Category Archives: Family

USING MEMORIES ON FATHERS DAY 2017

Perhaps it’s a natural component to the process of aging, but I find myself reflecting and reminiscing more these days. However, I know that I’m not alone in this. A casual review of Facebook also verifies that we humans have the innate propensity of remembering the past … or at least glimpses of it.

One of the first things I see each morning from Facebook is “On this day …” or “You have memories …” For most of us it is a picture of something special that happened, a place we visited, or a person that we enjoyed meeting. Sometimes the memories are painful perhaps, like the death of a loved one or some personal tragedy.

Memory is an interesting phenomenon to me … perhaps because mine isn’t always very good (if it ever was)! For example, I can recall events of fifty years ago while forgetting where I put my truck keys or left my sunglasses just five minutes ago! I’ll remember the details of a story of something from decades ago, but forget that I told you the same story a few weeks ago.
However, approaching Father’s Day, I’m thankful for many excellent memories from childhood, especially of my father—Ralph Henry Peterson. Perhaps this is because I’m quickly approaching the age of my father when he died.

Ralph, Hazel, & Dale

Since all dads either have died or will die at some point future, that isn’t what’s on my mind today, but rather how are we living the lives that we have today? Reflecting on that is one of the greatest advantages of memories—especially when they are memories of a father who exemplified great character qualities, Ralph Peterson did.

Do you doubt me on this? Ask his friends, former employers or employees, neighbors, or relatives! Everyone who ever knew dad for any length of time beyond a casual passing could tell you. He was quiet, thoughtful, courteous, wise, and gentle … well, usually gentle. (There are plenty of memories from childhood when he wasn’t very gentle with me. Dad thought that Dr. Spock was a crock, so memories of waiting in my bedroom for dad to come home from work, the sound of his lunch box hitting the kitchen counter, and his belt coming out of the belt loops are still vivid to me!) But I digress …

No …, the digression is a vital part of what I’m saying. What Dr. Spock thought of “spanking” ill-behaved children didn’t matter to dad, since it was dad’s responsibility to raise me, not Spock’s. Dad chose to believe God’s Book over Spock’s and therefore it was dad who took a time out—to spank his three children when he deemed it necessary.

Further, neither today nor on any of those days when it was me receiving a spanking (we actually called them “whippings” back then), did I blame dad or doubt that he was doing what he deemed best in love for me. (I still think he should have loved my younger brother Dennis much more. 😊) But I digress … again …

Approaching this Father’s Day, reminiscing about my own father, while sitting in the Virginia Beach (VA) home of my oldest daughter Charity, her husband Brandon, and their two children Brynn and Cole, I find myself wondering, “What kind of dad was I … really?”

However, the sad thing about this line of thinking—most of that answer is already in my life’s review mirror and cannot be changed. I can only hope that it was sufficient in the past, and that I can use the mistakes of the past to become a better dad and Papa Pete going forward.

BTW, do you pray? If so, wouldn’t now be a wonderful time to thank God for your dad? Even with whatever deficits he may have had, you owe your very life to a man somewhere in this world, whether he’s in a church, a prison, or a graveyard! If you were raised by a godly father, you especially should be thankful, and endeavor to live out the godly characteristics that he modeled.

For those whose fathers were absent or less-than-favorable, do not waste that pain! Make a mental list of the deficits and turn that into a positive list of goals and objectives for yourself, and become the kind of man, woman, parent, or grandparent that you wished to have growing up. Turn your tragedy into a triumph!

Got to run! It isn’t a gate agent calling me today … it’s two grandkids who want Chick-fil-A! Bye!

Dale on Coronado (CA)

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Black Ice

Today, my oldest son Justin would be celebrating his 42nd birthday with us.  Although his life was cut short while deployed with the USMC in Iraq on 01 October 2006, the morning after his 32nd birthday, our family chooses to celebrate his life.

Sometimes, that’s easier said than done, but this morning, I woke up remembering a humorous event that took place some years earlier–although, it wasn’t so humorous to me when it happened.  Anyone who ever knew Justin Dale Peterson understands that humor was a part of who he is!

The end of Christmas break had come, the little red 1977 Ford Mustang (Justin’s first car) was packed to-the-max, and Justin and Patty were on the road again to Taylor University in Upland, Indiana.  Given that it was early January, the weather in Michigan was bitter cold, compounded by a blustery wind that dropped the wind chill factor to sub-zero.

After whispering a prayer for their safety as they made their journey back to college in rural Indiana, I continued my normal morning routine.  About an hour after their departure, my phone rang.  It was Justin, calling from a pay phone at a gas station at U.S.-23 and M-59.  He sheepishly told me that Patty and the Mustang were sitting in the middle of the median on U.S.-23, saying they had hit “black ice,” he’d lost control of the car, and they had come to a stop facing south between the north and south-bound ribbons of asphalt.

Seriously?!  With all the salt that Michigan throws down in the winter?!  It sounded like an excuse to me, since Justin had the reputation for horsing around most of the time.  Are a barrage of questions about the well-being of the two kids and the car, I instructed him to go back to his vehicle, make sure the exhaust/tail pipe was unobstructed, and to keep the car running so they could stay warm until I got to the scene.

Although I felt badly that Justin had to walk a half-mile to make the phone call, stand outside at the pay phone to talk, and walk a half-mile back to his car, I built up an emotional “head of steam” as I drove from Davisburg to Hartland—picturing in my mind how my oldest son may have been goofing off and caused this “accident.”

Justin and Patty knew me quite well, knew how I might react once I knew that they were physically okay, and apparently had discussed my likely reaction.

Sure enough, when I pulled my vehicle onto the southbound shoulder of the freeway, the little red Mustang was sitting in the middle of the median as though they had deliberately driven it there to park, with the engine running and the windows steamed.  Then again, the windows weren’t the only thing “steamed!”

After watching for a clearing in southbound traffic, and when there was a safe break in the stream of vehicles, I opened the door to the Dodge conversion van I was driving, stepped onto the pavement,  slammed the door, and headed across the highway.  The next thing I remember was picking myself up quickly from the road, as I continued toward the median!

Miraculously, Justin and Patty had straight faces by the time I reached their stranded vehicle, but I imagine that if there had been a “black box” recording the sounds inside that car as they observed my fall, it would not have been the sounds of silence, but hilarious laughter.  They also knew that I had just confirmed the “black ice” story, as well, so there would be no scolding from me!

There was another time when I discovered “black ice,” but that’s another story for another time!

BTW, do you pray?  If so, would you pray for Patty Harvey, Jared, Jayden, and Caitlin Peterson today?  Today would be a great time to support them with your prayers, because this can be a tough day.  Further, would you join us in thanking God for Justin’s life?  That boy brought a lot of joy, laughter, and pride to our lives as his family, and we are forever grateful for the 32 years we were together!

Semper fi, son!

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Forgotten? Never!

I drove out to Great Lakes National Cemetery today …

Normally, my wife Debbie and I do that on Memorial Day, but for some reason I couldn’t settle my thoughts while trying to write my Memorial Day blog, so I dropped the work on which I was unable to concentrate anyway, and made the drive—alone.  I thought perhaps that a blue sky, green grass, and solitude at grave marker 5-595 might help.

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Oh, that helped alright—helped break open a floodgate of memories, thoughts, and tears!  Then it hit me—that is really the whole meaning of Memorial Day each year!  Sadly, the true meaning is often lost in a sea of activities rather than being discovered—not to mention, appreciated from hearts overflowing with gratitude—by those who take the time to remember!

The mode of transportation today was my red 1965 Olds Cutlass.  Frankly, I thought Justin would appreciate that.  As I parked along the curb on the Avenue of Flags, with Justin’s grave off to my right, I shut the car off and just sat there—looking and thinking.

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Ahead of me some 400 yards were lines of automobiles, staged where all vehicles gather for funeral processions.  I reflected on how those families felt in those moments, remembering all-too-well the day I stepped from a black limousine with my family and made my way to my seat in a temporary pavilion.

The memory of numbly starring at a flag-draped casket a few feet in front of me seemed to me like instant replay as I contemplated the cars ahead of me today. I understand a bit of what they must be feeling as the drivers pull away, following the lead car.

DALE BEN AT GLNC 2006

Then I instinctively grabbed my cell phone from the seat, and after allowing a couple of vehicles to pass, I stepped from the car, and slowly made my way to 5-595.  While walking, I noticed how many markers have been added to section 5 since Justin’s marker was set.  In this one national cemetery alone an average of 11 fresh graves are dug and filled with someone’s loved ones every business day.

If you run those numbers, they add nearly 3000 veterans each year to this one location.  That totals some 30,000 new additions to Great Lakes National Cemetery since taps shattered my thoughts on 09 October 2006.

It’s no wild guess on my part—I know those families … no, that’s too abstract … those spouses and their children, those parents and grandparents, whose loved ones have been laid to rest in whatever cemetery, can’t forget on Memorial Day or any other day of the year!

Is it asking too much of a rather self-absorbed society to pause for a few minutes once each year—on Memorial Day—and remember and respect those who paid the ultimate price for our collective freedom?  I don’t think so—neither did the countless thousands of families dating back nearly to the Civil War—and neither does the 1% of America who shoulders the responsibility of defending our nation, so that the other 99% can enjoy the freedom which they provide.

BTW, do you pray?  If so, there is no better time than now, and no better day than Memorial Day, to spend at least a few minutes in prayer.  Every American, at the minimum, should express gratitude for those men and women who saw a cause bigger than themselves and that cause was you, me, and their posterity.  We owe a debt that we can never fully pay.

Everyone who lives under that beautiful red, white, and blue flag with its stars and stripes should also petition the Almighty—you know, the God in whom our Founding Fathers believed and Washington DC seems to have forgotten—that He would spare America and preserve the freedom purchased for us by those whose bodies rest in the dust from which each was created.

Then add to you prayer an appeal for strength for the families who have an empty seat at their tables—whether it has collected the dust of decades or is fresh with pain, as those friends and families in the processional earlier today.  At my grandson Jayden’s baseball game recently, his sister Caitlin ran up behind Debbie and me, with the exuberance of a ten-year-old who was excited to see Grandma Debbie and Papa Pete.

A moment later she gone, leaving me with a recurring and inescapable thought—there goes a little girl who will never know her daddy.  You see, she was only two days old when Justin deployed.  Think about it!  Freedom’s price tag is far greater than you can imagine.

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With that said, any people who mindlessly puts boating and barbecuing, picnics and parades, above remembrance of those who paid the price for freedom disgraces the country I love and those who died defending it.  However, even in America’s forgetfulness, comes the haunting biblical prediction of the characteristics of those living in “the last days”—unthankful!

May that never be truthfully said of you and me.  Let’s give ourselves this Memorial Day 2016 to gratitude and to expressing it appropriately … by reflecting and remembering.

Justin Dale Peterson 2006

Justin Dale Peterson 2006

Happy Mothers Day, Mom!

With Mother’s Day looming in a matter of hours, and having read several Facebook postings and blogs about other people moms, my own thoughts have turned to motherhood and memories of my own mother.  One thought in particular hit me—have spent more of my life without my mother than I have with her! hazel summers peterson

While my eyes brim with tears at that very thought, there is also a measure of happiness that mingles with thankfulness that encourages my spirit in spite of a seat in our family that has been left vacant for nearly 36 years now.  One cannot escape the void in his heart when God, in His perfect wisdom, calls a godly mother from the humble hovel of an earthly home of clay into that land that is fairer than day—a heavenly home that fadeth not away.

However, with each passing year of my own life I can honestly say that my gratitude for Hazel Margaret Summers Peterson grows.  Although time and space prevents sharing everything—even if I could remember everything, which isn’t going to happen, here are a few worthy elements to be considered, especially by young mothers who may have more life in front of them than in the rear view mirror.

Mother was the kind of mom who set a great example for her children … well not just her children, but for anyone who knew her … but I speak/write from the vantage point of a son.  Frankly, I was at times the one child of three who could have been labeled “the black sheep” of the family.  (Don’t expect me to admit to the specific reasons behind that!  Those events and times have long been forgiven by mom, dad, and God—and are buried in two graves behind the old buildings of Salem Baptist Church and in the depths of the sea!)

I suppose you could ask my brother Dennis or my baby sister Gina, but they won’t tell you either, because mother taught us not to gossip.  Thankfully, the two of them were much more obedient, caused fewer worries (and mom worried about everything, I think), and received fewer spankings, though those repercussions were called whippings when and where we were raised.

Our petite 98-pound mother knew how to discipline when it was warranted, unlike so many modern moms, it seems to me.  Oh, I see them in the stores and other public places.  Some of them yelling at their children (which our mother never did, at least that I recall) or threatening their offspring with a “time out.”  We didn’t have “time out;” we had “time in”—time in the garden, time in the strawberry patch, time in the barn!  Come to think of it, I did spend a few hours in “time out” in the bedroom, waiting on dad to come home from work!

Mother's High School Graduation

Mother’s High School Graduation

Mother taught us with her words, to be sure, but perhaps she taught us mostly by example, as I reflect on those early years in the 1950s and 60s.  It was a wonderful example of the disciplined life—and I don’t mean punishment.

She was disciplined in her person.  She was always up early.  The bed was made, she was dressed, and breakfast was prepared by the time the family could get to the kitchen.  Good grief, it isn’t uncommon today to see moms (and dads, too, to be fair) get on airplanes still in their pajamas!

The Prince of Belgium at the Peterson's, circa 1955

The Prince of Belgium at the Peterson’s, circa 1955

Although dad was not a good reader, mother was, and she read and studied daily.  When she walked into a Sunday school class filled with children on Sundays (as she did for decades), she had not only prepared her lesson, and she had prepared herself.  It was a lifestyle for her.

She was disciplined in private.  I remember overhearing a member of the church where I was pastor some years ago.  He did not know I was at his house yet, but he was yelling angrily at his children, but when I came on the scene, I realized that I was dealing with a Jekyll and Hyde!  Not mom—she was in private the same Hazel that she was in public!

We were taught to clean up and pick up after ourselves.  If we opened it, we were expected to close it.  When we came to the table for a meal, we were expected to have washed our hands and combed our hair.  Proper table manners were a way of life.  (Lord, I could write a book on the kind of manners I see in my travels!)

Hazel Peterson, circa 1978

Hazel Peterson, circa 1978

She was disciplined in public.  Perhaps the greatest aspect of this would be good manners, which again, was a carry-over from home.  Because of who she was as a person, mother respected others and treated them with pleasant courtesy.

She was disciplined even in her passing.  After her injuries from a horrible head-on collision caused by a drunk driver, mother’s swollen body was kept functioning somewhat by various forms of life support from Sunday until it was all removed the following Friday.  Since dad was in another intensive care unit and could not see mom, I was with her until she was pronounced dead.

Afterwards I made the all-too-familiar trek down to dad’s bedside.  Looking him in the eyes for the few seconds that seemed like minutes, I quietly said, “Dad, she’s gone.”  We wept together and then I prayed with him, as I had done many times before with others.  This time, though familiar in many ways, was different.  This was my mother.

Following a few moments of silence, I said, “Dad, I suppose you want me to call Bud?” which was more of a matter-of-fact statement than a question.  Our neighbor and daddy’s friend since childhood, Bud Coomer, was the funeral director at Mynatt’s Funeral Home.  I knew they would handle the arrangements.

As though I were still standing by that ICU bedside, I can still see dad’s lip quivering as he spoke, “Yes.  You mother and I talked through the details last week.  In the closet is a garment bag with everything Bud will need—all the clothing and jewelry.  And, son, your mother had a request.  She wanted you to preach her funeral.  Can you do it?”

I guess what I’m conveying is this—because of her disciple in life, she was prepared in death.  That preparation was evidenced by the conversation she and dad had together on Friday before the auto accident on Sunday.  More importantly, preparation had been made years earlier at a little country church hear her childhood home, when she had a conversation with God Himself, asking Jesus Christ to be her Savior.

The notes for her funeral are buried somewhere in my files, I suppose … haven’t seen them in years … but I remember this above all else.  Neither as her son nor as a minister preaching her funeral did I have to hunt for good things to say about her.  Good things abounded from her life as a Christian, much as it had been reflected in her grade cards from school days, when she received A’s … sometimes with as many as four plus-signs after them.

BTW, do you pray?  Have you ever had that all-important conversation with God?  You know … the one where you get really honest and admit that you, like everyone else in the world, are a sinner.  You know … when you get honest with yourself, too, admitting that you need Him as your Savior, and then asking Him to wash away your sins?

If not, wouldn’t this Mother’s Day be a great time to do that?  I mean, if not now, when?

Dale, Gina, & Dennis

Dale, Gina, & Dennis

My Valentines

Last night was a huge ministry night for me!  Oh, I don’t mean the size of the crowd.  As far as I was concerned, there were only two people in my audience—and I loved it!

It was Daddy-Daughter Dance night for two of my granddaughters, but their father (Greg LaPointe), firefighter-paramedic, could not get off work.  What an honor it was for Papa Pete to step up to the plate and be a “dad to two daughters” again, albeit for only a few hours.

Of course, the preparation began with the arrival of the first text message from my daughter Joy.  I made sure that I would be in town, and then cleared the calendar for that afternoon and evening.  Then there was the follow-up details that most of us dads aren’t all that great at tracking—what color dresses would Brooklyn and Emma be wearing, order their wrist corsages and a boutonniere for myself.

After picking up the flowers, I headed for the car wash.  No self-respecting guy would pick up his date (or in my case, dates) with a dirty Black vehicle covered in Michigan’s road salt.  Thankfully, it was still clean upon my arrival at their house.

BROOKLYN AND PAPA PETE FEB 2016

By now, some reader is thinking, “What in the world does this stand-in-dad and his granddaughters have to do with ministry?!”  Oh, I’m so glad you asked!

EMMA AND PAPA PETE FEB 2016

The light that shines farthest shines brightest at home—so much of real ministry is with those who know us best.  For too many years, my own five children were at times left in the shadows while Pastor Dale gave their time to other people.  Maybe, just maybe, grandchildren are sort of a do-over for some omissions in bygone years.

For me, last night was about setting an example and sowing some seeds in two young girls’ lives.  I pointed out that a gentleman opens their doors, and whenever a boy fails to do so, or to treat them respectfully, that’s a warning flag.

They noted the clean truck, so I let them know that they were special, this night was special, and that was an important detail to remember—especially if a young man ever came to pick them up and hadn’t bothered to clean his vehicle.  They also heard that young men should never pull into their driveway and blow the horn, expecting them to come running.

At the restaurant, those two turned heads, let me tell you!  They walked elegantly behind the hostess to our table, as almost every mother in the place smiled broadly and commented to table mates.  Perhaps the girls were oblivious—but Papa Pete caught it.

As they glanced over the menu, it was time for another lesson—always order modestly, perhaps even asking their date if he could suggest something, noting that the young man may be on a strict budget—and that they would know this if they ordered a filet and baked potato, while their date timidly ordered water and a cup of soup!

BROOKLYN AND EMMA FEB 2016

Interestingly, this conversation prompted one of my dates to change her mind, leaving the adult menu and returning to the kids’ menu!  <grin>  After a rushed meal—not on the part of our server, but we were close on time when our food finally arrived—we headed back across the icy parking lot to the truck, where the girls waited for their doors to be opened for them.

After checking our coats upon arrival at the school, and against their mother’s instruction that “Pictures aren’t necessary, so don’t spend the money!” we got in line and had our photo taken anyway—because it was a special night, at least for Papa Pete!

EMMA PAPA PETE BROOKLYN FEB 2016

Then the fun part … and I’m still not sure who enjoyed the next 1.5 hours more—the girls or me!  I have never been a dancer, but I do know that dances have names—waltz, the twist, hokey-pokey, or whatever.  After observing last night, I think the entire evening of dance might be called the spasm!

Well, let me clarify that somewhat.  After trying to keep up with those two granddaughters (ages 7 and 9), I think maybe it was me who had the spasms!  Thankfully, 27 songs into the evening, the DJ played a slow song—something with which I could keep pace!

BTW, do you pray?  If so, maybe this is a great time to ask ourselves as adults a few tough questions—like “Am I giving my time to the people and things that are most important in life?”  If you, like me, have ever struggled to balance priorities consistently, then you understand the difficulty of that—and hence, the need for prayer.

In the course of a lifetime, there will be many important relationships.  At times, we will struggle to find and maintain a proper balance of those relationships.  However, apart from your relationship with God Himself, there is no greater than family.  Let’s ask the Lord for His strength and wisdom.

I discovered all over again last night the importance of family—a lesson taught to me by two little Valentines!

They Were All Here; Now They’re All There!

The Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year holiday season is an especially difficult time to experience the death of our loved ones.  I know this from both personal and vicarious experiences.  For example, I preached the funeral of my own mother just three days before Christmas 1980.

A few days ago, word came to me that former classmate from college, ministry colleague, and friend Ed Dobson of Grand Rapids, Michigan, had died just one day after Christmas 2015, following a fifteen-year battle with ALS.

Pastor Ed Dobson  is debuting a new film series called Ed's Story through local producer Flannel.  (Cory Olsen | The Grand Rapids Press)

Pastor Ed Dobson

Yesterday, my elderly friend and mentor of almost forty years, Dr. A.V. Henderson, passed from this life to the next.

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He was the last of my unofficial board of mentors—ministry men to whom I turned for advice and counsel.  Suddenly, I find myself thinking, “Now where do I turn when I need an experienced human being to suggest a course of action when I have questions?”

Today, and relative to that, the thought that continually circles my mind is this reality: They—that is, my mentors—were here, but now they are all there—that is, heaven.  From the multitude of those thoughts, I find reasons for reflection and for gratitude.  Perhaps quite by “accident,” I have been blessed from my early adulthood with marvelous mentors.

Soon after getting married in 1970, my young bride and I moved from hometown in the southern city of Knoxville (TN) to metropolitan Detroit.  From the first Sunday at Temple Baptist Church of Detroit, their pastor G. B. Vick took us under his wing, treating us as if we were his very own.  Old time Temple members will appreciate this statement—I have eaten many lunches at Snow Whites’ in Detroit, whether I wanted to eat there or not.  If Mister Vick said, “I’ll see you at Snow Whites,” it meant that we were going to Snow Whites!

If I had ever missed the example from my own father, Dr. Vick was to me what a Christian gentleman should be.  While there were other men in America whose churches were larger than Temple in the mid-70s, there was no larger ministry example in my life than the gracious G.B. Vick.  Although he died in 1975, I miss him sorely.

During my three-year tenure as a student at Bob Jones University in the late 1960s, I was privileged to be on stage with one of the world’s leading Shakespearean authorities—Dr. Bob Jones Jr.  His father, Bob Sr. died during my freshman year at the school.

Perhaps it was in an early rehearsal of The Merchant of Venice, that Dr. Bob and I first became acquainted.  He played the role of Shylock, while I was a lowly jailer with no lines at all.  But those hours on stage together afforded me opportunities to spend time with a very personable Dr. Bob.

Through the years, we disagreed on a few ministry personalities and philosophies, but I cherish to this day many conversations and correspondences.  Once, after making some bold statements to him, I waited for him to virtually dissect me.  Instead, I received the most grandfatherly advice and warm affection, not the tongue-lashing that I feared might come. Those are things one doesn’t catch from a pulpit on the platform.

The name R.O. Woodworth and Baptist Bible College have been synonymous since the inception of the college in 1950.  For decades “Reg” was the business manager and taught personal evangelism, among other courses.  One cannot talk for more than a few minutes with any graduate of BBC and the name Dr. R.O. Woodworth not be mentioned!

Because I had married into the Woodworth family in 1970, he was just Uncle Reg, and his wife—Mrs. Woodworth—who had tended the bookstore at the college, was Aunt Dorothy.  I can still see and hear my oldest two children—when they were young—crying in fear that Uncle Reg was going to die in our living room!  Why? Because he was standing on his head, trying to prove to them how young and strong he was (in his 80s!), and his face had turned 20 shades of bright red!

Although I haven’t lived in Paducah (KY) for more than 25 years, I still miss his annual stops in Paducah, breakfasts together, and his passionate preaching in the church where I was pastor.

Of all my mentors, I probably spent the least amount of time with Dr. Lee Roberson, long-time pastor of Highland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga (TN).  Our paths crossed numerous times through the years, usually at conferences in the 1970s-1980s.  I seldom asked for his advice directly.  However, anyone who ever heard or read his sermons received practical advice in short sentences.

Without disparaging other pastors for whom I worked, and without listing the many reasons for this statement, Dr. Jerry Falwell was the greatest pastor I’ve ever known.  After my first six months in Lynchburg, I was discouraged, thinking, “Jerry doesn’t even know who I am!”

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One Sunday evening, as I headed to a side entrance to the auditorium at 701 Thomas Road, a black Buick Electra 225 screeched to a halt in the parking space beside me.  Out jumped Falwell, tickled no doubt that he had startled me.  He slapped his arm around my shoulders and with that voice of authority said, “Dale Peterson!  I just got off the plane from De-troit, Michigan!  You know, not one person asked me about Liberty Baptist College or Thomas Road Church or Old Time Gospel Hour, but everybody I met asked me about you!  We’re glad to have you onboard!”

I learned through the years that Jerry truly loved everyone.  He could walk away from a sound stage or studio after interviews by celebrity types, but he was just as interested in the cameraman or the lady calling the lights as he was the Phil Donahue’s!  Another excellent illustration of his love for people was in my church office one morning.

Before walking into an auditorium filled with pastors one day, I asked Jerry to hang on for a minute, and we let everyone else leave the room.  My youngest daughter Joy—12 years old at the time, wanted to interview Falwell for a class project.  His attention instantly shifted to Joy.  He asked if she had her tape recorder ready.  He had her sit in my chair while he made himself comfortable on my desk.

Joy had her questions written on 3-by-5 cards, and asked them one by one.  Jerry Falwell treated her like she was a contemporary of Barbara Walters or Katie Couric!

I would like to think that some of those noble characteristics rubbed off on this pastor.  Few days have gone by since Jerry’s death that I haven’t missed him.

B.R. Lakin, like all the others named, was a true friend to preachers everywhere.  I had listened to and read his sermons for a few years before finally meeting him in Southgate (MI) in the early 1970s.  Shortly after hearing him in person, I invited him to speak to a youth rally in southern Michigan.

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Picture this, if you can—2400 high school teenagers and their youth leaders sitting spell-bound listening to an old southern evangelist from Fort Gay, West Virginia.  I still meet people who attended that meeting—and they all remember the lights suddenly going out and Dr. Lakin quickly saying, “Just hold!  It’ll go out quicker than that for some of you one of these days!”

Then, just as quickly as they had gone out, the lights came back on.  I will refrain from divulging the name of the young man who hit the master light switch in the control room at Temple Baptist Church.  A few minutes later, after finishing his sermon, Dr. Lakin invited young people to come to Christ, and dozens were saved that evening.

Three years after entering vocational youth ministry, I accepted the role of youth pastor under Dr. Tom Malone Sr., founder of Emmanuel Baptist Church and Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac (MI).  Malone was a preaching machine—a preacher’s preacher, with a style all his own.

tom malone sr

I asked Doc one time, “Doc, how do you get your sermons?  I know you don’t just subscribe to The Sword of the Lord, and get other preachers’ outlines because that publication usually prints yours!”  I’ve never forgotten his reply.  Without going into lengthy detail as I tell it, he outlined for me how he read the Bible each morning, and continued reading until God had spoken to him.  Then he said, “ … and I have found that what God uses [to do those things in my heart], He will use in the lives of others.”

The one mentor who influenced my life over the longest period of time was Dr. John Rawlings.  My first introduction to Dr. John was in the late 1950s when I listened to his national radio program—The Landmark Hour.  It was the live broadcast of the evening services from Landmark Baptist Temple in Cincinnati (OH).

As a child, I loved to hear Dr. John preach because he told a lot of stories as he spoke.  As I listened to those messages, it never entered my mind that this man would one day become a dear friend.

Dr. John & Dale

Dr. John & Dale

Finally, the last of the old-timers to hang up his sword is my friend Dr. A.V. Henderson, whose passing has prompted my reflections today.  As I write these words, I am trying to book hotels from Michigan to Texas.  A younger pastor friend from Waterford (MI) and I are planning to make the journey to attend the memorial service in Haslet, Texas.

BTW, do you pray?  If so, would you pray for our safety as we make this unscheduled trek?  Further, and perhaps more sobering, let me ask this—whose lives are you influencing for the cause of Christ?  While we’re praying, let’s ask God to use us to positively impact others for His glory.

The men mentioned above are a handful of the men and women whose lives have touched and encouraged my personal and ministry life.  With whatever inherent faults I have, these are people who helped make my life more Christ-like because they cared about others, including me.

One of my prayers—since childhood—could be summarized in a song that George Beverly Shay used to sing.

If I can help somebody, as I pass along,
If I can cheer somebody, with a word or song,
If I can show somebody, how they’re travelling wrong,
Then my living shall not be in vain.

My living shall not be in vain,
Then my living shall not be in vain
If I can help somebody, as I pass along,
Then my living shall not be in vain.

If I can do my duty, as a good man ought,
If I can bring back beauty, to a world up wrought,
If I can spread love’s message, as the Master taught,
Then my living shall not be in vain.

My living shall not be in vain,
Then my living shall not be in vain
If I can help somebody, as I pass along,
Then my living shall not be in vain.

 

Well, no airport intercom announcement calls me to board a flight, but common sense tells me that I’d better go pack my suitcase for Texas.  Thanks for praying with me!

A Cup of Coffee

As I placed the Maxwell House coffee pod into the Keurig earlier today, a smile burst onto my face as a flood of memories from childhood raced through my mind in a nanosecond!  The predominant memory was of my grandfather—Garfield Blaine Peterson.

Keurig Maxwell House

Most people in our rural community knew him as Blaine, although some older adults referred to him as G.B., but to my siblings and me, he was just Papaw.  To Aunt Mildred, he was Daddy.  He owned the largest dairy farm anywhere around in the 1950s and early 1960s, though it would pale in comparison to today’s dairy farmers who milk 4000-5000 head of cattle per day.

I remember the old farmhouse where Mamaw—Omega (Graybeal) Peterson—lived when I was a young lad, complete with the wall-mounted telephone that you cranked to ring the operator, who then connected your call.  Later in my pre-teen years, Dad and Papaw built a modern ranch-style brick house for my grandparents.

Great memories were made for me in both those houses—like practicing the songs that I would sing for church.  Mamaw would play my accompaniment on the old upright piano that sat in the living room, while Mom would “coach” from the davenport.  I still remember the first song that I sang as a solo—Near to the Heart of God.  Both Mother and Mamaw insisted at each rehearsal that I sing all three stanzas—but I wanted to do only two.

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When I was introduced that Sunday morning, Mamaw played and I sang the first verse and chorus—and then it hit me!  I’m the one in charge here, and there’s nothing anyone can do if I skip the second verse!  I boldly launched into verse three, followed by a closing chorus, and sat down.  Perhaps memory fails me, but I don’t recall either Mother or Mamaw being upset because I failed to follow their directives—they were probably too proud of little Dale.  However, if they did remember, I was probably spanked … seems like I was spanked for about everything in those days!

But I digress … and you’re wondering what any of this has to do with Maxwell House Coffee, I suppose!

One of the great memories that I carry close to my heart is the scene I would see in the mornings when I spent the night with Mamaw and Papaw.  I would slide my way from bedroom to kitchen in my socks, rubbing my eyes as I shuffled along.  Then, squinting in the early morning light, I would see something that would influence my entire life to-date!

Sitting at the table would be Papaw—sipping a steaming cup of Maxwell House coffee and reading his Bible.  That was the scene that popped into my mind this morning as I closed the lid of the coffee maker down onto the Maxwell House k-cup!  Although I doubt that Papaw planned for his Bible and his brew—actually his cup of coffee was not brewed, it was instant—to impact his grandson, I did!

That impactful scene got me to thinking—I wonder what habits of my own are impacting those around me?  Is or has the influence been healthy or detrimental to others?  That’s a provocative thought, isn’t it?

BTW, do you pray?  If so, perhaps you would join me in asking God to help us develop, maintain, and hone habits that are wholesome—for us as well as for others.  We have little clue of the impact our lives are having on those around us.  My prayer is that the influence is to their benefit.

Oh, look!  My cup is empty!  I’m heading back to the kitchen for another cup of Maxwell House.  Cheers!

dale

I Do Solemnly Swear …

Veterans Day is that one special day when all America pauses in gratitude for and honor of those living men and women who have taken an oath to ” … support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

veterans day 2015

While the young men and women who make this affirmation come from varied nationalities, differing socio-economic backgrounds, and religious experiences, but they all come together in this common oath.  The basic training provided by each branch of the United States military, the length of training, and certainly the MOS (military occupational service) training all vary, but all towards the fulfillment of a singular goal—the support and defense of the Constitution of the United States of America.

Although a growing number of politicians, from the president to congress, seems to have forgotten either the constitution or the oath they swore when taking office, the vast majority of the men and women of our armed forces—Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Navy, and Marine Corps—put their very lives on the line daily.  These who have so seriously taken their oaths deserve the utmost of respect from all Americans.

BTW, do you pray?  If so, here are a couple of things about which you can pray.  First, after thinking quietly about whom these men and women are and what they do to make our freedom possible, thank God for them—from the young recruits to the most elderly veterans.  Second, ask God to sustain these troops and their families.

And to my own veteran son, USMC Sgt. Joshua D Peterson—you will never know how proud you and your older brother USMC Capt. Justin D Peterson have made your father, even at great cost.  Semper Fidelis!  The same can be said of my son-in-law USN Lt. Brandon Geddes!

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Celebrating Freedom with a Hero

Celebrating Freedom with a hero, Joe Hutchins 

veterans day 2015

I Still Miss My Boy!

Speeding south on Dequindre Road in the wee hours of the morning, I zigzagged my orange 1973 Corvette en route from Washington Township to Rochester, Michigan.  However, even the ‘Vette seemed too slow while racing a wife in labor to Crittenton Hospital—except perhaps for that one little hill, long since re-contoured, when we went airborne.   (I can still hear the groan from the passenger seat when we hit the ground again!)

After arriving—safely, I might add—I assumed my role as birthing coach and soon our son Justin was born.  Two-year-old Charity gained a baby brother!  More than four decades have flown by since that 30 September morning; yet, aspects of that day live vividly in my mind.

Charity and Justin circa 1976 Knoxville TN

It’s strange to me that I can recall details of decades ago, but can’t remember when I laid my truck keys or glasses five minutes ago!  But I digress …

It’s also amazing to me how, within a 48-hour template of time, life events can take us from the heights of celebration to the depths of bereavement.  However, and a strange as it may sound to some, I am thankful that 30 September and 01 October are joined together inseparably.

Today would have been Justin’s 41st birthday—a day of celebration, but tomorrow is a different story, although we will try to celebrate Justin’s life on what my other four children have dubbed as National Siblings Day (Hey!  If someone can dub a day as National Daughters Day—and thousands of Facebook users buy into it, why not a National Siblings Day?!) … but I digress … again!

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I was saying, I’m thankful that, in the providence of God’s grace, the date of Justin’s birth and the date of his death are back to back.  Here’s why.  Parents remember their children’s birthdays, so when death has robbed us of that son or daughter, it makes for a tough celebration.  There are no parties.  There are no phone calls to say (or sing) “Happy Birthday, Bud!”

Then, if we had to endure (and thousands upon thousands do, I understand) a date of his death—say six months from now—it would seem to compound the intense emotional eruptions that are inherent to the loss of a child.  As weird as it may sound, I’m thankful that these two intense days are back-to-back.

As I have sat here, pondering, wiping my eyes, and blowing my nose, something else dawned on me.  Why am I using this occasion to write once again about something that our family and friends already know?  Then, it hit me!  Others may not need to read it, but I need to write it!  It’s a catharsis … and the good Lord knows …

Oh, BTW, do you pray?  If so, could I enlist you to pray for something that’s special to my heart, especially at this time of year?  Justin’s death in the sands of Anbar Province, Iraq did not impact only his mother, father, siblings, wife, and friends.  There were three children—two sons and a daughter—whose father was snatched from them.

If you would pray for Jared, Jayden, and Caitlin, this father and grandfather would consider it an honor.  Then, would you let me know that you prayed?  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy—just a brief sentence to let me know.  Then I can thank God for those who pray for us … as well as for readers who don’t have to read what I have to write!

Okay—no plane to catch today, but I really should empty this tissue-filled rubbish can and find a fresh box of Kleenex!

dale

MEMORIAL DAY 2015

Although caller ID showed the call as “restricted,” with two sons deployed with the United States Marine Corps in Iraq, I knew that I must take the call that Sunday morning, 01 October 2006.

Like any Marine Corps communicator, my youngest son Joshua’s voice was commanding and to-the-point—“Don’t talk, Dad, just listen.  We’re going on our first mission, and I need you to pray, because we have already had one Marine fall this morning somewhere in Anbar Province.  I love you, Dad!”

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“I will pray.  I love you, son!” That was all I had time to say.  The sat phone went dead.  Immediately, I sat down and prayed in the Association apartment where I was staying in southern Illinois.  A few minutes later, I finished dressing for the day, drove to the church, and spoke three times to the congregation in Sparta, Illinois.

With services ended, Pastor & Mrs. Bill Herald and I had just ordered our late evening meal when my phone vibrated once again.  When I saw that it was my daughter-in-law Patty who was calling, I excused myself from the table and took the call that would change my life forever.

“Dad, where are you?  Are you alone?  Are you driving?”  My heart seemed to stop when Patty continued, “Dad, LtCol Hermann just left the house.  Justin was killed this morning in Iraq.”

On this Memorial Day weekend, many Americans will celebrate freedom—understandably.  However, that is the purpose for the 4th of July.  Other American families will thank men and women in uniform or those veterans who have previously served in one of the five branches of our military.  That is all well and good; however, that is the purpose of Veterans Day, 11 November each year.  Unfortunately, a few of our citizens will become so engrossed in their long holiday weekend of activities; they may forget altogether the significance of Memorial Day.

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However, scattered across this nation and around the globe are families who will always remember—who can never forget—that the purpose of Memorial Day is to gratefully remember those brave men and women who paid the ultimate price while they served.  In remembering them, we also remember the countless numbers of parents, siblings, spouses, children, and friends who also pay a price—some who are seated in this audience today.

Neither our fallen nor their families want your pity or sympathy.  We want your respect, your remembrance, and your gratitude for the freedom, purchased by so few, to benefit so many, and at such great cost.  Parents have been deprived of their offspring to make that purchase for you.  Lonely spouses embrace soft pillows at night, rather than the rock-hard bodies of their life mate, crying themselves to fitful sleep.

Most gut-wrenching of all, infants and small children will never know anything more of a parent who gave them life than what they will see in old pictures or the stories they hear from friends and relatives who remember.

"On behalf of ... a grateful nation," my daughter-in-law Patty

“On behalf of … a grateful nation,” my daughter-in-law Patty

If there was ever a people who were grateful, who remember, who keep perspective and care, it should be believer-citizens—Americans who know Christ as Savior—and make full proof of occasions such as Memorial Day to do so.  Whether it is the liberties we enjoy as citizens of this great nation or the liberation of the soul for all eternity, our freedom has been purchased vicariously for us by someone else.  Let us never forget.

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BTW, do you pray?  If so, why not pause this Memorial Day, reflect on those have secured your freedom, pray for those left behind, and express your gratitude heavenward for those who paid the ultimate price for freedom?

Let us forever remember.