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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Thank You, Veterans


Today was a day filled with a collection of odd turns and twists…mind if I share it with you?  

So I was up extremely early…about 3:30 a.m. or so…and often when I get up like that, I will read, including a little devotional I get via email.  When I opened the email to read it, there was an email from a gentleman in France I have never met, but have exchanged emails a few times, asking me a question about World War II.  In his country, he is involved in several fascinating projects that center around appreciation for what our soldiers did for them.  Many of the projects involve our soldiers whose actions received less attention, because they were part of the invasion of Southern France, not the beaches of Normandy.  His email and questions came because I had been the go between between he and dad - when he was researching the events surrounding those who landed in Southern France (and Italy and Sicily).  

Anyway, I replied to his email, and he replied back, so it was for me, a nice start to the celebration of Veteran’s Day.  Being somewhat of a ditz, I asked if he realized it was Veteran’s Day, and he indicated it was Armistice Day over there…which I have heard of, but know little about, because I am relatively ignorant about World War I.  My wife later advised me that Armistice Day was the original recognition of November 11 - until it was changed by President Eisenhower who, in 1954, changed it to Veteran’s Day.  So learning something new like that ALSO was a nice piece for Veteran’s Day. 

While eating breakfast, I watched a little more of a DVD series I have been viewing about the Civil War, a fictional story around the historical facts.  Later, I loaded up to go to the cemetery and took flags to put on my dad’s grave, and some mums to plant.  The treat with that was that a good friend went with me, providing emotional support and we shared good conversation about mutual concerns.  Again, a nice Veteran’s Day.

Midmorning I headed uptown (which in my community is only a few blocks away and only a few blocks long), because they were holding a Veteran’s Day parade.  When I arrived, the streets were lined with grade school children holding little flags.  The parade was classic old fashioned Americana, with a politician, small school marching bands playing patriotic songs, people throwing candy off floats, and a number of veterans from various branches of the military and various conflicts, including individuals currently serving at our local armory.  In addition, one of the grade schools had their classes marching in the parade, many carrying home made flags they had drawn in art, smiling and waving (probably because they were out of school for the parade, no doubt!), with proud parents and grandparents lining the way to wave and take pictures.  I thought, my dad would have been very pleased.

As I prepared to leave, I noticed another good friend a distance away, who is a vet, and took the time to thank him for his service.  He introduced me to a friend of his, also a vet, and I was able to express my appreciation to that marine as well. 

My dad was a veteran of World War II, involved in some of the most vicious campaigns of the European Theater.  Arriving at Dachau the day after it was liberated and coming home after two and a half years in Europe.  He had the privilege of hearing words of appreciation for what he did from the young man in France and an Italian woman, who had been a child when the country was freed.  He had the privilege of knowing current service men in the battalion that now replaces his.   Receiving respect and honor on a number of occasions as well as kindnesses beyond measure from them.  I closed the day by sending my best wishes to two of those officers, whom I am privileged to call friends as well.

I don’t like war.  I don’t think killing people is some glorious adventure that solves all the world’s problems.  However, when I see pictures today from Syria and Iraq and all the places ruthless killers seek to dominate weaker individuals, I realize that like it or not, we live in a troubled world, so that people like my dad and my military friends play an important role for all of us who long for the world to be a better place.  

Thank you, veterans and servicemen, who serve for freedom and justice, taking great risks for people like me, who have never had to do what you do.  

God bless you all.  I hope you have had a good Veterans Day/Armistice Day!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Finding Strength in a Season of Caregiving - Free Sneak Peak!


You may have noticed that the next volume to come out is a collection of daily readings for caregivers.  I have chosen to make it 100 days instead of an entire year, but at some point might decide to produce an expanded edition, who knows!  However, since it is on the verge or publication, I thought my current connected readers might enjoy a sample as a sneak peek.  

Maybe you know someone who could use this particular book, too.  You will be among the first to know when it goes live, so please, share the news.  I selected a sample that I thought can be useful in many of life’s situations, though it is geared toward the world of caregiving.  Enjoy!

Day 5  Philippians 1:22-25

I had to make some decisions over the last few weeks, myself.  Such as, do you want him transferred to a bigger hospital?  If the situation turns bad, what measures do you want us to take and not to take?  Should we transfer him to another kind of rehab facility now, or wait a few more weeks?  I really don’t need to list for you all my questions; they are the same kind of questions as the ones you have probably had to face, or one day will.

In some cases, those decisions are less difficult to make because you have guidance from a living will or conversations you have had with your loved one long ago.  But even then, I would comment that helpful as these things are when making decisions, the emotional impact of it all can still be very strong on you.  I remember words of decision coming out of my mouth, voicing the guidance I had been given years before, but as I heard them out loud, it felt like signing somebody’s death warrant.  It was hard to walk away.  

One recent decision was apparently a real toss up, advantages and disadvantages whichever way I decided.  There were family members I could consult with, but they were not on the scene with all the observations you get first hand and time was of the essence.  Ultimately, it was my decision to make, so I made the best judgment I could based on the information I had or could get, and based on the reality of how things were that day.  

Sometimes, the path is not so clear.  Sometimes we are in situations much like Paul’s, where we could go one way or the other, and we have to choose.  We know our choices may result in consequences we had not foreseen.  It is the reality of life, the reality of caregiving.  Gather your information, seek appropriate counsel, ask God for wisdom, then make your choice and give the consequences to God.  Then walk away, knowing you did the best you know how to do in the situation with the knowledge you had at the time.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Never Truly Alone


Let’s begin today with a confession.  I’m old.  Having said that, a couple melancholy songs I like from the “olden days” of rock and roll were sung by Don McLean and one by Abba in which they each describe the experience of being in a house that used to belong to a family or couple, but now had the feeling of emptiness as one wandered around.  There had been a breakup, a divorce, and nothing was as it had been before, with memories that were bittersweet.  

Probably one of the most profound changes after divorce is the extreme sense of empty space and loneliness.  The chair at the dinner table that once held a loved one is now empty.  The children who laughed in the hallway are now gone part of the time as they go to “visit” the other parent…(I liked my attorney’s refusal to use the term visit…she preferred shared parenting, and I agree). 

Meals for one are not as fun as family dinners, when one is in the midst of the wake of divorce.  Movies and popcorn can be fun, but the empty seat next to you literally shouts of loss.  Even the trip to the doctor can remind you that there won’t be that special someone in the waiting room should you require surgery.  The silence in a home late at night is deafening.  Loneliness can be overwhelming.

One of my favorite reminders that I received during my divorce was the one a friend who had also been divorced offered.  He simply stated that no matter how lonely I felt, I should not forget that I am never truly alone.  The God who said that he would never fail or forsake us, the Savior who promised he would be with us always, all the way to the end of this age, the Spirit of God promised to live within us and show us God’s ways do not suddenly depart or abandon us just because of a divorce.  God’s presence is much bigger than that. 

If you are feeling the pangs of loneliness because of divorce, I would encourage you to find a way to make room for God’s presence to be real in this time.  You could have a second chair and place setting at a meal that represents the presence of God.  You could place a special verse about God’s love in a prominent place you will see each morning.  Even hanging a painting of Christ can be a token to remind you he is always there.  Whatever will help you remember the lesson my friend offered me so long ago:  you may be lonely, but you never, ever, ever are truly alone.  God simply doesn’t give up on us that easily.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

I Need Some Positive Affirmation!

(you believe that, right?)

I’ve noticed some things about all the different video games that are out there, especially the ones with multiple levels.  Have you even observed how often they love to tell you how great you are?  You complete a simple puzzle, and fireworks appear on the screen, stars start exploding, playing cards dance all over the screen and you are told time and again that you were incredible, fanstastic, super, STUPENDOUS!  I’ve noticed that in a certain card game I play, even when I have the worst set of turns I’ve ever had and the game quickly comes to an end, I’m still told “good game!”  I keep waiting for a computer geek to come running down the center of my yard to high five me as he or she passes by me.

Every time I am around one of these games, I always wonder if anybody every really believes those things.  I mean, it’s like the principle of positive reinforcement run amuck!    It makes me wonder if there are people out there really that desperate for approval.  

Sadly, I have known individuals who in their lives get little or no positive support.  When that is true of a marriage, it often ends in adultery or divorce, or both.  

While it is hard to believe that anyone takes any of those comments seriously, I do think the fact that those comments are so pervasively included, reminds us that people need love support, affirmation and encouragement.  People everywhere long for those things.  If that is true, as I believe it is, let me ask, where do you get those positive supports in your life?  How are you doing at investing them into the lives of those you love?

Those questions are especially poignant for individuals in the midst of divorce, because they have generally just experienced a very traumatic form of rejection and hurt.  In the midst of the experience, the traumatized individual has suddenly lost what may be their main support of affirmation and support in their lives.  It is important that the individual find sources of support and encouragement to help fill the vacuum left behind.  Those of you who know individuals in this state may not have the slightest clue how important even the simplest gesture of kindness can be to someone struggling in divorce.  

Yet, I would suggest that we must not be individuals who are so focused on receiving the love and affirmation we need, that we neglect the importance of providing that same love and affirmation to those we care about most.  As well as others who happen to be around us who also could benefit from our encouragement.  For some of them, they may need the unique affirmation that only you can provide.  Neglecting to provide it for them is a tragic mistake and missed opportunity.

Of course, the greatest affirmation any of us could ever know is to be found in the recognition and experience of the love of God for us, demonstrated most profoundly at the cross of Jesus.   Passages like Romans 5:6-8, John 3:16-17, Ephesians 3:16-18, Matthew 10:29-31 and Romans 8:31-39 are but a sampling of a Bible filled with demonstration of God’s love for us and the incredible value he places on each and every one of our lives.  

Don’t get your affirmation from gimmicky compliments in video games or other such shallow experiences.  And don’t let you the ones you love have to resort to that either.  God wants us all to move to a higher level as well, in something more than just a game, and he wants us to be participants in the wonderful work of the giving and receiving of meaningful affirmation and love….even if those you thought would be there have decided to walk away.