My father’s cousin called the other day. His father, my great-uncle, passed away at 92. He and his wife lived out in the country, where he still drove out to the casino, still worked out daily, and always carried his sidearm in case of pest problems. Hank was a World War II veteran. He fought in the first wave in Germany.
There are only a few of them left. My grandpa Hank and my grandpa Herbert were also from that era, but they got out before the United States went up against the Axis powers in Europe. I admire them. The Axis powers were looking to take over the whole world under communism, and the Allied powers stood against their conquest. The United States and its allies did end up defeating the axis and freeing the remaining Jewish people from the concentration camps.
My co-worker, who is 81, mentioned how James Hard, one of the last civil war veterans, passed away in Rochester, New York in 1953; when my co-worker was a boy. Many of your confederate leaders are having their statues torn down these days by angry mobs who want them wiped from history, but the American Civil War was also fought over states rights. The northern union states were united under a uniform government, but the southern confederates wanted to govern themselves. And so President Lincoln’s forces won the war, united the country as one, and freed the slaves. Recently, Robert E Lee’s statue was torn down in Virginia. The problem is, Lee was a brilliant general and patriot for his state, and he fought to defend it. We don’t see the full story behind these people from long ago.
The Civil War and WWII are the two major eras people remember from history class, with significant accomplishments, and while one generation is completely gone, save for a few immortals, the latter is on its way out…
Every week, Sam makes it to church. He is also a World War II veteran, and one of the last ones I know of. I used to enjoy listening to his stories with the battleship Missouri and the Japanese surrender. We praise these veterans for defending our freedom, but unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer veterans from this era. Sam is 95 and doesn’t say much anymore, but he used to tell me how he cherishes today for he isn’t promised tomorrow.
As of January 2018, Sam is still here.
As of February 2019, Sam is still here.
I was in a class in college when we wrote letters to WWII and Korean War Veterans who were coming back from a trip with Honor Flight. I think most of that group ranged in age from their late 80s to late 90s, all with various extents of mobility. I enjoyed watching the honor flight video because it allowed these veterans to share their stories, but I grew up with that. We are losing hundreds of them by the day, and over the next few years, the rest will pass away. The video logs will be all we have left to look at. For now, I praise the time each of us has left on this earth.
– James –
I’m back to my blog today. I haven’t really turned on my computer or done any media work in several months. I’m now in the process of building a new website and installing apps. So for 2018, instead of setting a new years resolution like a gym membership, I chose to set three words to live by.
Health – I have been seemingly unwell the past few years, and my doctor kept playing it down because all my lab work was fine, but it got bad enough where I had to see a specialist and get diagnosed with a chronic illness. Although it took a while, taking care of my health was my first goal, and as of January 2019, I’m feeling great.
I know a lot of people who don’t do that. One of the health reports said most of your cancers and illnesses wouldn’t spring up if people ate more balanced diets and exercised, and so I’m trying to eat more vegetables and fruit. Then there’s sleep. I had a boss, and I have a co-worker, both sleep about three or four hours a night and they work excessively. This can help you out financially, but it’s terrible on your physical and mental well being.
Kindness – My uncle went down south to visit my cousin for Christmas, and my cousin warned him going into the store wasn’t like up north – if the cashier asks you how you’re doing they actually mean it, and they might hold the line up with conversation. As someone who works in retail, I have a lot of mixed results. I have regular customers who are just the nicest people, and then I have ones who will refuse to acknowledge your existence if you try and say “Hello, how are you today?” And I should say it’s very rare, but once in a while, I get a customer who acts just completely hateful towards a store employee. The one day I even went through the line of a cashier who was incredibly rude to me. People can wear you down. People lie, and cheat, and steal, and abuse situations, but there is also a lot of good in the world and I found such good starts with me. Well, actually it starts with Jesus and gets passed along to me, but you understand. So at work and in my personal life, I have been trying to show kindness to people and live out my faith.
Prayer – Prayer is the third one that isn’t always popular. Going to the gym, reading the bible, none of it’s popular. I had to work on getting to work five minutes early every day and praying in my car for the day to go well. Some days I really needed that focus. So a person who prays takes their focus off themselves and directs it towards the people and
events around them as they have a conversation with the Almighty. I was praying for my life to go somewhere and I was praying for my health and a relationship. I eventually met someone online, we met up for coffee, we found out all the things we have in common, and every day has been great. She is a solid Christian woman, and we go on all sorts of adventures together.
I have to keep praying though, new events are always coming up, but I also have to find myself a new job in either media or something similar. I hope 2019 will be my year. Prayer… Trust… Wisdom…
– James –
David Roller, the bishop at my church, gave a message at a conference. He told us how he and his wife have been married for years and the two of them sometimes walk together holding hands in public, to which people go “awww” because love is such a rare find in our American culture. People are lonely and searching. As he said it, “Every love experience in your life has led you towards Jesus, who stands there arms open and waiting for you.”
The problem is Jesus isn’t always a popular subject. Neither is God.
You’ll remember that God doesn’t love you like your girlfriend, but He cares for the well-being of His creation. He gave you the complete freedom to sin, and He also gave you the choice to follow Him. He still wants to see each and every one of us make the most out of life, so it worries Him when you reject His teachings to go off on your own and make poor choices. The Lord is the first to call us into a relationship.
I remember a few years ago I was just starting out at a new college and I went on my first real date with a young woman my age. The relationship only lasted a few months and it was hard when it ended because I had feelings and she didn’t feel the same way after a while. I failed all my classes out of my own struggles, and I had to rebuild. I went two semesters on academic probation followed by one semester on the dean’s list. I eventually graduated.
You’ll forgive me if I write about that sometimes, but she was the first person I went on a date with in college. We’re not friends today. I was very timid back then but she per-sued me. Just like working at Walmart has taught me how to work with people, and how to stand up for myself against unruly customers. I no longer have some of the crippling anxiety I used to have. I came to realize it wasn’t entirely my fault things didn’t work out, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made by the Lord and I am here to do great things. You, as the reader, are also fearfully and wonderfully made.
I went on a dating site and I ended up talking to a new person every month, most of them I never got to meet in person despite getting their numbers, attempting to make plans, which for me felt very shallow – I knew all the questions they answered about themselves but other than that we were just browsing through random people.
I decided the past few months that meeting women online wasn’t working for me, and if I was going to find the relationship I was looking for, it was going to be with someone I met in person and we had time to grow together and share experiences. You know, it’s too early to say but I asked a friend out for coffee the other day and she seemed excited. And in that case, we don’t have to rush into anything we can just take time to get to know one another better and see what happens.
So one thing that got me through my college experience is a Christian community that is active on the college campus and occasionally does outreach. We don’t want to be, like, praying in a closet somewhere, haha. The college group is a different kind of relationship because we are a community that supports one another through faith, and if one of us is struggling we help them along the way or we confront them on issues.
What should we be doing with our lives while we are waiting for something to happen? Someone once mentioned that God calls us to a process, He sends us on a journey and He wants us to learn through the process and make us the person He needs. I find in a lot of ways I have changed from the person I was a few years ago and I owe that to my experiences, and to my college group, and the book series by James Bryan Smith, and to everyday at Walmart.
But I’m always single. I have a family full of divorce, re-marriage, and arguments. I have friends who are struggling with different things. One of my friends who is married once told me that marriage is like a ministry, you have the opportunity to minister to your spouse on a daily basis and look after their needs. You won’t really get far with your marriage or your relationships with friends and family if you are just looking out for your own interests, as many people seem to do.
“Rebuilding walls requires sacrifice. Reconciliation is costly because it is the way of the cross. We kid ourselves if we think we can enjoy restored relationships without paying a price. We have been reconciled to Christ but have we been reconciled with our neighbor, our family, our friends, even our enemies? What are you willing to pay?” -Jill
My aunt passed away recently and she was very family oriented. My uncle and her threw large parties on the holidays. At her funeral, my cousin came up and said that success is not measured by your wealth or your possessions, success is measured by the people you have in your life who support you and stand by you through the good and the bad. My aunt and uncle did that for him. I hadn’t seen my family in a while, and her funeral gave my family a chance to re-connect for a change.
The Lord always has a plan for you and your life, and I have found He looks to fulfill His plan when the time is right. Not just when you want it to be right. Many of my friends get into the worst relationships. Two of my friends recently started dating, but neither of them were in a good place two years ago where they would have been good for one another and able to hold down a successful, Christ-centered relationship. Their love came when they were ready and The Lord could see it too. And so I’ll say the right person will always find a way. And I’ll say I’m 24 now and single, but my friends are 28 and better for the journey.
If you have Christ at the center of your life, and you have a kind and humble heart, then I think the right relationships will find you and bless your life.
– James –
In “The Good and Beautiful Life” by James Bryan Smith, the author brings up a friend who learned to bless the people around her as she was being cursed by them.
The author says the dominant narrative of our world is if someone hits you, to hit back harder, kind of the eye for an eye mentality that Gandhi once said would make the whole world blind. The legal system of the time was based on the idea that it was logical to punish others the way they have hurt you.
“38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[a]39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your (cloak) as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Matt 5:38-42)””
In Matthew 5:38-42, Jesus uses his sermon on the mount to show that there is a better way of doing things. We should never allow others to abuse us, but in some cases, we can yield to a situation, as the author says, “Jesus is not giving a universal law but a kingdom principle that offers an alternative to the way people react to
each other in the world. When we are in a stable place (the kingdom) with a solid identity (one in whom Christ dwells and delights) we can choose to respond to attack by not attacking back.”
Matthew 5:43-48. What does Jesus say next? To love your enemies! The author remembers there was a basic expectation for people to love their neighbors and their family, but it was perfectly okay not to like anyone else. Jesus asks them to take it a step further and love their enemies. So the book does mention that loving your enemies does not mean you always have to like them, rather that you should “will for their good and demonstrate it through action.”
The Soul Training exercise for the chapter deals with praying for the success of our competitors. Since most people don’t have too many real enemies out there and we are not being sued or beaten, a competitor can be anyone we measure ourselves against or anyone who makes our lives difficult.
Valentines Day. I feel very alone right now. I have been trying to get out and see friends. I struggle to find good relationships. I spent the past six months trying to go on a date with someone and she kept having to cancel on me. I did that with someone last year too. We gave up and stopped speaking to one another.
This is important because it can make me confused and angry, but I also have to remember not to curse the people around me when life does not go my way. The Lord might have something better for me down the road.
I think the closest thing we have to enemies growing up are the bullies from school. There were a few kids who were really bad, and one of them ended up becoming a peer mentor in college. Something changed in his life that qualified him to be responsible as a mentor. And that’s the thing about bullies, we may be struggling with our imperfections… but bullies who taunt us and follow our daily lives are dealing with something greater than that and through grace, they may need our prayers.
There are a few bullies out there who I never want to come in contact with ever again, but on a lighter note things can be tough working in retail. 99% of all customers are kind and just want to get through their day. We sometimes have to stand up to the other 1% and their demands and we get treated badly. We still have to bless those people somehow.
You’ll hear of adults looking to fight each other outside over the wait time on an expired coupon, but that never works in real life. You’ll also have thoughts of revenge for past mistakes made which affected you. I think that learning to bless those around us even though things are not perfect is a slow process and takes time and effort.
– James –
In “The Good and Beautiful Life” by James Bryan Smith, the author not only recalls a time he lied to get out of an embarrassing situation, but he also wants to discover why lying is so common in our lives and what Jesus thinks about it.
“According to a study conducted by Robert Feldman, in a ten-minute conversation, we tell an average of 3.3 lies.” And typically most lies take the form of deception or cheating a social, legal or financial system, which is tough because we value honesty to create trust in our relationships with one another.
The author shares stories of people and their wrong behaviors, more than I want to paraphrase, but he brings us to a central idea for the chapter, “Since Jesus dwells and delights in us, we strive to put an end to deception in our life.” Yes, Christ would be looking to have us build positive relationships with one another and the above-mentioned forces of lying, cheating, and deception; these things which are fueled by our desires will only tear us apart.
“The kingdom is not in trouble. And we who stand in it are never in trouble. Therefore, we can risk telling the truth. We can handle the consequences of the truth. In the kingdom, we strive for more than merely not lying. We want our speech to be acceptable not only to the people we address but also to God. The bar is set high. Our words need to be honest and true, but they flow from the heart, so our heart has to be honest and true. At present, it may not be, but as long as we keep ‘pickling’ in the kingdom of God, it will be increasingly true.”
The soul-training exercise for the chapter talks about silence and going a whole day without talking. It’s a tough idea, but monks have been known to do this in order to gain greater control over their tounges for when they do speak. Find a day when you won’t be so busy and you can manage not talking.
I went through a point in my childhood where I used to lie a lot. I think part of that is I was caught up in my sin and I wanted to seem better than I was, at least until someone found out the truth. People also told me I was too talkative and energetic. Sorry.
And I think before I became a Christian and even in my early days, I did struggle with a lot of things. I made up lies and I hung out with childhood friends who stole things. I would say that if you ever want to stop lying, cheating, deceiving – remember how much it’s going to hurt the other person. If you lie to your spouse, to your parents, to your children, to your friends, to someone on the street, you also have to measure how much the lie is going to hurt them. Use common sense though, as you can also be too truthful and cause the same harm, like calling someone fat. The person knows they have a weight problem.
I will never forget a time in third grade I went to a kids group and we did a partner exercise with a tube of toothpaste. The teacher wanted us to completely empty out the tube of toothpaste. Then, she wanted us to try and get all the toothpaste back into the tube, and anyone who was able to do so got a prize. The problem was it wasn’t easy putting that toothpaste back in the tube and no one was really successful. The overall message is that you can never take back your words once they are spoken, no matter how hard you try. You can only apologize and ask the person to forgive you.
My church pastor mentions he has always had a quick tongue and he stole from people. That was a life he left behind, but to leave that life behind was a process for him. I like to think of building your life on the rock. Once my pastor, and I as well, decided we were going to build our lives on a more solid foundation, the change didn’t happen overnight. It took time and effort to make ourselves more honest and truthful.
– James –
I don’t normally write about my personal life, but hey I see that the bloggers who do often get more likes, haha.
I went on a couple of dates with someone the past few weeks and they told me they just wanted to stay friends. I took that and asked her to list out some reasons why she felt that way… out of thinking I could use her advice to improve myself.
However, I realized that while I could maybe work on a few things, I also saw that the things she came up with were characteristics that made me who I am as an individual. I want to make myself a better person every day, but it wouldn’t be good to change myself so that no one recognizes me.
I see this as another example of finding our identity in Christ. I have to tell you I struggle with this every so often, but I also know what I want my life to look like and what it shouldn’t look like. And I think some of my spiritual growth helps me with this.
I wanted to find work with my college degree the moment I graduated, but it hasn’t happened that way. That is okay because I have had a lot of housework to get done, but I’m still submitting job applications. Sometimes the Lord puts us in a place for a reason. I get frustrated from time to time, but I also have to remember that making it to work every day at has blessed me with everything I have.
The one day I was working cashier when a group of Mormon girls came through my line. The one girl asked me if I had met missionaries like them before, and I told them yes. I went to my own church though. I reminded them that despite our differences, all these faiths practice finding salvation through charity, or idol worship, or sacrifice, but Jesus Christ is the only one who asks us to follow Him as He is the way to salvation. The girls agreed, and one of them gave me a copy of the Book of Mormon with the church phone number.
I went through a period of studying the history of the Mormon faith. Even though I do not agree with their history and literature, I find they are always very kind, very family-oriented, and very generous with what they have. I do not usually meet people who express their Christian faith this way. Remember, Black Friday and Christmas are coming up, and people are going to be materialistic – lots of pushing and shoving!
A pastor at my Methodist church recommended the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, a thick book that takes you through the scriptures and explains the history and context behind it for a modern era. As a result of the past few months, I decided to take a few steps in my faith. First, I bought the study bible and I am looking to read the entire bible from start to finish, even if it takes a while. Secondly, I went to a membership class and I went through a ceremony to become an official member of my Methodist church.
I had a pastor from another church tell me he gives special attention to registered members of his congregation…. I want all the same blessings as when I was just a regular attender, but the choice to become a member represents me officially making a commitment to my Methodist church as my home, and getting involved with community and outreach.
I was at a group when the speaker asked the audience if anyone knew who Ruth and Naomi were, or Jericho even. There was silence. The word is important too, because knowing scripture as a Christian helps us to give intelligent advice to those around us.
– James –