Category Archives: Ministry

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.

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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.

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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.

DALE BEN AT GLNC 2006

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.

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REMEMBERING MOM

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

DALE PETERSON MINISTERING IN UK

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!

REMEMBER WHEN

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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTA2buWlNyM 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????

UNDERSTANDING

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.

Another Empty Seat

On Thursday, 13 July 2017, a friend of hundreds of people (especially in the figure skating world), Mr. Terry Watson, quietly stepped across the threshold of death from time into eternity.  Only a couple of weeks earlier had he, his family, and friends learned of the diagnosis—advanced, stage-four pancreatic cancer.  I wrote a brief blog only minutes after learning of Terry’s death.

Unbeknownst to anyone else, and not knowing what my role might be with this precious family, I worked (and cried) for several hours, preparing thoughts in a Word document, just in case I was asked to do Terry’s funeral.  Per his wishes, Terry had a “living funeral” at Detroit Skating Club only days earlier, providing an opportunity for those who could make it there to say their goodbyes while he could still hear them!

Now, I want to share some of those thoughts, to bring focus, encouragement, & consolation to all who read them.  It is my prayer that these words may become a focal point of comfort & blessing to those bereaved by Terry’s passing.

One of life’s greatest blessings is the privilege of building relationships with other people.  (That makes times like this simultaneously difficult & comforting.  Whilst we’re born into some relationships, we must build them in order to maximize them.  Other relationships are built from scratch into great marriages or friendships.  Such was the case with two friends in the Old Testament—David & Jonathan.

(1 Sam 20:18 KJV) Then Jonathan said to David, Tomorrow is the new moon: & thou shalt be missed because thy seat will be empty.

Those two phrases speak an inescapable reality that must be confronted.  The Watson family demonstrated a remarkable togetherness for decades, especially in recent weeks with Terry’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.  Further, the out-pouring of concern & love expressed to them by the Detroit Skating Club was remarkable as well.

Consider those two short phrases for a moment.

The seat of a son is now empty, and he will be missed.  Please understand that, when I make that observation, this is something I have experienced.  To lose a child—regardless of their age—is one of the most heart-wrenching experiences a parent can have.

Further, the seat of a spouse is now empty.  Earlier, during a phone conversation between Di and me, she quietly stated, “I miss him already.  I expect to hear his voice any moment.”   What a beautiful testimony this couple has given us by the love they have shown each other in the presence of all who ever knew them.

And Di, what a wonderful legacy you and Terry have given to your daughter Bethany.  When you sense that loneliness creep over you, and feel the emptiness of that chair at the table, remind yourself that, although you loved Terry dearly, God loved him even more.

The seat of a father is now empty, and I know he will be missed—again, something I understand personally.  This is a tough one too, because, although the world has millions of fathers, this one was yours, Bethany, but let me encourage you with something that I have seen in your family.

And, Bethany let me be honest with you—I don’t know exactly how you feel, but from someone whose father died several years ago, let me say this—None of us understands why death reaches its icy fingers into our lives the way it does, but accepting God at His word, we can find comfort, peace, & perspective.

In coming days as you notice that empty seat, & miss your wonderful dad, never forget how much your father loved you.  Terry left you with many noble character qualities as an example that you can follow; so identify them, commit yourself to them, & walk in them.

Death always touches more lives than the immediate family.  The seat of a friend is also empty—and Terry had many friends.  Now, by the hundreds, we’ll be see an empty seat in our circle of friendship, & we will miss him.

Most of us are old enough & experienced enough in the rigors of life to know that friends are made & not met—that if one makes a dozen loyal friends in the run of a lifetime, we’ve done well.  Watson family, you must know that your husband & father was that kind of friend to many people—& especially so to the many skaters whose lives he touched.

Finally, I notice that the seat of a saint is now empty here on earth, but one has been filled in heaven—and that’s the end game, not earth.

Late Friday night, after hundreds of Terry’s friends had spent time honoring him, Debbie, Diane, Terry & I slipped into the Ice Sports Café for a few private moments.  In Di’s words, “We just want to make sure that we’re going to see each other again in heaven.”

As Terry sat on a stool, with the three of us standing around him, I covered some critical bases with Terry before asking him a summary question—one that I’ll ask you momentarily.  While Terry Watson was one of the greatest guys you’ll ever meet in your lifetime, you need to understand something else—despite all the good that he did, he was a sinner!

I could not tell you what one of his sins were—he never confessed to me, & I was always too busy confessing my own—but I know that he was a sinner (that’s the bad news).

(Rom 3:23) For all have sinned & come short …

(Rom 3:10) There is none good, no, not one. 

However, the good news is that Terry confirmed that he had addressed the sin problem & called on the only person who can help anyone with a sin problem—Jesus Christ.

(Rom 10:13) For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Do you realize that the only hope we have of ever seeing Terry Watson again is in heaven—& the only way to get there is by following Terry’s footsteps to the cross of Calvary, & asking Terry’s Savior to become yours.

(Isa 55:6) Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.

It’s at times like these that pastors are called upon to offer words of comfort.  However, I must be honest with you—the comfort needed in times like these is not found me, but rather in the person of Jesus Christ—the God of all comfort.

(John 14:1-3 KJV) (Jesus said) Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, & receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

This leads me to ask—Have you trusted Jesus Christ personally as your Savior?  You see, the relationships we have here in time determine to some extent our level of happiness here on earth.  However, it’s the relationship that we establish here on earth with Jesus Christ that determines our happiness for all eternity in heaven.

BTW, do you pray?  If so, why not take this moment to affirm or reaffirm your relationship with Christ?

Dale on Coronado (CA)

WHAT’S YOUR TOTAL?

We are the persons that the sum of our decisions has made us—for good or for bad. For some folks, that isn’t so bad. However, for a few people that isn’t such a good thing. What do I mean?

Years ago, the late Jerry Falwell and I were on a plane from Lynchburg (VA) to New York City. Before reclining his seat and sleeping, Falwell made this statement: “Dale, it’s more important to learn how to make decisions right than it is right decisions.” While Jerry slept, I scratched my head, wondering what in the world he meant!

The moment our decent began, Jerry sat upright, reached for his electric razor, and began buzzing away the five o’clock shadow. Immediately I asked him to explain exactly what he meant by his statement.

Basically, he explained, life is a series of decisions. Since none of us can or will make them all correctly, it behooves us to learn how to correct them—make them “right”—as we journey along life’s road … which brings me back to my hypothesis—we have become the people that the sum of our decisions has made us.

Unlike inanimate objects, humans have choices, and in some senses, more than ever. Have you shopped in the breakfast cereal aisle?!?! Things don’t make choices—people do! The computer on which I am typing is a wonderful piece of technology, but the person who is typing decides whether it is used for “good” or “bad.”

The same is true for the use of everything, although some people never seem to understand this concept, sadly. Across America several millions of gun owners collect thousands of guns, never harming anyone, while a few thousand people choose to misuse an inanimate weapon to maim or kill. Unwise people focus blame on the weapon rather than on the person who chose unwisely.

But, before we get to the end, let’s start at the beginning, which already presents a problem—we’re all bad! As Rush Limbaugh says, “Don’t doubt me on this!”

There is none good, no not one … For all have sinned and come short … (Rom 3:10, 23)

Just don’t focus so much on the beginning that you forget that the ending doesn’t have to look the same as the beginning. You have choices. You can make decisions that can change a bad beginning into a wonderful ending!

For whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Rom 10:13)

The greatest “good” decision that an individual can make is to admit that he/she is “bad,” and trust the one and only “good guy” (Jesus Christ) at His word: Whosoever cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out. (John 6:37)

BTW, do you pray? Have you ever asked God to do for you that which you cannot do for yourself—give you everlasting life? If not, would you make the choice to do so right now? Tomorrow may be too late … but right now never is!

Seek the LORD while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near. (Isa 55:6 NLT)

For those who have made the decision to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, you do understand that a lifetime of decisions is still yours to make, right? You will not make them all correctly, so why not ask for God’s help each day to guide you in making wise decisions as well as the wisdom to correct the bad ones along life’s trail?

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)

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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