Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day: What I'll Never Really Know

As a writer, I do my best to express things in such a way that will bring the reader in to my words. So today, I wanted you to share what Memorial Day means from the perspective of the battlefield and beyond. I wanted to get your pride for our military hyped up by the courage of men and women fighting for their fellow warriors and for our nation's survival. I wanted you to feel anxiety by feeling the hot breath of an enemy at close quarters, or the terror of watching bombs and missiles killing soldiers on either side (and who knows where the next one might fall). I wanted you to share the closeness of deeply-knit friendships sewn together by the common experience of battle, where each person on the battlefield relies on the person next to them for their very life; or the tremendous grief resulting from the loss of such friends. I wanted you to thrill in the joy of going home and finally being reunited with loved ones, weep in the heartbreak of knowing there are families who will never share that elation, and shudder at persistent nightmares that linger for years on end. I wanted you to clench your fists in anger at being called a murderer for attacking an enemy that uses human shields, while they purposely target innocents on our side. I wanted you to understand how it feels to wrestle between guilt and exoneration in such instances, or from when a split second battle decision was required that resulted in a terrible consequence.

I wanted you to know what it's like to realize life can never be as it was before, even though there are so many expressions of appreciation for services rendered.

I wanted you to know these things so you can fall on your knees in gratitude for what this nation's military personnel have done to help secure your freedoms and give you the hope of a better tomorrow.

Truth is, I can never know (and therefore, never accurately convey) those feelings, because I never experienced battle while I was in the Navy. The closest I ever came was when our ship went to General Quarters while we were at sea during the Cold War. The friendships I developed? We'd work a long day, then go out to have some drinks and possibly pick up some women, and then return to the relative safety and comfort of our ship. While boot camp trained us to lose ourselves for the good of our shipmates and the ultimate good of our nation, we were never put into a situation that required us to put our lives on the line for each other. So I was able to make room for selfishness, a luxury no person on the battlefield could ever afford. I griped when reveille went off too early after a long night of partying. I griped when a large shipment of supplies came in that we'd have to "hump" to their respective storerooms. And I griped when our Senior Chief or PO1 got on our cases because we said "wall" instead of "bulkhead." Nightmares? I was "troubled" by dreams years after leaving the military that involved me waking up and I'm seeing myself back in my bunk at boot camp. But then I'd look around and realize where I really was.

So in light of my actual military experience, maybe I should take back some of what I "want" you to know and feel, especially the more troubling experiences. Because while I don't ever want the battle experiences of our past and present warriors to be made light of, and I want us each to be ever so much more grateful for their courage and selflessness, the fact that they themselves so often refuse to share the more painful memories of their moments in battle makes me realize (second-hand, of course) there are some horrors and griefs too terrible to ever bring up again. I do hope you can read about or even talk to a veteran of battle that can give you their perspective on things. And please, if you do meet one of them, give them the greatest thanks you possibly can.

As for me, I thank each one of you that has fought so that our nation can have the hope of being the greatest in the world. I pray that God and people he uses will be able to help relieve some of the emotional and physical trauma you continue to experience. And for those families who have experienced the sadness of a person lost or injured or missing or traumatized by battle, may God grant you the hope and peace you so richly deserve. We are deeply in your debt.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Thank yous & good jobs (yes, it's really from me!)

Being on customer service calls throughout the day, I know how dragging it can be to answer negative call after negative call. I keep telling myself I wish more people would call in to say that everything went well in their situation, and thank us for doing such a good job. But then I remember that I don't reach out enough myself in that way. So as a precursor for doing so in reality:

Bloggers and tweeters, so many of you have such good things to say. Alas, I've for too long been focused on trying to get you to read my blog, rather than really looking at the gems within yours. I'm trying to do better at reading & commenting on & even reposting some of what you write. I'm sure most of you have much more to say, and in a better way, than I do.

Creditors, I know I'm quick to contact you whenever there's a problem. But most often, everything goes smoothly. Of course when it comes to sending money to pay bills, I'm already leaning toward the negative. But much more often than not, you do a good job. So thank  you for keeping my power going, fixing lines that go down in storms, keeping the TV going, etc, etc.

God, I know I complain about what we are lacking. But we have a roof over our heads. We have jobs. Kim & I have each other, and our loved ones near & far. Each day I can wake up, walk on my 2 fairly healthy legs, move along with my strained (but functioning) back. And view your beautiful creation. Thank you. And great job.

That's just a glimpse of what I hope to make the norm in my future. Saying thank you and good job more often, rather than the all-too typical saying nothing until there's a problem.

Friday, May 20, 2011

End of the world or not, be ready

Good reminder from Dennis at Joy in the Journey to be ready for the end of the world, whether it comes tomorrow or 50 years from now. Click the title of this posting to read what he has to say.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What mothers treasure in their children

(OK, I was unable to get this done for Mother's Day, but I hope it will still be a blessing to all you mothers out there.)

On two occasions, Mary the mother of Jesus "treasured" things in her heart: The first time was when the shepherds came to visit the newborn Christ (Luke 2:15-19), the second when the boy Jesus left their caravan because "I must be in my Father's house" (Luke 2:43-51).

Being the mother of the world's Savior must have been incredible for a girl widely believed to have been in her teens. Yet even when she asked the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" (Luke 1:34), her questions wasn't filled with the doubt of Zechariah, John the Baptist's father (Luke 1:18-20).

I think Mary had some idea of her Son's awesomeness when she was inspired to recite her Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), but as He grew, and He began to fulfill the many prophesies made about Him, the reality of Him fully reaching His destiny became more real to her.

As God-fearing mothers see their children growing, maybe those moms will hear from God about how special their child will become in a particular way, and witness those certain skills and personality traits gradually come forth--signs of what will be. These mothers should treasure those moments, both of the first signs of the fledgling writer or teacher or chef (or whatever), and of the development and perhaps eventual mastery.

My wife thinks the world of her son (who is now in college for culinary arts). She is a huge fan of his, and believes in great things for him. For many years she has treasured him in her heart for who he is, and for who he can become. I pray the same for all moms. And I pray that if God shows them a future for their children that's amazing, those mom's will have a believing faith similar to Mary--and then watch their children blossom mightily.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Osama bin Laden amid the greater evil

An evil man has died, but evil is as alive as ever. No doubt there are billions celebrating Osama bin Laden's death, and I join them. I pray that at the very least this has greatly reduced the capability of those who would wish the death of innocents. I honor the bravery and skill of all who fight against those enemies of what is good and right, and all who helped bring about bin Laden's demise. They deserve the highest of honors and our humble gratitude. 

I'd like to be able to say that because of this, maybe the end of this horrible scourge is in sight. But nobody really believes that. The devil has his grasp on too many others. His very purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). He prowls the earth seeking to devour his prey--you and me (1 Peter 5:8). Osama bin Laden was just one of his many pawns.

That said, I in no way intend to diminish the importance of this great success. But may it not lessen our resolve to hope for the victory of good over evil, a victory which can only come about when lives are surrendered to the One who hold the key to victory over the devil--Jesus Christ.