Tag Archives: Memorial Day

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

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Memorial Day 2013

Memorial Day is one of my favorite patriotic holidays, along with July 4th and Veteran’s Day.  However, as I endeavor to focus my attention this weekend on the true meaning of Memorial Day, I find myself distracted.

Frankly, America has become a mess from the top down, beginning in Washington, D.C.  As a nation that has experienced freedom at levels unprecedented perhaps in human history, it is because from the beginning, we have been ruled by laws.  Early on, these laws were modeled after the Great Law-Giver.   However, modern political leadership apparently has little regard for law—and this in spite of the fact that many of them are lawyers!

No matter how many degreed attorneys may hold political and bureaucratic offices, they apparently lack good character at the very core of their being.  Modern America continually arrives at new lows where leadership without godly character has taken us.  I sometimes wonder if there are any men and women of honesty left inside the beltway, or many state houses, for that matter!

Before you disagree, consider what is at the core of the current scandals in our country’s capitol, oval office, and treasury department—each of them reverberating with dishonesty.  One does not need a law degree to understand that anyone sworn into these offices has taken an oath to uphold the laws of the land and the sovereignty of the United States of America.

When those elected deliberately vote contrary to our laws or best interest, it is a violation of their oaths and, in my opinion, treasonous.  One example of this—any senator voting in favor of a United Nations treaty that infringes on the Constitutional rights of American citizens, as Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow recently did.

When America is subjected to scandals like the IRS debacle, our citizens should expect a housecleaning, not excuses, buck-passing, pleading the fifth amendment, or token terminations of a few.  Is there anyone left in Washington who understands and exercises personal responsibility?

Then there is the colossal screw-up of Benghazi.  If grassroots America could know the truth about what happened surrounding that fiasco, the decisions, the events, and the motivations behind it all, I’m guessing there would be such outrage that all of Washington would be cleaned out.  (Hey! Not a bad idea!)  But when leaders are dishonest, they are never forthcoming with the facts and the truth.

But what should we expect from politicians and bureaucrats whose egos and insatiable appetites for power have rendered them little more than addicts of the same?  Many of them run dishonest campaigns to get into office, why should we think they will suddenly become honest once in office?

Perhaps the greater question is this—when will grassroots America stand in sufficient numbers and say enough is enough?  The Tea Party—you know, the movement that the dishonesty of the IRS is making famous—is trying to do this.  Then enter a lot of dishonesty from main stream media and the distortions they toss out in daily doses, and the confusion continues until many amongst grassroots citizens virtually throw their hands in the air and cry out in despair, “What’s the use?!”

Thankfully, a holiday like Memorial Day, properly used, becomes a valuable tool in the thinking and decision-making of those committed to maintaining a strong America—requiring our focus on important things.

Thankfully, our military has historically provided an example—of honor, or courage, and of commitment.  Focusing our minds and hearts on the true meaning of Memorial Day 2013, let’s ask, “For what have they all given their lives?”  Shall their deaths be made vain by our failure to be ever vigilant in defending the freedoms they secured for us?

Thankfully, thousands of airmen, sailors, soldiers, and Marines still do today.  Of my three sons, two are Marines—one works honorably in North Carolina for U.S. Cellular, while the other Marine rests in the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, Michigan.

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Of my two sons-in-law, one is currently deployed aboard the USS Dwight D Eisenhower (CVN 69).  Their character speaks well of our military.  Shall their service (and the sacrifice of their families) be made vain by the dereliction of duty of politicians of lesser character or by an ambivalent citizenry?

Thankfully, there is still a truth in this world that could rescue a faltering nation.  It is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14—If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.  (NJK)

BTW, do you pray?  If so, shouldn’t the cares of our country concern us and compel us to pray?  But the appeal of that verse, which reflects the very heart of God for you, me, and our country, entails more than pray.  It entails turning from our wickedness and turning to Him in repentance—brokenness over our wickedness.

The scary part of that process may be this—we can’t pretend repentance before God.  So, while you’re flipping your burgers and brats this Memorial Day 2013, remember those who have paid the price for our freedom; reflect on personal responsibilities as American citizens; and resolve to be a man or woman of character and principle.

MEMORIAL DAY 2012

Last weekend my ministry journey had taken me to the Springfield (MO) area of the USA, while this weekend we’re in Springfield (MA)—with a focus on Memorial Day.  Long before two of my sons became Marines and my son-in-law became a dentist in the Navy, Memorial Day had become a special American “holiday” for our family. 

Using the word holiday to describe this sacred time and use of that term may have led our nation away from the true meaning and purpose of Memorial Day.  Although I am all for parades and picnics, and have nothing whatsoever against using this weekend to mark the unofficial beginning of summer, we must not allow the true meaning to be obscured or upstaged by the other activities. 

One of the first men that I met upon my arrival at the Cedar Bluff Baptist Church in Fair Grove (MO) last Sunday was a World War II veteran.  One of the first things I said to this wonderful gentleman was, “Thank you for your service to our country, sir!”  His response was so typical of the men of that generation.  With no hesitation, he retorted, “It’s was what I wanted to do.  The day I turned 19, I went and signed up!” 

Sitting and chatting with that elderly World War II veteran, I was once again reminded of the importance of protecting the purpose of Memorial Day.  While its companion holiday (Veterans Day), celebrated in November each year, is for the living who have served or are serving our country, this weekend is a solemn reminder of the high price of freedom. 

Americans enjoy a level of freedom that few people in our world enjoy.  Yet, I fear, we take it for granted; but therein is the purpose of Memorial Day—remembering and honoring those who have paid the ultimate price to purchase the freedoms we enjoy. 

It is common knowledge that America is in trouble on many fronts.  We must not allow ourselves the luxury of sailing carelessly through the perilous waters in which we find ourselves.  Memorial Day offers us a prime opportunity to reflect on the past, analyze our present peril, and commit ourselves to helping to correct our national course, securing these freedoms for our posterity. 

America needs an old-fashion revival of living out the principles on which we were founded.  While the Constitution of the United States seems to have little meaning in Washington, DC anymore, grassroots America is awakening to the importance of that aged document and the wisdom that erupts from it. 

Further, our nation needs an old-fashioned revival of parenting as well.  Anyone walking through their local shopping district in America today can see and hear that often three-year-olds are in charge of their thirty-year-old parents, rather than the other way around.  We are not living in a time when we as parents can subcontract the high responsibility of educating, mentoring, and training our children and grandchildren—academically or spiritually.

As we successfully assume and execute these principles (and in the context of parenting especially), I believe we will also see a new level of national pride—an old-fashioned revival of patriotism!  Let’s allow the tears to flow on this Memorial Day 2012 as we reflect on those who have given their lives to secure our freedoms.  When we have done so, we can experience a much higher level of celebration on the Fourth of July, and great appreciation for those who serve in our Armed Forces on Veterans Day!

BTW, do you pray?  If so, join me this weekend in praying for …

  • Those families who have an empty seat at their table, because their loved one gave all
  • God to touch our hearts, stir in us, and change us into people of greater gratitude
  • For our nation to return to the principles that once made us great
  • That God will use my Stateside ministry SALUTE! to inspire believer-citizens into great action for Christ and for country!

 

 

LET THE CEMETERY SPEAK

Since childhood, I’ve been privileged to periodically visit Arlington National Cemetery (Arlington, VA), and for those experiences, I will be eternally grateful, because the foundation of respect and values established in the formative years of my life.

Because of my own parents’ values, they made certain that my siblings and I were exposed to the rich geography and history in America, which included numerous visits and vacations in Washington, D.C.  While I was energized many times by running up the stairs to the top of the Washington monument, and intrigued by the wonders of the Smithsonian Institute, I think I was most impacted and influenced by Arlington National Cemetery. 

Ralph, Hazel & Dale Peterson, circa 1954

 

As we walked in silence amongst the headstones, it was as though I could hear the silent shouts of those who had paid the ultimate price for the freedom that I enjoyed, but did not understand at that time.  Of course, there were no audible voices, but in my mind I imagined who these men and women had been in life, the circumstances of their deaths, and the loneliness of their families left behind. 

Visits to Arlington always included the solemn changing of the guard at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier where, in the 1950s and 1960s, when the reverent silence was only broken by the brief and staccato-like voices and crisp clinks of the guards and their boot heels and weapons.  Regrettably, these days there seems to be little reverence or respect, but rather constant movement and even boisterous voices throughout any audience that gathers. 

It’s at times like my last such experience at the Tomb of the Unknowns, which happened to be with my oldest son Justin, a USMC Captain, that I wonder if very many people grasp the significance of such moments and places anymore. 

On this Memorial Day 2011, it would behoove all Americans to set aside some time—at least a few minutes—to quietly but deliberately walk through a national cemetery, not just to see it, but to reflect on what is represented by those rather plain, uniform headstones.  Parents, you could use this holiday for one of the greatest lessons you ever teach your children by a one-hour visit, pointing out numerous lessons and explanations, answering questions, and most importantly exemplifying the respect due to America’s fallen who, by their service and sacrifice, have insured our freedom. 

On that last visit to Washington, my son Justin and his wife Patty took Debbie and me, along with their son Jayden, to the World War II memorial.  As we spoke in hushed tones about what we were seeing and thinking, Justin spotted a young lad, perhaps nine or ten years of age, climbing on one of the memorial’s walls.  As quickly as a flash of lighting, Justin was standing by the young boy, ordering him off the wall, and with the demeanor of a USMC drill instructor (sans the volume) let the unaccompanied minor know that was not proper behavior and that this was not a playground. 

Yep, I was proud of Justin—then and now. And I plan to make my annual Memorial Day stop at the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly (MI) for a time of reflection in Section 5 at Site 595.  Debbie and I will talk softly.  We will probably laugh quietly.  We will cry.  We will pause to gaze across the acres of graves on what was once the property of Mr. Bryson Dexter Horton, the inventor of the “Square D” electrical switch, and remind my precious wife Debbie that what we are seeing is “the price of freedom”—yours and mine—and paid for with the lives of the sons, daughters, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters of those represented by each simple headstone.

Memorial Day at Arlington

Let’s not forget that represented also by each grave marker is an empty seat at dinner tables, a son or daughter whose parent will not teach them how to catch a baseball or swing a bat, a spouse who now bears the family burdens alone, and a parent whose dreams for their son or daughter now reside with honor and respect (as in my own case) in a section and site rather than on a street and in a city. 

Neither let us forget that for those who, like Justin, put their faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ, we who are alive and remain behind have an awesome hope and expectation—we expect to see our loved ones again and therefore do not sorrow because we lack hope. 

Although the world joked and laughed this past week when the prophecy of an unwise preacher who set dates and times for the rapture, I for one still anticipate that great event at any moment.  And since no one knows the day or the hour, I plan to live in such a manner as to be ready to catch up with my son—in a moment—in the twinkling of an eye!

BTW, do you pray?  If so, why not take this Memorial Day 2011 to exercise the discipline of prayer?  Thank God for the countless airmen, sailors, soldiers, and Marines who paid for your freedom?  Ask God to encourage and preserve those who serve, as well as their families who must make-do in their absence.  Appeal to the Lord on behalf of those who have an empty seat at their table, especially for those whose sacrificial experience is still fresh in their hearts and minds. 

And for all Gold Star families in Michigan, coming soon to a Michigan Secretary of State office near you will be a special Gold Star license plate.  Here’s a link to read about it: http://www.michigan.gov/sos/0,1607,7-127–256829–,00.html

Cheers!

Debbie & Dale Peterson

Heroes

(If you’re a family member, friend, or regular reader, you knew this blog was coming, so just  stop now, get your box of tissues, and then continue reading!)

If you could spend time with airmen, sailors, soldiers, and Marines who are recipients of one or more Purple Hearts, one common denominator amongst them would be this—none would admit to being a “hero.”  No matter how valiant they may have been in their own actions, each one would reserve the title of hero for those men and women who paid the ultimate price for the freedom that American citizens enjoy.

Today, my oldest son Justin would have celebrated his 36th birthday, had his life not been cut short by a freak accident in Al Anbar Province (Iraq) four years ago tomorrow.  At least from our human perspective, it would appear that way, because we now can see only through “a glass darkly” (1 Cor 13:12).  However, I anticipate seeing all things clearly one day.  In that moment when my Commander-in-Chief (and I’m not talking Obama—not even close!) points to His perfect purpose and plan for the painful events of this life, even the death of our loved ones will make sense to us—then.

My best guess is this—until then, some things are just going to hurt a bit, and 30 September and 01 October are on my list, to be sure.  Thankfully, our whole family has made adequate preparation for a grand family reunion, so we don’t sorrow unduly, as though we had no hope!  But I digress …

With only 60 years under my belt to-date, I’ve lived long enough to out-live my parents by several years, at least by using the calendar for our measurement.  I don’t know if it’s even possible to “out-live” many of my relatives if we use godly character as the standard.  I try, but sometimes feel like I still fall short of being the man I ought to be or the man that my own father was—and he is one of my heroes.

Interestingly, my son Justin has also become a hero to me.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve forgotten most of the antics he pulled growing up, but forgetting some things is a good thing; after all, our Heavenly Father has forgotten the antics, blunders, and sins that we have pulled!  “Forgiven, I repeat, I’m forgiven!” as the 70s song said—and that means forgotten—and that’s a good thing.

But as I remember Justin interacting with his boys (during the little time they had together), I saw something in him that made me very proud of him.  I cherish the pictures I carry in my mind of him wrestling with Jared or simply walking hand-in-hand with Jayden.  Maybe it’s because I didn’t do enough of that as his dad during the early years. 

Last Saturday, before leaving town to preach, I watched Jayden playing soccer in a YMCA league.  After the game as Debbie and I said our goodbyes, I hugged Jayden and whispered to him how proud his dad would be of him for playing soccer so well (because soccer was always Justin’s game).  Jayden instantly commented, “Papa Pete, I think he saw the whole game!”  Great perspective for a fatherless six-year-old, I’d say.

Then because Debbie and I were leaving right from Jayden’s game, I hugged Caitlin, who was born only a few days before her dad deployed to Iraq, and apologized for not being able to attend her game later that afternoon, but the ever- cheery four-year-old replied, “That’s okay, Papa Pete!  I understand!”  It’s tough to explain to a little granddaughter how proud her daddy would be of her—and not “lose it!”  And I cherish the few photos that I have of the two of them together—my hero and my granddaughter!

BTW, do you pray?  If so, would you pray that via His infinite grace and perfect plan, God would do for the fatherless what they need?  Would you pray for Patty as she rears the children without the mate that made them possible?  Would you also pray for “the siblings” whose lives were made rich because of their brother Justin, and who try so hard to remember him by the laughter but have those moments when they must cry?–and for a mother whose birthday celebrations will always be tempered by the memory of her son’s funeral on the same day?  Finally, would you pray that through it all, each of the Petersons would always find ways to turn our tragedy into triumph … to turn our buffeting into someone else’s blessing.  We don’t want to waste the pain.

In 1971, my friend Gordon Jensen wrote the following song that has blessed my life immeasurably and inspired the book Leave a Well in the Valley which I recently authored.  It describes how I intend to process life’s tough times.

To the valley you’ve been through those around you must go too

Down the rocky path you’ve traveled they will go

If to those learning of your trial you lend the secret of your smile

You will help them more than you will ever know

Blessed is the man who has learned to understand

To become a hand for God to those in need

Yes, then all the tears he’s shed with God’s help become instead

A precious balm that will heal the hearts that bleed

 

So leave a well in the valley—your dark and lonesome valley

Others have to cross this valley too

What a blessing when they find the well of joy you’ve left behind

So leave a well in the valley you go through

 

You see, there can be more heroes than those who die on distant fields of battle.  Each of us can become a hero to someone else by living in such a manner so as to leave a lasting positive impact upon the people within the circle of our own influence.  And since we have no promise of tomorrow, we must leave the legacy in the time we have—today.

And whenever you see a member of America’s military, take a moment to thank them for their service and your freedom!

One chapter in Dale’s recently released book Leave a Well in the Valley addresses the subject “When a Child Is Killed,” and could become a source of encouragement and strength to other parents who have experienced the death of a child.  Leave a Well in the Valley may be purchased at www.dalepeterson.org

Don’t Forget to Remember

On Monday, 31 May 2010, many American’s will celebrate a national holiday, forgetting the true meaning or purpose of the day itself.  However, throughout this great nation, thousands upon thousands of families will remember—in fact, it’s impossible for us to forget, because buried in a cemetery somewhere is a casket that holds the remains of a loved one who paid the supreme sacrifice that we might be free. 

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

However, this day of remembrance must never be limited to a few moments of emotional energies spent merely missing  our friends and loved ones whose lives were cut short during their military service for our country.  We surely must contemplate a bigger picture and the grander scheme of the future looming before us.

For example, we must remember the principles and precepts that lead to the birth of this great nation.  As I write this, I’m seated in my hotel room in Enfield (CT).  In just a few hours, I will address an eternity-bound audience, reminding them, not only of America’s Fallen, but of the price that has been paid from the inception of America—as early as the 1620s.  The founders and the fallen so strongly believed in equality, self-governance, and the rule of law, that they were willing to pledge the lives, fortunes, and sacred honor—risking it all, sacrificing everything for freedom.  In so doing, they kept their honor.

America is a nation at-risk because we’re sluggish in remembering the critical ingredients that have made America great.  Few Americans will reflect any more than I on the people who have fallen—those for whom we have set aside this special day.  But we must remind ourselves that this American holiday is not only about remembering the personalities, but also the principles.

Here in Enfield (CT), two local high schools have scheduled graduation ceremonies in a local church facility that best accommodates  these events—parking, seating, staging, restrooms, etc.  However, the ACLU has filed suit, seeking an injunction, preventing the use of a church facility, with their usual insanity, crying “Separation of church and state!”  Somewhere along their educational track, they must have overlooked a few lessons from history class.

The first public school in America—the Boston Latin School—located only a few hours from Enfield (CT) in Boston (MA), was founded by Reverend John Cotton on April 23, 1635.  Five of the fifty-six signers of the American Constitution attended this school.  Can you imagine?  But the ACLU wasn’t around in those days to protest, threaten, intimidate, and file frivolously insane lawsuits, trying to protect young America’s students from religious symbols and the New England Primer and the Hornbook. 

But the insanity of this distorted thinking by a relative handful in America can only be exceeded by the insanity of good American citizens continually tolerating it!

Perhaps the great need of America today is not another “bailout” from Washington, D.C. but a revival of old-fashioned patriotism—a patriotic fervor built on critical personal ingredients, such as …

Great character.  The good character of leaders past will not suffice for today.  They have all run their leg of the relay race of life.  The baton has been placed into our hands, and we must boldly rise to the occasion, becoming internally what the Good Book instructs us to be, enabling us to do what people of good, godly character should do.

Great conviction.  It is high time that people who profess to know God determine to live like we actually know Him.  Like David of old, facing the giant Goliath against all odds, we must ask ourselves, “Is there not a cause?”  William Bradford thought so, but today’s history revisionists choke on his Mayflower Compact of 1620.  Barbara Fritchie thought there was a cause when she withstood Stonewall Jackson with those famous words, “Shoot if you must this old gray head, but spare your country’s flag,” she said!

Where are the men and women of modern America who are willing to stand, and having done all, stand?  Conviction is the bottom line of all my thinking.  It is what I have concluded as vitally important—important enough for which to live and die. 

Great courage.  Without character, we become dishonest and self-centered—which unfortunately and increasingly describes our country, including many of our “leaders.”  Without conviction, we lose our bearings—our moral compass.  Again, regrettably, this describes our nation—adrift morally.  And without courage, we fail to act on that which we profess to be and to believe.

In two short decades, America has gone from a nation with a president who could courageously say, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall!” to one who apologizes for America to every rouge nation wherever he travels!  That makes those of us with good character, conviction, and courage rather nauseous!

As we approach this Memorial Day 2010, let’s concentrate on and honor our forefathers and the fighting men and women of this nation for their courage, their vision, and their sacrifices.  Let’s remember how precious our rights and freedoms!  Veterans, we honor your service, your courage, and your countless sacrifices at sea, in the air, and on distant fields of battle.  May God continue to bless the great nation, as we give Him reason for doing so.

BTW, do you pray?  America is in desperate need of the prayers of men, women, boys and girls who are on speaking terms with God to plead for the future of the nation we love.  May each of us be found faithful at our post in prayer!

Stabilizing the Foundations

            We live in a great nation, don’t we?  I mean from sea to shining sea, America is a great land in almost every possible way.  Although being Americans makes us better than no one, the fact that we are so blessed by Almighty God augments our responsibilities within the world community.

            Further, living under such great freedom and protection that our nation provides, we as believers also enjoy the freedom that comes through Jesus Christ—the truth that always sets men free.  But we must never forget that these freedoms were handed to us by our fore-fathers. From the earliest arrivals aboard the Mayflower in 1620, they came with a vision, a dream, and a commitment to the Heavenly Father, whom they readily identified and named in their daily prayers for guidance, protection, and sustenance.

            While our president may not know or understand the history of this great nation, I do—and let me take a few moments to remind you from the pages of our rich history, lest any of you might buy into some of what comes from the Oval Office these days—statements like “America is not a Christian nation and never has been.”

1620 Mayflower Compact – “In the name of God … having undertaken for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith … do solemnly and mutually in the presence of God covenant and combine ourselves together … “

1643 Constitution of the New England Confederation – “Whereas we all come into these parts of America with one and the same end and aim, namely to advance the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ and to enjoy the liberties of the Gospel in purity and peace.”

1681 William Penn stated – “Men must be governed by God or they will be ruled by tyrants.

1752 Liberty Bell – inscribed with this verse from Leviticus 25:10 – “Proclaim liberty through all the land and to all the inhabitants thereof.”

1772 Samuel Adams – boldly proclaimed, “The rights of the Colonists as Christians … may be best understood by reading and carefully studying the institution of the Great Law Giver and Head of the Christian Church, which are to be found clearly written and promulgated in the New Testament.”

1776 Declaration of Independence – “ … the laws of Nature and Nature’s God … that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights …

1789 George Washington – in his Thanksgiving Day proclamation said, “Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly implore His protection, aid, and favors … “

1820 Daniel Webster said – “more than all, a government and a country were to commence, with the very first foundations laid under Divine light of the Christian religion … Who would wish that his country’s existence had otherwise begun?  Let us not forget the religious character of our origin.”

1863 Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address – “ … that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

             But something has dramatically changed—something perhaps less visible than an industrial revolution—but something infinitely more damning to our nation than anything we can imagine.  America has forgotten God!  And for the many who have not totally forgotten God, there is often an unprecedented ambivalence and indifference toward His Word and His principles for successful living.

            (Psalm 9:17 KJV) The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.

            Our national dereliction of duty God-ward has brought us to the precipice of ethical, moral, and spiritual collapse!  We have become a nation of politicians without principles and devoid of character—we have to look no further than Detroit, Michigan or inside the Washington beltway to find that confirmation!  Washington, D.C. has become a collective cesspool of dishonesty, graft, greed, and a thousand other characteristics devoid of Godly character!  But American did not begin that way.

            As the character level of America continues to drop, we have become a nation of pleasure-seekers without conviction, businesses without morality, and sciences without humanity.  We have grown fat with knowledge, while starving good character and integrity.  And even our churches are losing our passion for evangelism, while offering a vain worship without sacrifice.

            But, ladies and gentlemen, there are three timeless truths on which I base my eternal hope, as I look past the tragic political events that each day brings, and I would remind you of these three:

  • God is still on His throne—and nothing will dislodge Him
  • God distinguishes between those who are righteous and those who are wicked
  • God is holy and will certainly judge all wickedness

            What then is the great and pressing need of our day as we look at America?  If we listen to the political strategists and Washington’s rhetoric, we need more Democrats or we need more Republicans in office.  If we listen to the social engineers, we need to liberate ourselves and our children from the moralist constraints put on us by previous, prudish generations. If we listen to the secularist educators, the need is for more government money to be thrown into the black hole of humanistic education—an educational system that is increasingly void of God.

(Rom 1:28 KJV)  And even as they did not want to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.

            The great reality is that people need the Lord!  The hope of America is not in electing different politicians, neither is it in shutting down abortion clinics, noble though that may be.  While putting the pornographer out of business and shutting down strip clubs is to be applauded, that isn’t the solution!  Joining the ranks of tree-huggers and hypocritical eco-freaks like Al Gore is wasted time and resources! 

            The solution is exactly what it has always been and where it has always been—In God We Trust!

(2 Chron 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 I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal our land.

            The combined repetitive prophecies of Glen Beck, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and Rush Limbaugh will not turn America around—economically, morally, or spiritually. 

But if the people who know God will draw close to Him, honor and obey Him—will let their lights so shine before men—will determine to be salt with savor—we might be able to rescue perhaps the greatest nation in human history before she plunges headlong over the cliff from which there will be no return.

My pastor Dr. John Marine of the North Auburn Hills Baptist Church asked this question a few Sundays ago:  “Which side are you on?”  Are you a part of the problem or a part of the solution?

(1 Cor 3:11 KJV)  For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

(2 Tim 2:19 KJV) Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.

Remembering

When I returned to my office in Waterford yesterday, my “cup was full and overflowing.”  I have been blessed with five of the most wonderful children for which any parent could ever hope.  But the specific reason my “cup was full” yesterday was because of time spent with my daughter-in-law Patty.  My oldest son and her husband Justin was killed while serving in Iraq almost three years ago widow).  We had just spent seven of the most beautiful hours together. 

Captain Justin Peterson

Captain Justin Peterson

I had picked Patty up at her house at 6:00 in morning  and had driven to the residence of Michigan’s Governor Jennifer Granholm, where about 50 or so of us had breakfast.  This annual gathering is for the parents and spouses of Michigan’s Fallen Heroes.  If the conversation during the ride out to Lansing hadn’t already put us both into tears, the time with other Michigan families who have an empty seat at their table each meal did.

 As we drove away following the breakfast, I asked, “Well, Patty, what would you like to do next?”  “Well, Dad,” she replied, “(do you) want to drive out to Great Lakes National Cemetery?”  An hour or so later, we arrived at the ever-expanding national cemetery.  With groundskeepers putting the finishing touches on everything for Memorial Day Weekend, and with flags blowing in the breeze against a nearly cloudless sky, Patty and I stood beside Justin’s grave and talked, laughed, and cried together.  She shared with me things that I had never known before … things like how she had scattered the ashes of Zoe, Justin’s Rottweiler, in the snow above his grave after his ten-year old pet had to be put down … and how we both have these conversations when we’re there by ourselves as though Justin was listening to our every word (silly to some perhaps, but cathartic to us) … and how she wants just the two of us to drive out in Justin’s “dream machine” – a Jeep Wrangler (Michigan license plate “JDP2”) – with the top off and revisit his grave together sometime this summer.

Patty, Jayden & Caitlin at a Detroit Tigers game

Patty, Jayden & Caitlin at a Detroit Tigers game

 We had also planned to have lunch together that day too, so as we finally drove away from the cemetery, I asked, “So—what do you feel like eating for lunch?”  Patty looked over at me with a mischievous tinkle in her eye and grin on her face and exuberantly exclaimed, “I feel like Mac ‘n Cheese!”  Well, that could only mean one place—the Clarkston Union—Justin’s favorite restaurant in Clarkston, and his standard dish – macaroni and cheese!  For the next hour and thirty minutes we spent some of the greatest quality “father/daughter-in-law” time together that we’ve ever had – laughing, talking, crying, reminiscing, and philosophizing!  And in spite of our losses—she a husband and I a son—we again concluded that life must go on, even when it’s tough.

 And while I have my periodic moments of emotional meltdown, (because I still miss my boy), my pain surely must pale when compared to a young wife and mother who sacrificed her husband for the cause of freedom.  You see, ladies and gentlemen, all across this nation there are untold numbers of wives and mothers who today will be strong for their children, parents, friends, and neighbors, but tonight, when the kids are tucked into bed and are fast asleep, will close their bedroom doors, wonder how they’ll rear their children alone, worry over how to pay the bills, and cry themselves to sleep while clutching a pillow rather than the rock-hard body of their Marine.

Jayden's & Justin's boots

Jayden's & Justin's boots

 And surely, in a nation of 300 million people, I’m not the only grandpa who will set aside my morning’s work to babysit a little three-year-old girl whose daddy went off to war two days after she was born, but whose dad came home in a flag-draped coffin, and will forever be to her the stranger in the photographs and the voice on the recordings of children’s books left behind, lest daddy be forgotten. 

 My friends, don’t let your family forget what Memorial Day is all about.  Put a face on it for them each year.  And when you pray this weekend, include Patty, Jared, Jayden, and Caitlin Peterson in your prayers.  And by all means, thank the Lord for the men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States of America who sacrificed their lives for our freedom, as well for those families left behind who make the sacrifice daily as they awaken each morning to an empty pillow on the other half the bed, and empty seat at the table each meal, and an empty “hole” in their hearts 24/7.

"On behalf of ... a grateful nation ... "

"On behalf of ... a grateful nation ... "

Yet, in spite of the void in our lives, we have a responsibility to each other—as individual families and as Americans; therefore, we face forward and carry on.  Semper fi.

 Cheers!

 Dale (JDP1)

Freedom Is Never Free

Freedom Is Never Free

Memorial Day 2008

Great Lakes National CemeteryIt was gray … overcast. A rain shower had just passed through when I arrived at the Great Lakes National Cemetery. And somehow this year was a little tougher emotionally than last year as I stood there by the grave marker early this morning. “Losing” a son (and I hate that word, since I haven’t LOST a son, since I know exactly where he is) hasn’t been an easy experience.

Carol Chodin from WXYZ-TV (channel 7 news, Detroit) came to the house last night for a story on the true meaning of Memorial Day. It was late.

They were on a tight deadline to get the story on the 11:00p news. I had no time to prepare … and was thankful that the house was clean! Carol really set up the opening question well – stating that while many Americans will see this as a three-day weekend for opening a cabin up north or putting the boat in the water and picnicing with family and friends, she then asked, “What is the true meaning of Memorial Day?”

That was the theme still resonating in my mind as I stood there this morning. Yes, I am very (rightfully) proud of a 32-year-old son who was living out his childhood dream of becoming an officer in the United States Marine Corps. I’m proud of the fact that he was a “Marine’s Marine,” and had earned the sincere respect of hundreds of fellow Marines.

Surely no one would deny their fellow Americans the joy and privelege of recreation on a wonderful holiday weekend like Memorial Day. In fact, this afternoon our family will join together to celebrate Jayden Peterson’s fourth birthday. What irony! On the same day that tears flow from my eyes in a mixture of reasonable and righteous pride in a son whose life was snatched away in the sands of Iraq, we celebrate another year of life for my grandson – Justin’s middle child and youngest son.

But has America become so engrossed in self-centered pleasure that we cannot take time on this special holiday – Memorial Day – to remember with thankful hearts the men and women (and their respective families) who gave their lives for the cause of freedom? Are we in danger of forgetting the price that others have paid for the gift of freedom given to each of us?

BTW, do you pray? If so, would you take a moment … right now … to thank God that since the inception of our great nation, there have always been men and women who were willing to lay their lives on the line to protect us and preserve the freedom which we enjoy? If you do not pray, would this not be a great moment to begin … by speaking words of gratitude to the God of Glory – the God upon whom America has called and depended from our beginning?

And while you’re praying, would you also pray for the thousands of widows, widowers and fatherless children? While God may never replace their spouses, daddies, or mommies, He can give them a special grace and strength to face their future – and they will need it.

Thanks for “listening!” Cheers!