Category Archives: Ministry

Anniversary #12

To say that 2020 has been quite a unique year would be an understatement. While it has been taxing to everyone, 2020 may be the worst year of your life, especially if you or a family member has been directly affected by COVID-19.

In reality, life is filled with periodic testing for each of us—accidents, valleys, storms, health issues, heartaches. We cannot choose the troubles that blow into our lives, but each of us can and will choose how we respond to them. The Old Testament character Job certainly experienced multiple calamities.

Interesting, Job’s reaction in his time of troubles was quite different than Mrs. Job’s! Job was so trusting of God that he resolved, “Though He (God) may slay me, I will keep trusting Him!” His wife chose a different approach, sadly— “Just curse God and die!” Maybe she knew that Job had a huge life insurance policy!) 😊 But I digress …

As I consider 01 November 2020, today I’m reminded that even when life throws us calamity, we can still find our “Phoenix” arising from the ashes. Why do I say that?

After a divorce that rocked my entire world, proverbially turning it upside down for a few years, a wonderful event took place. Twelve years ago, today, I stood under a small gazebo, overlooking the ocean in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and married one of the sweetest women on earth!

The Homily 

From those difficult days, we still enjoy several close friendships. However, the greatest blessing for me was finding rather spontaneously a spouse—who is still my friend, and one of the greatest things that ever happened in my life! Happy twelfth anniversary, Debbie!

BTW, do you pray? If so, then perhaps during the difficult days of COVID 2020, or whatever stressful storm may be threating you at this time, why not look to God and ask Him to help you? While neither you nor I know the future, He does, and we can trust Him to do what is best.


Blogging has almost become a thing of the past for me.  I’m not sure why, but I just began to lose interest some months back … until today.  Fourteen years ago today, while speaking in Sparta, Illinois for my pastor friend Bill Herald, I received the phone call from daughter-in-law Patty, breaking the news to me that her husband, our oldest son Justin (JDP2), had been killed in Iraq that morning. 

Needless to say, with yesterday being his birthday, and today being the anniversary of his death, all-things-Justin are on my mind.  I will spare any readers from having to read thousands of things that have crossed my mind, but there is something about which I would like to write that might be important for you—memories. 

After posting on Face Book a photo of Justin and his oldest son Jared (JDP5), I have received hundreds of responses from friends, acquaintances, and friends of friends.  Many comments involved something about “remembering,” in one form or another. 

Of all the things that might concern me about Justin’s death and absence from all of us is that he might be forgotten.  However, I assure you, there are many people who will never forget.  With that backdrop, let me encourage you to consider taking three, deliberate steps of action with the people in your life.

First, from one voice of experience (and by no means the only one), determine to cherish the memories.  Perhaps it’s an age-related factor—I am not sure—but the longer I live, the larger the memory bank becomes! 

Someone commented that “Justin lived life to the fullest”—and he did!  And because he did, he not only build a great memory bank for himself, but for those around him.  One of Justin’s elementary school teachers (Dee Rothrock Pantana) shared her memory of him being “full of life and energy!”  (She also commented that she was young back then and could handle it!) 😊 

Many memories of Justin either cause those who knew him to smile, roll their eyes, or just laugh out loud!  The memories of our lives make us better people if we will cherish them and use them wisely—even the hurtful and sad ones. 

Then, my experiences in life lead me to say, cherish the relationships that you currently have.  You will not always have them.

While no one really enjoys thinking about negative things, some are inevitable—like death.  The Good Book reminds us that “ … it is appointed for man to die …” (Heb 9:27 ESV).  Personally, I think that as we realize that everyone in our lives will die at some point, we would cherish all the more every relationship in our lives!  

Sadly, we seem to subconsciously pretend that we’re all going to be here forever, avoid life-changing accidents, injuries, and diseases, and never grow old.  However, the realities of life have a way of overtaking us.  We awaken before the mirror and discover that the old person looking back is US!  We finally make time to visit parents only to discover that the young or middle-aged father or mother became elderly and feeble—and we missed it!

If the important people of your life will always be there, perhaps the most reasonable, smartest, and most compassionate action to take is to love them while they are here.  Build memories with them today that will bring a smile to your face and a warmth of gratitude to your heart when they are gone. 

Lastly, let me encourage you to cherish today as an opportunity to make new, or renew old, commitments to the important people in your life.  The greatest temptation (and gravest danger) is to wait, only to awaken one day to the sudden reality—that person is no longer here.  Regret will speak loudly in your heart in that moment—“Oh, how I wish that I had …” 

Above I used the word “experience” for a reason.  One bitter-sweet memory comes to mind.  While I do not recall what had upset then-teenage Justin, I remember vividly his tears and one comment.  Referring to the times when I would be walking home for dinner and stop to shoot baskets with him, he said, “Dad, that was one of my favorite memories!”

Shooting a few hoops before our second (or third) call to come to dinner—such a small thing!  But little things have a way of building big memories!  Do the small things

As a USMC Captain, Justin put his troops before himself, so whenever he called me from Iraq, it was usually some weird time of night/morning, so that other Marines could have time with their families by phone.  I remember telling him more than once that he needed to save his telephone time for his wife Patty and the children—that he and I could email when it was convenient to his schedule.  But oh, the memories of brief sat-phone conversations from Iraq—such a small thing!  But small things have a way of building big, lasting memories!  Do the small things

BTW, do you pray?  If so, would you pray for the family and friends of Justin today as we remember?  It may be a small thing, but the impact will be big for us. 

Thank you, Lord, for 32 years with “my boy!”

Mother’s Day 2019

Although I have spent more years of my life without my mother than I did with her, I’m amazed by how much I still miss her! It’s also amazing to me the differences in how fathers and mothers are treated. I’m mean, for example, when was the last time you saw an NFL player—tight camera shot—say, “Hi, DAD!” 😊

However, both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day provide each of us with a marvelous opportunity for reflection. After all, each of us had both—or we wouldn’t exist!

To be sure, there are those whose parents were not in the picture at all. Perhaps you were adopted, and never knew either of your biological parents. Some individuals knew one parent or the other, but for whatever reason, one parent was missing from the picture of your life.

It’s also a reality in life that not all parents are or were good parents. Over the last nearly five decades of ministry, I’ve known many children, teenagers, and adults who came from less-than-favorable homes. Often, it was either an abusive or missing father, sadly.
For more reasons than I can begin to enumerate, I am thankful for the godly parents and upbringing that my siblings and I experienced. (Notice that I didn’t say “Enjoyed,” because I did not always enjoy it. In fact, as a teenager, I rebelled against much of what my parents endeavored to instill in me.

hazel summers peterson

As I contemplate yet another Mother’s Day without my mother—Hazel Margaret (Summers) Peterson, there are at least three things for which I am eternally grateful.
First, I am grateful for a godly mother. While both parents were active in church, that is not the demonstration of godliness to which I refer, but rather their daily lives—wherever they were—but especially at home. Godliness was not something mother pulled out of the closet for Sundays in church; she (and dad) lived a godly life seven days per week.

Second, I am thankful for a polite mother. While dad demonstrated politeness, it was mother who taught it, at least to my recollection. My brother, sister, and I were taught common courtesy and good manners. Just a few days ago, I said to a friend who had greeted someone walking by him, but was ignored by the passerby, “Sometimes I think that being taught good manners as a child has ruined me for life!”

What I meant by that was this—knowing and practicing good manners in a world filled with rude, unmannerly people, is almost a curse. However, the other person’s ill-mannered behavior is about them, not me. I still greet people as I pass them. I intend to open doors and hold doors for others, whether they say, “Thank you,” or not. (But you can expect me to say, “YOU’RE WELCOME!” quite loudly as they pass by silently!

Finally, I am appreciative of a thoughtful mother. She was thoughtful of her family and was industrious in her care of her family. In the early days of my life, she bought patterns and sewed her own dresses. The shirt I wore for my first-grade picture, mother had made. Quilting in the winter months was more than a hobby to her! (And I think I could still quilt using the tiny stitches that she taught me to make, but don’t tell the men!)
Mom was thoughtful of others beyond our home.

Whether she was baking, canning, cooking, she made more than enough for our family. There was usually some for others in the community and church. I’ve often wondered if she did those things by design or if it was just second nature. Perhaps if it was by design in the early years, it became a natural extension of who she was until the end.

Even in death, she was thoughtful. I’ll never forget the Friday morning when life support was removed. Once the medical team had removed everything but the leads to a heart monitor, they exited the intensive care unit, leaving mother and me alone. Her heart rate gradually slowed until there remained only a flat line. She was gone.

Wiping my own tears away before entering the ICU where dad was, I stood by his bedside for a few seconds, then looked him in the eyes and quietly said, “She’s gone, dad.” We both spent several minutes silently crying. Finally, I softly said, “I suppose you want me to call Bud.” Bud Coomer and dad had grown up together and Bud was the head mortician at Mynatt’s Funeral Home in Fountain City (TN).

Dad looked me in the eyes and answered. “Your mother and I discussed the details last Friday. Look in her closet and you’ll find a garment bag. Take that garment bag to Bud. Everything he will need is there.” She assumed that she would die from breast cancer, not from a car crash caused by a drunk driver. Either way, she was thoughtful. She had prepared every detail.

BTW, are you prepared? The Good Book says, “It’s appointed unto man once to die.” There’s a date on the calendar at some point in your future that has your name written on it—your appointment with death. Have you made preparation?

I don’t mean the clothes and jewelry that you’ll be buried in, but rather the preparation here on earth that determines your destination for eternity. If you haven’t, there is no better time than today to repent of your sin and accept the payment that Jesus Christ made in your behalf over 2000 years ago on Calvary.

hazel-peterson-and-dale-peterson-circa-1954 (1)

Two Tough Days

For twelve consecutive years now, the last day of September and the first day of October have created a strange tension for this father of five.  On the morning of 30 September 1974, in Rochester, Michigan, the second of my five children, and the first of three sons, was born.

However, on the morning of 01 October 2006, USMC Captain Justin Dale Peterson was killed while he and his team were returning from a mission in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.  Twelve years after the phone call from my daughter-in-law Patty that radically impacted my life then still carries and indescribable impact.

This morning, 30 September 2018, as I spoke to a church audience, out of nowhere I was once again ambushed by my emotions.  In a manner of Nano-seconds, my mind raced through two phone calls of that Sunday twelve years ago.

The first was from my youngest son Joshua, also deployed with the USMC in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.  In the SBC Association apartment where I was staying in Illinois, I  was almost dressed and ready to leave for my speaking engagements that day.  Joshua’s words are forever etched into my mind.

Don’t talk, dad—just listen—because I’m not supposed to be on the sat phone.   I need you to pray.  We’re going on our first mission today and we’ve already had a Marine fall somewhere in Anbar Province this morning.  I love you, dad!  Bye.

joshua 2006 iraq 1

The second call came while awaiting our late evening meal in a small restaurant in Sparta, Illinois.  Excusing myself from the table and making my way to the door, I answered the mobile phone to hear a barrage of soft-spoken questions from my daughter-in-law Patty.

Dad, where are you?  Are you driving?  Are you alone?

After replying that I was in Sparta, Illinois, with the pastor and his wife at dinner, and not driving, Patty continued:

Dad, Lt. Col. Hermann just left the house … 

Fast forward from that eternally long night in 2006 to today, Sunday, 30 September 2018, and tomorrow, 01 October 2018.  Life has continued for all concerned; however, adjustments have been required of every family member and friend of Justin—especially his wife and children.


(Patty and two of Justin’s three children—Jayden and Caitlin)

Let’s jump from “my story” to your story for a moment.  Is there someone in your life that you love but time, distance, or circumstances strain your relationship?  Take the necessary steps to rekindle that relationship while time permits.

Has death snatched someone from your life that you miss dearly?  Do you experience a heartache that almost consumes you?  Nothing in this life can bring them back.  However, that does not mean that you are without hope!

I’ve been reminded of (and even distracted by) this very concept by a new television show that has been playing in the background as I write.  It was about a young man who received a friend request from God.

Therein lies a hope on the horizon of your life that can supersede your greatest expectations.  Like the Old Testament writer penned, “Hope thou in God!”

BTW, do you pray?  If so, would you pray for my family and me?  These two days each year bring with them a measure of stress and grief.  Each of us tries to fix our focus on the pleasant memories (and there were many) and funny events (and, believe me, there were certainly many of those), but there remains a void in each of us.

We recognize that our voids and heartaches are temporary, that we will see Justin again one day.  However, we still experience a measure of sadness, though we do not sorrow like we have no hope.

While you’re praying, why not remember the countless thousands of families around you who must deal with the sadness that comes to everyone when a friend or family member slips past and into eternity ahead of us.


Freedom … for you

Every Memorial Day weekend for decades has found me somewhere across our country, addressing audiences regarding the purpose of this hallowed time of remembrance.  Sunday, 27 May 2018 was no exception.  To my heart, spending time with Pastor Bill Herald, his wife Phylis, and their congregation had special meaning for this Gold Star dad.


Although yesterday’s morning service was at First Baptist Church of Crystal Lake (IL), almost twelve years ago, on Sunday, 01 October 2006, I had also spoken for Pastor Herald at First Baptist Church of Sparta (IL).  You see, it was after the third service of the day that Bill, Phylis, and I were awaiting our late-evening meal at a local restaurant, when I received a phone call that would change my life.

My daughter-in-law Patty, after asking where I was, if I was alone, and if I was driving, broke the news to me that her husband—my oldest son Justin—had been killed that morning in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.  I will forego any attempt to describe the impact of that brief phone call.


However, as I spoke to the wonderful congregation yesterday in Crystal Lake, there was an inexplicable chemistry in the auditorium as I spoke, but one that comes when an audience knows that the speaker really understands experientially the subject of his address.  Also, the day was special to my heart because I was sharing time yesterday with the two friends who were there for me when I received that devastating news.

As I’m composing this essay, another friend—an OR nurse from Commerce Township (MI) texted, asking “How do you separate your pride from your pain?”  My answer: “I think it’s inseparable on a day like this.”  Perhaps that harnesses the very purpose of Memorial Day—meditating on the pride in the shared values that have made America the greatest nation in human history as well as the painful price that has been paid.

Reality is this—one percent of Americans shoulder the responsibility of the military safety and security for the remaining 99%.  Some of the 99% will mistake Memorial Day as a time to celebrate freedom … and I understand.  However, that is the purpose of the 4th of July.

Others of the 99% will thank the men and women in uniform for their military service.  While that is well and good, that is the purpose of Veterans Day each 11 November … and I understand.  A few (and I hope it is no more than a few) may celebrate the holiday but forget altogether the sobering significance of this day.

However, on this day there are families across this land who truly understand that America should observe, not celebrate, Memorial Day.  They have no trouble remembering because they can never forget … and I understand.


Neither our Fallen nor their Gold Star families want your pity or sympathy.  We want your respect, your remembrance, and your gratitude for the freedom you enjoy, 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—a price they paid for you.  Children graduated from kindergarten, high school, and college, but without a parent to cheer their accomplishment.  They did not ask to pay the price, but the price was still paid—for you.

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Patty and Caitlin Peterson

BTW, do you pray?  If so, wouldn’t today be an excellent time to press the ”Pause button” for a few minutes of your day, try to imagine the sacrifices of others—for you—and speak your gratitude to the ears of The Almighty God?  I know that the extended Peterson family would appreciate your remembrance of U.S. Marine Corps Captain Justin Dale Peterson.

Now … as soon as I hit the “Publish” button, I think my wife and I will fire up the red ’65 Cutlass and drive up to Great Lakes National Cemetery and express that gratitude in person.



After seeing comments and photos on Facebook, and with Mother’s Day looming only hours ahead of us, my mind has turned to thoughts about my mother—Hazel Margaret Summers Peterson.  While some of us think of our mothers every day, I find it sadly interesting that we require a special day each year on which to “remember” our moms (“Mums” for my British friends!).

While my younger brother Dennis and much younger sister Gina still call her “Mother,” somewhere along life’s journey I began calling her “Mom.” That notwithstanding, the three of us think of her daily and are eternally grateful that she was our mother.  It’s safe to say that we are mostly grateful for the principles of life she and Dad instilled in us.


Dale, Gina, & Dennis

Both Mom and Dad were apparently popular in school.  By their senior year at Halls High School, they were class officers.  Though a small graduating class by most standards today, that class remained a close-knit group for decades—until death has eliminated almost all of them.  I suspect that those who stepped from time into eternity are still holding annual class reunions in a heavenly park somewhere.


Following high school, Mom enrolled in and graduated from Knoxville Business College, and served as an executive secretary until just before I was born in May 1950.  After that, her focus was primarily her home, family, friends, and church.  Though a tiny woman, Mom could out-work most men, and she took immense pride in everything she did.

Some of my family and friends poke fun at me for being OCD.   I’ve never considered doing things neatly and orderly as being either obsessive, compulsive, or a disorder.  If you’re going to fold towels, fold and store them neatly!  If you’re stowing the groceries in the cabinet or fridge, put them in neatly with the labels facing out!  But I digress …

Our mother was beautiful “inside and out,” though I generally dislike that phrase.  By breakfast time each morning, she was up and dressed.  We seldom saw her in the kitchen in her night gown, robe, and slippers.  To this day, I still make the bed when I get up, brush my teeth, wash my face, and comb my hair before going to the kitchen for coffee each morning.

I’m not sure how much Mom was a contrast to other women in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, but she would be a huge contrast today.  I understand that things change with time but am not convinced that modesty should have.  Despite her beauty, and since Mom was a picture of modesty, I can’t picture Mom leaving her bedroom wearing only  thin, colored tights and a skimpy, tight top, let alone going out in public dressed like that.

hazel summers peterson

However, there was that time at a formal dinner in our dining room at home!  I don’t remember who the guests were, but all the men were in suits and ties, the women were dressed to one step short of formal gowns.  Everyone was seated along either side of a perfectly set table (Mom taught OCD), with Dad and one end and Mom at the other.

Whether she had forgotten something in the kitchen or just needed to bring in the freshly baked rolls, I don’t recall, but pushing back her chair, Mom stood to her feet.  When she did, her dress skirt (with about 20 buttons down the front) dropped to the floor!

Faster than the skirt hit the floor, Mom’s face went blood-red, and she quickly but gracefully seated herself again, hoping no one noticed.  How she managed to get her skirt back on, I haven’t a clue, but I’m sure she found a way to do it—gracefully.  I doubt she ever wore that skirt again!

That reminds me of another time … same dining room … different guests, because I’m guessing she never invited the other people back!  Everything was on the table and the food had been passed around.

Amongst the culinary offerings on everyone’s plate were small, round, pickled beets. After a few bites of food, Mom attempted to cut one of the beets on her plate using only her fork.  As fate would have it, the fork popped the whole beet off the plate and down the front her white, silk blouse.  In its path, from where it hit near her neck and slid or rolled down her blouse into her lap, was a bright purple/red stain!

Yes, Mother’s Day is a wonderful time to contemplate the numerous aspects of our relationships with our mothers.  My siblings and I were fortunate enough to have a godly, wonderful mother.

Not everyone had (or has) a great mother, but whoever your mother is, be thankful that she gave you the gift of life.  I often contemplate the lives of two of our grandchildren who were adopted by Brandon and Charity, my son-in-law and oldest daughter.  While the two children will know little or nothing about their birth mothers, they will experience the love of a godly mother and father, just the same!

BTW, do you pray?  Perhaps right now would be a wonderful time to stop and pray!  Perhaps you need to express your gratitude to God for the woman who gave you life at the very least.

However, whether your mom was absent, lousy, or wonderful, understand this.  What you do with your life now isn’t about her—it’s about you and the choices you make each day.  Be your best.  Make the best of each day.  If you are a mother, be the best mother you can be.

Happy Mother’s Day, moms!


Another David & Jonathan

Around the globe each Sunday there are churches who transfer pastoral leadership from one man to another. This occurs for a myriad of reasons, including death, geographical relocation, and retirement. One such congregation is the First Baptist Church of East Longmeadow, Massachusetts.

Earlier last Sunday morning, my best friend of more than 40 years—Pastor Dave Brown—passed the baton of pastoral leadership to John Kearns. Dave had piloted successfully their ship for more than 26 years.

It was my privilege to speak for 6-8 minutes and sing prior to Dave’s final message as lead pastor. His last message was his closing sermon for a series encouraging the congregation toward their future. The talk that I heard guarantees a solid foundation on which future ministries can be built.

Over a quarter-century ago, the FBC congregation prayerfully made a decision that changed the courses of many people’s lives, when they enlisted the services of Dave Brown, calling him to relocate from the hills of southwestern Pennsylvania to East Longmeadow, Massachusetts.

While the church body settled into their homes as usual after school & work, a much younger couple packed up all they owned, uprooted themselves & their four young children, moved onto Parker Street, & chose the people of that church & community as their new friends.

I know the congregation laughed, wept, & worked together for 26 years. There were defeats, disappointments, distresses, & discouragements—as is the reality of life. There were also accomplishments, growth, & victories—all the result of their perseverance.

As of yesterday, that community of believers wrote the closing actions & attitudes of yet another chapter in the rich history of First Baptist Church of East Longmeadow. They are penning to some extent the closing words of this chapter of the lives of Beverly & David Brown as well.

With this milestone in the life of my friend Dave Brown, I realized something. While that church’s relationship with Pastor Brown began 26 years ago, our friendship that began almost half a century ago was a modern-day version of David & Jonathan.

When I spoke to the congregation in East Longmeadow, I wanted to leave three basic thoughts with them on the occasion.

First, to them as a congregation—I thanked them for loving & for caring well for my best friends & their extended family. I asked them to spend some time reflecting on the investments that Pastor Brown had made in their lives, and to then thank God & thank the Brown’s.

Secondly, I wanted to address the Brown family. I am thankful for the sacrifices that each family member made so their husband, dad, or Papa could give so much of himself to the scriptures & to the sheep of that pasture. I cautioned them to never resent that, but rather be thankful that Dave Brown’s heart has been big enough for God, for them as a family, AND for all who called First Baptist their church home.

Finally, the best thing that I could say to Dave Brown—thank you for being my friend who has stuck closer than a brother, sharing common values & vision, & in a way few men ever grasp—except Jonathan & David. We truly have shouted together in victory. We have wept together in heartaches.

Apparently, I didn’t realize that we were supposed to retire together! {grin}

BTW, do you pray? If so, would you pray for my friends Bev and Dave Brown as they transition from his senior pastorate to whatever God has next for them? Thanks!


One of my favorite Alan Jackson songs is the rather nostalgic Remember When. The lyrics reflect the years from the beginning of his marriage, the deaths of loved ones, learning from mistakes, and listening to the pitter-patter of their small children were small. The song also includes reflections of 30 seeming so old, but also a commitment to each other, when they grow old and gray, to be glad rather than sad, and thankful for the lives they had.

I like that song! Here’s a link to it, if you’d care to hear it before continuing to read, go to for a video.

This weekend is one of those times of year when I need to keep that kind of focus. Eleven years ago, on 30 September my oldest son, USMC Captain Justin Dale Peterson, turned 32 years old. There was no celebration as civilians might think of a birthday—Justin and his team were on a mission in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.

The next morning, while returning from that mission, 01 October 2006, Justin was killed. Suddenly, life was changed, disassembled, rearranged, indeed. But “the siblings,” as my children and their spouses referred to themselves, gave me a wonderful perspective by the examples they set for anyone who was listening or watching. They still do today.

Here it is: Like the song, they chose to focus on the life of Justin that they enjoyed together, rather than concentrating on the loss. Yes, believe me, the loss is always there, but our losses can be tempered by the joys of life—if we so choose.

So, this morning as I pulled on a pair of western boots, it was with the purpose of remembering when … and I can’t tell you how many times this morning I’ve smiled and laughed, even through tears. Even the boots I’m wearing tell something of a bigger story.

As a young boy, Justin was fond of his “cowboy boots,” and never drifted very far from them at any time. His two sons—Jared (JDP5) and Jayden (JDP6)—seem to have that DNA chromosome as well. The boots (pictured below) were left behind by Justin when he deployed to Iraq, and beside them is a pair of Jayden’s.

Jayden’s & Justin’s boots

Just a few days ago, Jayden’s mom Patty texted me a picture that brought laughter, pride, and tears rushing over me. For a part of his costume for Spirit Week at Oakland Christian School, Jayden slipped into this pair of his dad’s boots for the first time—and they fit!

I asked Patty, “Did the boots make him (referring to Jayden) walk pigeon-toed?” Those who knew Justin understand that comment. In fact, you may even have a “Justin story” or memory of your own. If so, his family and friends might like to hear it!

And, BTW, do you pray? If so, would you join the extended Peterson family today, tomorrow, and any other day that Justin comes to your mind, in a prayer of gratitude for his life? Although I still miss my boy, two things come to my mind: He touched a lot of lives, and his family surely loves him and is very thankful that we’ll be seeing him again!

Now, where did I put those Twizzlers????


The news media overflows with yesterday’s “protests” by many NFL players, comments from team owners, and even NBA players picking up the offenses of others—a process apparently begun by Colin Kaepernick last season when he knelt during the national anthem. [He reminds me somewhat of me (a Baptist preacher) in a Catholic church—no real clue about when to stand, when to sit, when to kneel, or what to say!]

Given the current bruhaha amongst us, it seems to me that if anyone on the playing field of American life should understand what is happening, it should be professional athletes. Here’s why—(and I’ll limit my scope to the NFL)—the principles would apply across the boards.

Almost everyone understands there are two sides to every contest—offense and defense. If Mr. Kaepernick (and all the subsequent players who have joined his expressions of concern for a cause)— (I’ll expand this momentarily)—of all people, he should have expected to see pushback. No one should be surprised that whenever one side goes on the offensive, the defense responds, pushes back, and stops advancement.

However, if Kaepernick was the one man setting the example for the offense, then yesterday Mr. Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger, set a perfect example for the defense! While the Pittsburgh Steelers coach, Mr. Mike Tomlin, sought neutral political ground on which to stand, his decision shows a lack of understanding.

If Mr. Tomlin truly understands solidarity and team unity, then he should understand that solidarity and unity as a nation is more important than that of a team of grown men fighting over a piece of pigskin filled with air. However, what escapes an apparently growing number of sports figures, commentators, and everyday citizens, has escaped increasingly many political leaders in our nation’s capital as well—sacrificing our national health for some warped political prowess.

So, in my thinking, I see two examples before me, representing two sides: Colin Kaepernick and Alejandro Villanueva—the one side offensive, the other defensive. One demonstrates a lack of respect for my country (by disrespecting my flag), about as offensive as it gets, while the other exhibits respect and good character, even if it means standing alone.

However, when Mr. Villanueva walked to the head of the tunnel, stood at attention with his hand over his heart, I said to myself, “There’s a great representative of the defense.” It takes character—backbone—to put our highest premium on principles. Principles transcend pigmentation, and it’s high-time that Americans sorted these issues based on principles. While the NFL is filled with tremendous talent, without principles and good character, it becomes a disgrace and dangerous for the health of our nation.

BTW, do you pray? If so, wouldn’t today be a wonderful time to pray for the health of our country? Our national health has little to do with politics or pigmentation, but everything to do with principles—well established for us in the Word of God and in the Constitution of the United States.

A Day of Infamy

The day began much as any other weekday—get the family out the door to school, finish dressing for the day, and stop at the office. This day would also include a drive to Taylor (MI) for a meeting with pastors from across Michigan. Typically, the truck radio was tuned to Detroit’s WWJ all-news radio. Although that Tuesday, September 11, 2001, may have begun routinely, it was about to change.

I muttered about the rush hour traffic along I-96, unaware of the events transpiring in the skies over New York. Governmental agencies were scrambling, trying to locate American Airlines Flight 11 on radar—to no avail—until it crashes into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. At 8:48a, the first live pictures broke in New York City on WNYW-TV. In horror, New Yorkers watched a live feed as more than 100 people, trapped by fire and smoke in the upper floors, jumped to their deaths. But this is only the beginning of horrors.

In the span of less than two hours—before anyone could really grasp what was taking place—thousands of lives had been lost. Let me ask you—Where were you when the world stopped turning on the morning of September 11, 2001?

As we watched in stunned horror, we could not help but recall (Psalm 9:17 KJV) The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” Could there be a man or woman alive who witnessed these horrific scenes who was not wondering, “What is happening to America?”

Surely, such a series of tragedies should serve as a clarion wake-up call for Americans to soberly contemplate—“God, what do you want us to see, to understand, to learn from these attacks?” Although man may have meant it for evil, is there some good that God can bring from this?

Just before midnight & just before retiring 16 years ago tomorrow night, President George W. Bush penned into his journal these words: “The Pearl Harbor of the 21st Century took place today … “

Indeed, as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stated in his speech to Congress, “Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States was suddenly and deliberately attacked … “

Today—11 September 2017, we are commemorating a day of infamy. Let us never shy away from the searing memories of that September day, lest we forget the price that was paid by innocent people who were ruthlessly slaughtered as they were just doing their jobs.

Let us never forget the price paid by the heroes who risked and gave their lives in an honorable attempt to save as many lives as they possibly could before they themselves paid the ultimate price. Neither should we forget those brave men and women who risked their lives in service to their fellow man, and who will live with the haunting memories and physical handicaps for the remainder of their natural lives.
BTW, do you pray? If so, wouldn’t right now be an appropriate time to thank God for those Americans—both living and deceased—who performed beyond their natural abilities during this crisis which has changed and challenged America?

Today, we are also considering a nation in decline. Sadly, the warning signs are everywhere; the caution flag is out. However, the child of God should not be shocked as we review the events of the last sixteen years, especially in light of 2 Timothy 3 as a prophetic template.

This know also that in the last days, perilous times shall come … For men shall be lovers of their own selves … Covetous … Boasters … Proud … Blasphemers … Disobedient to parents … Unthankful … Unholy …

Without natural affection … Trucebreakers … False accusers … Incontinent (or lacking sexual control) … Fierce (meaning aggressive and violent) … Despisers of those that are good

Traitors … Heady (impulsive and rash in behavior) … High-minded … Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God … Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof …

These also resist the truth … Men of corrupt minds … Reprobate concerning the faith … But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived …

Those of us who know the Word of God and the God of the Word must understand two critical things. First, these are the last days and the human picture will not be a pretty one, but rather a scene that declines from bad-to-worse.

Secondly, as believers, we’re called upon to remain faithful, fervent, fearless, and fruitful. Faithful does not mean a fatalistic outlook on life; neither does it mean that we resign ourselves to thinking that our lives cannot or will not make a positive difference on the world in which we live.

Faithfulness does mean that we fearlessly set our sights toward the future, believing that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us for His cause. Faithfulness does mean that we throw ourselves into the battle for eternal souls throughout our world, since God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

Again, I ask, do you pray? If so, today is an excellent time to renew our commitment to God, presenting our bodies as living sacrifices in His service, that by all means available to us, we might save some. Why not pray that kind of commitment prayer to God, wherever you are today?

Finally, on this sixteenth anniversary of 9—11, I am not only commemorating a day of infamy, and considering a nation in decline, but I am also calling a people to action. At 7:24 pm, September 11, 2001, members of Congress joined together on the steps of the United States Capitol and sang, “God Bless America!”

While I firmly believe in that great song—made famous by vocalist Kate Smith—Congress should have been leading this nation in prayers of repentance, giving God a viable reason to bless America. They did not do so, and based on the track record of the last 16 years, they apparently had no intention of doing so.

However, my question is this—even if Congress will no longer truly embrace the principles and precepts that our founding fathers held dear, will you? Will the people who claim to know God choose to live like we know Him?

(2 Chronicles 7:14 KJV) If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble
themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear
from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

While we may sing of God’s blessings on America, “obedience is better than sacrifice!” … how much pressure from without and from within will it take to bring America to our knees in repentance? We need leaders whose character runs deeper than the latest photo op.

Has sixteen years laden with disasters not captured our attention? If the vicious attacks of 9-11 didn’t turn our nation to God, what will it take? How many Hurricane Katrina’s, Harvey’s, and Irma’s will be enough wake-up call for us? Are we even listening?

God will not force us to obey and follow Him, whether as individuals or as nations. However, throughout history the bitter consequences of disobedience traditionally do one of two things—either lead us to repentance or further harden our hearts in further resistance.

A wise young leader of a nation once stated, (Joshua 24:15 GWT) But if you don’t want to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve … (but) … my family and I will still serve the LORD.”

My appeal to you is simple: Make a fresh commitment to God today to become a man or woman if influence for Christ. With Elijah of old, I say to you, (1 Kings 18:21 KJV) How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him.

It is insufficient for modern believers to drift along ambivalently or complacently in these closing moments of time, considering that the eternal destiny of millions of people is at stake. We must be sober and vigilant and, as I stated earlier, fearless, fervent, faithful, and fruitful.

BTW, do you really pray? If so, then now would be the best time. Here’s my prayer today:

Heavenly Father, I come to you this morning with sober heart, mind, and spirit—sober because of my own sin, because of the sins of our nation, and because I recognize that your spirit will not always strive with us, and because you have given us ample opportunity to repent.

I come into your presence at this very moment realizing that as a nation, we have forgotten you as our God, realizing that you would much prefer that we repent voluntarily of our sin than for us to be judged by your righteousness for it.

As best as we know how, we humble ourselves before you now, praying, seeking your face, and determining to turn from our wickedness. We also come, throwing ourselves upon your mercy—that you will hear our prayer from heaven, that you will forgive our sin, and that you will heal our land.

We pray for those who lead us at every level of government—that your spirit might move mightily upon their minds, that your hand would turn the king’s heart where you desire—that your people might have rest and enjoy peaceable lives, even in a world filled with turmoil, wars, and rumors of wars.

We especially pray for the families of our nation who have an empty seat at their mealtimes because a loved one paid the ultimate price, honorably serving the people of this great nation.

Further, I pray that this date of infamy will lead many to newfound faith in Christ and believers to a renewed commitment to standing firm in their faith, as well as becoming proactive as citizens at the ballot box—voting the principles and precepts that they profess to believe. And, God, we want to live in such a way that our lives give you reason to bless this nation once again, and our prayer will always be God bless America!

In the name of the One who saves to the uttermost, Jesus Christ, Amen.