Tag Archives: veterans

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.

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Forgotten? Never!

I drove out to Great Lakes National Cemetery today …

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

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

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

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

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

DALE BEN AT GLNC 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Justin Dale Peterson 2006

Justin Dale Peterson 2006

I Do Solemnly Swear …

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

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

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

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

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

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Celebrating Freedom with a Hero

Celebrating Freedom with a hero, Joe Hutchins 

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Memorial Day 2014

The country music group Alabama, led by Randy from Fort Payne (AL), got it right in one of their old songs, “I’m in a Hurry.” Let me explain my meaning momentarily.

It’s still early morning on this Memorial Day 2014. My morning walk was quiet, sunny, and with no breeze to even stir the American flags hanging limply from several of the condominiums.

Adding to the solemnity of this day, was a small detail  to many people perhaps, but one that hits close to home to this guy—only a few of the colors were properly posted at half-mast. Yes, I understand this is a minute detail; however, I think it represents something larger, though subtle, in our current country and culture, that deserves consideration on this most solemn of American holidays.

Perhaps in the busy-ness of our lives, we take too little time to slow down (another song from another genre—“Slow down, you’re going too fast; we’ve got to make the morning last.”) and think—reflect on life–which leads me back to the Alabama song.

I’m in a hurry to get things done, Oh, I rush and rush until life’s no fun. All I really got to do is live and die, But I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.

Please don’t misunderstand—I’ve lived the majority of my adult life in a hurry, so this essay isn’t about perfect writing, hoping that imperfection will get it together! Quite the contrary—it’s about each of us taking time whenever possible to actually reflect on life and the things that really will matter in the end.

Yesterday, Debbie and I were at CrossRoads Church in Columbus (OH), where I performed my patriotic show SALUTE! for their Memorial Day weekend service. The program includes another country song that draws one to reflection—“Little Folks,” by Charlie Daniels. After walking the listener through childhood, the song conclude with these words:

Little folks slip through our hands like so many grains of sand; We’d best enjoy them while we can—so soon they slip away.

In the show, SALUTE!, the closing visual of that song is a photo of my oldest son Justin and I, walking across a public lawn in Washington DC, with then-one-year-old Jayden (Justin’s second son) between us, holding his dad’s and Papa Pete’s hands. That photo is always a personal reminder that life is fleeting. According to the Bible, life is a vapor that vanishes ever so quickly.

I have no clue what your plans for the day might be for this Memorial Day 2014. However, I hope you will take a few quiet moments somewhere along the trail to think. Think about the countless numbers of lives img050sacrificed for your freedom. One of those lives was my son Justin, a career Marine, but also a husband to Patty and a father to Jared, Jayden, and Caitlin.

BTW, do you pray? If so, while you’re meditating on the price tag of freedom, why not offer your gratitude to God of the freedom and manifold blessing that are ours as Americans? Perhaps you could appeal to the Lord, asking Him, the God of all comfort, to provide a special measure of comfort to those families who observe this somber holiday with an empty seat at their table.

Although Justin Dale Peterson (or JDP2, as he is affectionately known in the family) is missed beyond description by his extended family, it’s safe to say that we understand to some extent that this is the price of freedom. Freedom is not free.

Debbie & Dale Peterson

Debbie & Dale Peterson

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.

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

AMERICAN TROOPS & WASHINGTON

Five years ago today, my oldest son USMC Captain Justin D Peterson, deployed to Iraq, where six months later he was killed while returning from a mission.  This time of year will always be special in my mind, and I traditionally use “milestone moments” for introspection.  Justin’s deployment with a small border transition team is one of those times, in part because it is surrounded with other important family events.

 For example, Justin’s only daughter, Caitlin, was born on 6 April 2006, only hours before his deployment, which had already been pushed back allowing him to be present for her birth.  How could I ever forget that day, since Justin and Patty had been gracious enough to let me stay with them in the birthing suite at Huron Valley Hospital until I had to race to catch my flight to Great Britain?  Forty minutes after saying goodbye to Justin, who had left Patty long enough to walk my wife Debbie and me to the car, he called to say, “Well, Dad, Caitlin’s here!”

Patty and Caitlin Peterson

However, today as I reflect, I am not only recalling tender moments like the one that I have just described, but also realizing the quagmire in which America has sunk, especially relative to those brave men and women in uniform who hazard their lives to keep us safe, and to the families whose fathers or mothers make additional sacrifices in our stead.

As I write today, the “highest leaders” in our land are embroiled in a budgetary stalemate inside the Beltway, and in what has become their standard modus operandi, they play their political games on the backs of and at the expense of the very people they are charged constitutionally with leading. 

Not only does the “establishment” (which includes both Democrats and Republicans) continually operate in such a manner that our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will be laden with an unsustainable debt, they also are quite cautious to take steps to protect their own interests, salaries, and eternal benefits!  It’s time that every elected official at every level of government, especially Washington, D.C., throws himself or herself into a new caution—a caution to truly protect the populous whom they are to represent—even if it means throwing themselves on their own swords, as it were.

The latest political ploy—a government shutdown—appears to have little meaning to Washington.  Oh, I know—they trot themselves in front of cameras at every opportunity and talk—spewing a rhetoric that has worn terribly thin with the grassroots who pay not only their absorbent salary and benefit packages while they (in particular the Obama administration) are now threatening the meager paychecks of our troops and their families. 

Let me be clear—this gets personal, especially when I watch my five-year-old granddaughter blowing out her birthday candles, and I fight back the tears, realizing that this little girl will never know her daddy, other than the pictures and stories that others tell her.  Her mother and brothers are now being threatened with a cash flow shutdown by the very president that swore to uphold the constitution with a genuine concern for the people of this nation—including little girls whose daddies go off to fight for freedom!  

Maybe it would be a great idea for America to stop paying the people that we have elected to represent us in the House, Senate, and the White House until they establish a sustainable budget for each fiscal year.  And when they vote on bills for which they do not appropriate adequate funds, reduce their take-home pay by that same amount—in other words; let the fiscal irresponsibility be borne by the fiscally irresponsible people who fail at doing their jobs. 

Oh, and while we’re at it, why not scrap the special health care and retirement programs they all enjoy at this time and run them through the VA hospitals and Social Security?

Yes, as I reflect today, I’m very proud of my son Justin and his contribution to America.  However, I am ashamed of those men and women in Washington who, under a guise of caring about this great nation, are continually making choices and casting votes that are undermining this country and violating the very principles that lead to God’s blessings and the prosperity of our nation. 

And, just in case I have been too vague, that means that I am ashamed of much of what Barack Hussein Obama has done and is doing as my president.  The same is true for my Michigan Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow. 

BTW, do you pray?  If so, would you join me in praying that somehow, by His miraculous working, God would so speak to the hearts and minds of those we have elected, that once again common sense, honesty, and truth would begin to prevail inside the Beltway, in state capitols, and in local municipalities? 

(Ezekiel 22:30 KJV) And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. 

How desperately we should pray that, as God continually looks for such men and women today, He will find such a person—in Washington, in Michigan, and in my house!

Semper fi, troops!

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

Does Anyone in Get It Anymore?

I have not used the blog to share political opinions, but today will be an exception–an exception which I am considering to make on a monthly basis.  Earlier today, my eye caught an Internet headline that announced “Tea Party Derails GOP Dream.”  I immediately swiveled in my office chair, grabbed a pen and paper, and wrote that down.  Here’s why …

Isn’t the GOP, assuming that means the “leaders” of the Republican Party, supposed to be leading the entire party?  And as a representative form of government, that would also assume a connection between the leaders and those being lead?  My thinking is this–the established GOP appears to be as out of step with America’s grassroots as those they criticize, and that is being reflected because of the grassroots uprising identified as the Tea Party!  Whose dream is this anyway–yours, mine, or ours?  Which leads me to ask, “Does anyone in Washington, D.C. get it?

In Delaware’s close race, the voters chose Christine O’Donnell over Michael Castle.  New Yorkers elected Carl Paladino as their candidate over Rick A. Lazio.  And the word I heard is that the GOP refuses to back those who were elected by the voters.  I guess that identifies whose dream we’re talking about, doesn’t it?  Apparently, it is no longer about the people’s dream, but rather than “establishment’s” dream. 

Uh … does anyone besides me see a tremendous disconnect here?  Isn’t that the same philosophy that is being exercised by the Democrats as they ram through Congress legislation that grassroots America opposes?  And, by the way, one of America’s most memorable speeches (“I Have A Dream,” and spoken from Washington, D.C.) is etched in the minds of Americans because the dream of Martin Luther King Jr. resonated with the dream of many from grassroots America.

The GOP politicos who refuse to back the candidates whom the people elect are being dishonest with America, to my way of thinking–which is as insane as bringing Roger Clemens up on charges for lying to Congress, perhaps the largest collection of “creative-truth-tellers” in the country!  (Don’t misunderstand!  If an individual lies under oath, that should be dealt with–but then again, why is it necessary to be “under oath” in order to tell the truth?)  These men and women seem to promise “the moon” while on the campaign trail, but too many hours inside the Beltway and they forget the promises!  How many times have we heard, “No new taxes!” only to uncover all kinds of hidden taxes?  And don’t even get me started on gun control!

No!  No!  This isn’t really about politics and the media and party affiliation.  Folks, it’s about character (or more appropriately, the lack of it)!  America is clearly fed up with the political sleight of hand that takes place in our nation’s capitol.  And the actions of our current president and congress over the last two years has been no small part of raising the ire of the citizenry.  But how can a populace be so gullible to elect someone who promises such “hope” along with the “change”? 

Clearly, a lack of discernment!  These are times when every American citizen needs discernment.  However, a low-level of character on the part of any nation will not produce discernment.  Good discernment and good character must go hand in hand.  For example, any able-bodied man or woman who refuses to work for a living (a minimum wage job if necessary) and provide for him or herself and the family that is their responsibility will invariably exhibit an entitlement mentality.  I remember a day in America when hard-working Americans were too proud to accept “welfare,” let alone go seeking for all of it they could get.  Many “Americans” have become welfare addicts.  However, people of good character will do right–by themselves and by those around them.

I’m not convinced so much anymore that Washington even understands what “right” is, and if they perchance do, lack the character to simply do what is right.  Let me see if I can help …

RIGHT would be for the federal government to fulfill its responsibility to secure our borders, rather than suing border states who struggle with the negative results of the fed’s dereliction of duty.

RIGHT would be to be honest with mortgage applicants and tell them, “We’re sorry.  Your income will not service this level of debt,” rather than creating federal mechanisms that allow people to “own” homes they cannot afford.

RIGHT would be to acknowledge that “tolerance” is a two-way street in this world and if America is going to allow the Saudis to fund the building of mosques here, then Baptists can also build churches in Saudi Arabia. 

RIGHT would be to say to the nations that American tax dollars have helped to defend and to rebuild in the past, that it’s time they paid their own way and defended themselves for a change.

RIGHT would be to come back to the Second Amendment and allow law-abiding citizens to defend themselves against those who have little if any regard for the laws of the land, rather than the nonsense that is slowly choking our freedoms.  Come on, it’s laughable to think that the deranged individual heading toward the “gun-free zone” will see the sign by the driveway and say to him or herself, “Oh, I can’t go in there with my weapons,” then head back home to deposit them safely there–with ammo in the basement, weapons in the attic, and trigger guards on everything!

RIGHT would be for married politicians to be faithful to their spouses, rather than the unprecedented adultery that gives fodder to a media that thrives on the very things of which we should be ashamed!

I’m reminded of an old “chapel saying” of Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., who died during my freshman year at the university which bore his name:  “Do right!  If the stars fall, do right!”  Where are the men and women of godly character today who are willing to simply do right?!

BTW, do you pray?  If so, knowing that I’ve only scratched the surface of a cesspool of corruption, every one of us who knows the name of God should be calling on Him passionately.  However, it is not enough to pray “God bless America.”  He is a God of principles and precepts, set in motion from eternity past.  One of those is the law of sowing and reaping.  We must give God a reason to bless this nation once again, which will require that we as citizens, and especially Christian-citizens, repent of our wickedness, seek again God Himself, turn from the behaviors that have lowered the character level of a once-great nation, and determine that even if the stars fall, to do what is right.

Oh, and if you haven’t bought my book Leave a Well in the Valley, go to www.dalepeterson.org (my very out-of-date website) and buy a copy now.  I promise, it isn’t political, but it will be encouraging to anyone going through a tough time in life!

Cheers!

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!