job’s words in Job 13:15, “Though he slay me, I will still hope in Him.” Job had lost his family, his children and his wealth. But he still had faith that God was in complete control. 

Job realizes that, ultimately, the suffering he endures is allowed by God. It is God who has the right and the power to "slay" Job. Even in the midst of his pain, Job knows that "the LORD brings death and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and raises up" (1 Samuel 2:6). The Lord alone holds the "keys of death" (Revelation 1:18).

The faith of Job is seen in the fact that even if God's plan results in Job's death, Job will continue to trust in God. Nothing can shake the faith of someone so grounded in the goodness and glory of God. Job may not understand what is happening to him and why, but he knows that God is good, loving, and trustworthy. 

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who arecalled according to His purpose” -Rom. 8:28

"Father, forgive my unbelief. I know you love me, and I will come to see the benefit of everything in my life, even this holding pattern. I know the fact that all is working for my good is assured through You. You have planned nothing for me, but victories and I am ready to receive them regardless of how difficult the path. 
Thank you and help me to keep holding on to You! Amen."

May that be our prayer as we struggle to make sense of life these days. Let it go and give it over to our loving, gracious Father. 

And rest in His peace.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

Sunday, August 23, 2020

The Mask Slackers of 1918

"...there is nothing new under the sun"- Eccl. 1:9

As we head into the Fall of 2020, the Pandemic mask issue reminds us that control is a big deal to people. As the influenza pandemic swept across the United States in 1918 and 1919, masks took a role in political and cultural wars. Almost 100 years later, in may ways, we're dealing with the same issue. The more things change, the more they tend to stay the same. Excellent research by Christie Hauser. 

The masks were called muzzles, germ shields and dirt traps. They gave people a “pig-like snout.” Some people snipped holes in their masks to smoke cigars. Others fastened them to dogs in mockery. Bandits used them to rob banks.
More than a century ago, as the 1918 influenza pandemic raged in the United States, masks of gauze and cheesecloth became the facial front lines in the battle against the virus. But as they have now, the masks also stoked political division. Then, as now, medical authorities urged the wearing of masks to help slow the spread of disease. And then, as now, some people resisted.
In 1918 and 1919, as bars, saloons, restaurants, theaters and schools were closed, masks became a scapegoat, a symbol of government overreach, inspiring protests, petitions and defiant bare-face gatherings. All the while, thousands of Americans were dying in a deadly pandemic.

1918: The infection spreads
The first infections were identified in March, at an Army base in Kansas, where 100 soldiers were infected. Within a week, the number of flu cases grew fivefold, and soon the disease was taking hold across the country, prompting some cities to impose quarantines and mask orders to contain it.

By the Fall of 1918, seven cities- San Francisco, Seattle, Oakland, Sacramento, Denver, Indianapolis, and Pasadena, Calif.- had put into effect mandatory face mask laws, said Dr. Howard Markel, a historian of epidemics and author of “Quarantine!”
Organized resistance to mask wearing was not common, Dr. Markel said, but it was present. “There were flare-ups, there were scuffles and there were occasional groups, like the Anti-Mask League,” he said, “but that is the exception rather than the rule.”
At the forefront of the safety measures was San Francisco, where a man returning from a trip to Chicago apparently carried the virus home, according to archives about the pandemic at the University of Michigan.  
By the end of October, there were more than 60,000 cases statewide, with 7,000 of them in San Francisco. It soon became known as the “masked city.” “The Mask Ordinance,” signed by Mayor James Rolph on Oct. 22, made San Francisco the first American city to require face coverings, which had to be four layers thick.

Masks that looked like ‘slabs of ravioli’
Resisters complained about appearance, comfort and freedom, even after the flu killed an estimated 195,000 Americans in October alone.
Alma Whitaker, writing in The Los Angeles Times on Oct. 22, 1918, reviewed masks’ impact on society and celebrity, saying famous people shunned them because it was “so horrid” to go unrecognized.
“The big restaurants are the funniest sights, with all the waiters and diners masked, the latter just raising their screen to pop in a mouthful of food,” she wrote.

The San Francisco Chronicle said the simplest type of mask was of folded gauze affixed with elastic or tape. The police went for gauze masks, which resembled an unflattering “nine ordinary slabs of ravioli arranged in a square.”
There was room for creativity. Some of the coverings were “fearsome looking machines” that lent a “pig-like aspect” to the wearer’s face.

Mask court
The penalty for violators was $5 to $10, or 10 days of imprisonment.
On Nov. 9, 1,000 people were arrested, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. City prisons swelled to standing room only; police shifts and court sessions were added to help manage.
“Where is your mask?” Judge Mathew Brady asked offenders at the Hall of Justice, where sessions dragged into night. Some gave fake names, said they just wanted to light a cigar or that they hated following laws.
Jail terms of 8 hours to 10 days were given out. Those who could not pay $5 were jailed for 48 hours.

The ‘mask slacker’ of San Francisco is shot
On Oct. 28, a blacksmith named James Wisser stood on Powell and Market streets in front of a drugstore, urging a crowd to dispose of their masks, which he described as “bunk.”
A health inspector, Henry D. Miller, led him to the drugstore to buy a mask.
At the door, Mr. Wisser struck Mr. Miller with a sack of silver dollars and knocked him to the ground, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. While being “pummeled,” Mr. Miller, 62, fired four times with a revolver. Passers-by “scurried for cover,” The Associated Press said.
Mr. Wisser was injured, as were two bystanders. He was charged with disturbing the peace, resisting an officer and assault. The inspector was charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

In Los Angeles, ‘To Mask or Not to Mask.’
That was the headline for a report published in The Los Angeles Times when city officials met in November to decide whether to require residents to wear “germ scarers” or “flu-scarers.”
Public feedback was invited. Some supported masks so theaters, churches and schools could operate. Opponents said masks were “mere dirt and dust traps and do more harm than good.”
“I have seen some persons wearing their masks for a while hanging about their necks, and then apply them to their faces, forgetting that they might have picked up germs while dangling about their clothes,” Dr. E.W. Fleming said in a Los Angeles Times report.
An ear, nose and throat specialist, Dr. John J. Kyle, said: “I saw a woman in a restaurant today with a mask on. She was in ordinary street clothes, and every now and then she raised her hand to her face and fussed with the mask.”

In Illinois, the right to choose, and to reject.
Suffragists fighting for the right to vote made a gesture that rejected covering their mouths at a time when their voices were crucial.
At the annual convention of the Illinois Equal Suffrage Association, in October 1918, they set chairs four feet apart, closed doors to the public and limited attendance to 100 delegates, the Chicago Daily Tribune reported. But the women “showed their scorn” for masks, it said. It’s unclear why.
Allison K. Lange, an associate history professor at Wentworth Institute of Technology, said one reason could have been that they wanted to keep a highly visible profile.
“Suffragists wanted to make sure their leaders were familiar political figures,” Dr. Lange said.

‘Four weeks of muzzled misery’
San Francisco’s mask ordinance expired after four weeks at noon on Nov. 21. The city celebrated, and church bells tolled.
A “delinquent” bent on blowing his nose tore his mask off so quickly that it “nearly ruptured his ear,” The San Francisco Chronicle reported. He and others stomped on their masks in the street. As a police officer watched, it dawned on him that “his vigil over the masks was done.”
Waiters, barkeeps and others bared their faces. Drinks were on the house. Ice cream shops handed out treats. The sidewalks were strewn with gauze, the “relics of a torturous month,” The Chronicle said.
Around the end of the year, a bomb was defused outside the office of San Francisco’s chief health officer, Dr. William C. Hassler. “Things were violent and aggressive, but it was because people were losing money,” said Brian Dolan, a medical historian at the University of California, San Francisco. “It wasn’t about a constitutional issue; it was a money issue.”
By the end of 1918, the death toll from influenza had reached at least 244,681, mostly in the last four months, according to government statistics. 

1919: A new year
In January, Pasadena’s city commission passed a mask ordinance. The police grudgingly enforced it, cracking down on cigar smokers and passengers in cars. Sixty people were arrested on the first day, The Los Angeles Times reported on Jan. 22, in an article titled “Pasadena Snorts Under Masks.”
“It is the most unpopular law ever placed on the Pasadena records,” W.S. McIntyre, the chief of police, told the paper. “We are cursed from all sides.”
Some mocked the rule by stretching gauze across car vents or dog snouts. Cigar vendors said they lost customers, though enterprising aficionados cut a hole in the cloth. (They were still arrested.) Barbers lost shaving business. Merchants complained traffic dropped as more people stayed home.
Petitions were circulated at cigar stands. Arrests rose, even of the powerful. Ernest May, the president of Security National Bank of Pasadena, and five “prominent” guests were rounded up at the Maryland Hotel one Sunday.
They had masks on, but not covering their faces.

The Anti-Mask League.
As the contagion moved into its second year, so did the skepticism.
On Dec. 17, 1918, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors reinstituted the mask ordinance after deaths started to climb, a trend that spilled over into the new year with1,800 flu cases and 101 deaths reported there in the first five days of January.  
That board’s decision led to the creation of the Anti-Mask League, a sign that resistance to masks was resurfacing as cities tried to reimpose orders to wear them when infections returned.
The league was led by a woman, E.J. Harrington, a lawyer, social activist and political opponent of the mayor. About a half-dozen other women filled its top ranks. Eight men also joined, some of them representing unions, along with two members of the board of supervisors who had voted against masks.
“The masks turned into a political symbol,” Dr. Dolan said.

On Jan. 25, the league held its first organizational meeting, open to the public at the Dreamland Rink, where they united behind demands for the repeal of the mask ordinance and for the resignations of the mayor and health officials.
Their objections included lack of scientific evidence that masks worked and the idea that forcing people to wear the coverings was unconstitutional. 
On Jan. 27, the league protested at a Board of Supervisors meeting, but the mayor held his ground. There were hisses and cries of “freedom and liberty,” Dr. Dolan wrote in his paper on the epidemic.  
Repeal came a few days later on Feb. 1, when Mayor Rolph cited a downturn in infections.
But a third wave of flu rolled in late that year. The final death toll reached an estimated 675,000 nationwide, or 30 for every 1,000 people in San Francisco, making it one of the worst-hit cities in America.
Dr. Dolan said the story of the Anti-Mask League, which has drawn renewed interest now in 2020, demonstrates the disconnect between individual choice and universal compliance.
That sentiment echoes through the century from the voice of a San Francisco railway worker named Frank Cocciniglia.
Arrested on Kearny Street in January, Mr. Cocciniglia told the judge that he “was not disposed to do anything not in harmony with his feelings,” according to a Los Angeles Times report.
He was sentenced to five days in jail.
“That suits me,” Mr. Cocciniglia said as he left the stand. “I won’t have to wear a mask there.”

The “good ole days” back then are really a lot like the days today. Nothing really changes. We want control and choice and even when it’s best for us, we resist anyone telling us what to do. 

May we humble ourselves before each other but mostly before our awesome God. Only then can we experience the true freedom that no mask can take away.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©