The WELCOME HOME replaced with tears.

I originally wrote this post last year.  As I thought about what to write, I realized that what I have to say, I’ve already said.  Of all the holidays we observe in the United States, Memorial Day, at least for me, commands a remarkable level of respect and reverence.  That’s why I want to share this post again this year.  -Art.

It’s Memorial Day! Three day weekend – Woo Hoo! For many of my friends, it’s time to hit the lake! I have a couple friends heading to Indiana this weekend – one is going to the Indy 500. It’s the kick-off of summer and a lot of food will be cooked outside this weekend.

In 1968, Congress passed the “Uniform Monday Holiday Act” which moved four U.S. Holidays, one of which was Memorial Day, to Mondays, thereby creating three day weekends for Federal employees. This law took affect in 1971. Before then, Memorial Day was traditionally observed on May 30th.

“When the will defies fear, when duty throws the gauntlet down to fate, when honor scorns to compromise with death – that is heroism.”  -Robert Green Ingersoll

Headstones, graves

Even as I write this, I struggle for the words to express my heart. While I enjoy the three day weekend and the cookouts as much as anyone, Memorial Day for me demands a solemn respect.  A recognition that I get to live in a truly great country and enjoy tremendous freedom, but that this blessed gift came, and continues to come at a price. A price paid with the blood of the fallen soldiers who won it for you and me.

Memorial Day was born out of grief and loss. Waterloo, NY is officially credited with being the birthplace of Memorial Day. On May 5th, 1866, mourning families set aside a day to place flags and decorations on the graves of their fallen fathers, sons & husbands. This day was originally called Decoration Day.

I can’t help but imagine the war widows and children trying to rebuild their lives after so many of the men in this country fell during the Civil war. The surviving families going to the grave sites of their loved one to honor their memory by decorating their grave. I can’t even imagine the heart pangs of the families, with tears running down their cheeks, laying flags, mementos and flowers on their loved one’s headstone. The families that were longing for their soldier to return. Longing to say “Welcome Home” with a hug and a kiss, only to have it replaced with a reunion of tears.

“These fallen heroes represent the character of a nation who has a long history of patriotism and honor – and a nation who has fought many battles to keep our country free from threats of terror.” – Michael N. Castle

There are some in this country that think the cost is too great. Some say that the United States should never go to war. They are not willing to pay the high price of freedom. I have never lost someone close to me because of war. I can’t speak with any authority about the pain and suffering a family goes through when they lose a daughter, son, husband, wife, father or mother in battle. I can say with certainty though, that through the sacrifice of these men and women, not only our country, but our world is better. They made a difference for us all.

When tyranny has risen over the years and around the world, the U.S. Soldiers, Sailors & Airmen have willingly put themselves in harm’s way for us time and time again. Their mission – to keep us safe and to advance the cause of freedom around the world. This is a noble cause and while the cost is indeed great, I am so thankful for our soldiers who stood up to go and to do, to spend and to be spent. For all who serve, the risk is great, and Memorial Day for all of us is a time to be grateful for those who paid the ultimate price. They did it for us.

“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”  -Nathan Hale

In 2000, a resolution was passed that appointed 3 p.m. local time, on Memorial Day, for all U.S. Citizens “To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to ‘Taps‘.” (link leads to video of The United States Navy Band performance of Taps).

Miona Michael was the first to wear a red poppy in honor of those who died in service to their country. A tradition that is now identified with the VFW.  Moina wrote the poem below in 1915, inspired by the poem In Flanders Fields

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

It seems fitting to end this post with the words of the Gettysburg Address.  272 words spoken by Abraham Lincoln at the battlefield near Gettysburg, PA in November of 1863. 272 words that, at least to me, sum up what Memorial Day really means. It chokes me up every time I read it.

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The lives laid down –

  • Revolutionary War – 4,435
  • War of 1812 – 15,000 est.
  • Civil War – 620,000
  • Mexican American War – 13,283
  • Spanish American War – 3,289
  • World War I – 323,018
  • World War II – 416,800
  • Korean War – 36,914
  • Vietnam Conflict – 58,220
  • Gulf war – 294
  • Iraqi freedom – 4,501
  • Afghanistan (OEF) – 2,381
***The above list does not represent all of the conflicts where American lives were lost.
OEF = Operation Enduring Freedom.

Dear Mom, Thank You!

“The mother, more than any other, affects the moral and spiritual part of the children’s character. She is their constant companion and teacher in formative years. The child is ever imitating and assimilating the mother’s nature. It is only in after life that men gaze backward and behold how a mother’s hand and heart of love molded their young lives and shaped their destiny.” – E.W. Caswell


Windmill Cookies cropped

Dear Mom,  I just want to say thank you.  Thank you for the Windmill cookies I’m eating in this picture.  You bought them because they were my favorite.  They might be the reason I’m still a fan of almonds.

Thank you for pulling us in the yellow car Dad’s boss built for us.  Lu and I loved that car and it was way more fun when we didn’t have to pretend it was moving.

Thank you for taking us to Mr. Quick.  When we were little, it was all the rage. I remember that the hamburgers only cost 39 cents, but every time we went there it felt special.

Thank you for the walks you and I used to take to the Post Office when I was in kindergarten.  It was just the two of us.  I don’t remember any specific conversation that we had, but when I think of those walks I smile.

Thank you for finding a good church, and then making us go.  I wasn’t very happy about it then.  It seemed like I was the only kid in school who didn’t watch Happy Days or The Six Million Dollar Man every Sunday night.  Today I am very grateful though.  My time in church as a boy has added so much value to my life. Value that just wouldn’t be there if we had not gone.  Value that I just couldn’t have gotten from the Fonze.

Thank you driving the foolishness out of my childish heart.  Getting spanked was never fun.  Your correction let me know that the spankings came because I called them.  Today I am very grateful.

Thank you for taking my fundraising candy bars to work.  Because of you, I outsold the class & had more than enough money to take the field trip.

Thank you for buying me my first quality guitar.  I knew it cost a lot and even though I had spoken to you about it, I didn’t hold out hope of getting it because I knew how tight money was.  I remember you waking me up when you got home from work on my birthday and handing me the money.  I was turning 14.  I kept that guitar for years.  I only sold it to finance a repair to my first house.  I still love playing today.  Thank you for this.

Thank you for being proud of my drawings and creations.  I have always tended toward being artistic.  You hung on to the cowboy charcoal drawing for a long time.  You may still have some of my Jr. High woodworking or pottery projects even today.  Thank you for encouraging my creativity and showing me that it had value.

Thank you for all the rides.  Even when I was going to St. Ambrose, you would drive me to school.  I really appreciate all your help – helping me move forward with my life.

Thank you for not giving up.  You stayed.  You fought. You struggled. You prevailed.  We all made it to adulthood and we are all doing Okay.  So much of the reason we are okay is because of you!  Even today, you continue to help us every chance you get.  You are our hero! I think I can safely speak for all of my brothers & sisters when I say that we love you very much, and that we are all so thankful for you!  Mom…Thank you!

Happy Mother’s Day!




Dealing with Loss

Dealing with Loss.

Bar none, the worst loss I have ever felt was the divorce of my parents.  Not only was the divorce extremely painful, but the absence of my dad only compounded the suffering.  It changed me deep inside and it took a long time for me to come back from that loss.

Over the years since then, I’ve had several people who I’ve known and loved pass away. It’s not something that we can get used to.  It always hurts.  It’s sad to think that, if the Lord tarries His coming, at the end of every one of our relationships, this time bomb is waiting to go off.

Hope for the believer.

The Bible says in 1 Thes 4:13 “But I would not have you ignorant, brothers, concerning those who are asleep, that you be not grieved, even as others who have no hope.”  Our hope is that when our loved one departs, it’s not over.  We will have a reunion again when it’s or turn to pass. 


My buddy Jet.

The thing that got me thinking about this was the sudden loss of our dog Jet.  Our dogs are inside dogs and they play a prominent part of our everyday life.  I think that’s why it’s bothered me so much.  There were so many things that he would do every day that he’s no longer doing.  He was a sudden loss, and it feels a little like he was ripped out of our hands.  Piper, our female, is getting pretty old and we were more prepared to say good be to her.  In our mind there was supposed to be an order. First her, then him.

For me, it brought death, heartache & time (lack of and not knowing) to the forefront.  I began to think of all the things that happened the day Jet died.  I had no idea that all those things we did together that day were “Lasts”.  The last time we’d play in the yard, the last time I would feed him his chalupa treat.  The last time I would give him his favorite toy.  The last time he would walk along side me and casually lean against my leg.

While I know we will almost never see loss coming, Jet’s loss has made me want to take stock of the things that are important to me.  I want to intentionally appreciate, be present, and fully live the moments with the ones I love.

Stages of Grief.

According to the book “On Grief and Grieving”, by Elisabeth Kublen-Ross, there are five stages of grieving.  They are:

1. Denial.

2. Anger.

3. Depression.

4. Bargaining.

5. Acceptance.

Calling them stages sort of gives the impression that they are steps to a platform, and that once you have completed one, you will be on to the next, until you finally arrive at acceptance and all is well.  The truth is that the process is not linear.  For me, each of these stages seem to just wash over me in no apparent order.  One minute I would be mentally trying to work it out, trying to bend it so that it wasn’t true, while the next minute I would just be sad.

Here are some things that really helped me.

  • Taking time to feel it and grieve.  My tendency when bad stuff happens is to try to make sure everyone has what they need.  When death occurs, loved ones are not going to be okay.  They are emotionally suffering.  If you’re like me, I spent the first day and a half just making sure everyone else was okay.  It wasn’t until I went to work the following Monday that Jet’s loss started to really hit me.  That afternoon, I went home stood in the kitchen with my wife and we just waded into our pain.  We took the time to talk about the things that made us sad, give room for open tears and not try to bottle up the grief.
  • Taking opportunities for sadness and using them as triggers to focus on and express gratitude.  For the next several days, I would have waves of sadness wash up against me.  I would be reminded of some awesome thing that he did, and would begin to miss him.  I would take each of these trigger moments and I would stop and just thank God for allowing us to have the time we had together.  I expressed how grateful I was to have had such a remarkable dog.  He could have ended up with someone else who wouldn’t have appreciated his awesomeness and would have just chained him to a dog house some where.  That didn’t happen and because of it, I was grateful.
  • Lean on God. I prayed specifically for the Lord to help us move through the grief.  God really does care for us.  I am totally convinced of this truth.  Because of this, it seems inconceivable that my Heavenly Father wouldn’t care how this loss has hurt me and my family. 2 Corinthians 1:3 says  Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.  He IS the God of all comfort.
  • Talk about it. Find and share with a trusted friend. I have a friend who is a man of like precious faith as me.  He reminded me of scripture in Deuteronomy and Proverbs that really helped my faith.  He reminded me that God made promises concerning  our animals.  I found this a real help and comfort.

The Bible is absolutely silent concerning the subject of our pets in Heaven.  Where the Bible is silent, we need to be silent too.  We can’t form any doctrine where there isn’t any verse to back it up.  The one thing required for something to be scriptural is scripture.

That being said, I found an article in Christianity Today regarding this question that I thought was well stated.  The full article can be found here.  In this article, Karen Swallow-Prior makes the following statement.

“When we choose to take into our household creatures that share with us the breath of life and bestow them with names, perhaps we enter into a kind of covenantal relationship with them too. To echo C. S. Lewis in The Great Divorce, perhaps when we name animals, they “become themselves” and our salvation “flows over into them.”
She goes on to say “As foretold in Isaiah, animals will be there. “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat … and a little child will lead them” (11:6). Perhaps God will honor my acts of naming the animals by bringing Gracie, Kasey, Myrtle, Peter, Oscar, and so many more there, too.”

What’s the take-away?

My encouragement to you is simply this.  Moving forward, try to pace your life so that you have more time to draw the value out of the everyday moments we all spend together.  Relationships can end so suddenly, and then those moments become so precious.

Great books I’ve read in the last year.

While I have always enjoyed reading, I haven’t always been a big reader.  Reading was always something I did when I had to.  The first book I can remember reading on my own, without anyone making me, was called “King of the Wind”.  It was a book about a horse named Sham, and his mute stable boy named Agba.  I don’t remember much of the story because I read it in third grade, but I remember really liking it.

I became a serious reader when I became a Christian.  I made it a point to read my Bible every night before I would go to sleep.  I also developed a strong appetite for teaching books by Christian authors like Kenneth E. Hagin & Kenneth Copeland.  I read all I could get my hands on.

After several years, I became exposed to other famous authors and famous non fiction books, such as Dale Carnegie’s How to win friends and influence people, and John Maxwell’s 21 irrefutable laws of Leadership.  I try to flip through these every year or two to keep fresh on their content.  With few exceptions, I stick mainly to non-fiction.

This year I put forth serious effort to read more, good quality books.  The one’s I talk about here came highly recommended. I would have to say, while I liked some more than others, they were all good and I would recommend all of them to anyone who’s goal is personal growth.  So, without further ado, here’s my list.

The Art of Work – A proven path to discover what you were meant to do.  By Jeff Goins.  Published by Thomas Nelson.

In The Art of Work,  Jeff breaks the book into three main parts, Preparation, Action & Completion.  He examines our purpose, and our journey toward fulfill our calling.  He examines how we look at vocation, career & calling, ultimately leading to the truth “Meaningful work is available to anyone who dares to find it”.



Launch – Jeff Walker.  Published by Morgan James.     Jeff Walker outlines his secret formula for marketing online.  Jeff started with humble beginnings as a stay at home dad with an interest in the stock market.  His first online business started with a subscription newsletter about the stock market and grew from there.

Jeff points out that there are a lot of online marketers out there, teaching a lot of stuff, but we need to pay attention to the successful ones.  What’s important isn’t necessarily what they are teaching, it’s what they are doing.  The successful ones are usually using Jeff’s formula. Launch outlines how almost anyone can start an online business.


Platform – Get noticed in a noisy world. By Michael Hyatt.  Published by Thomas Nelson.

Michael is the former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers.  He points out that while there were some tremendous book ideas submitted for publishing over the years, many were refused because no one had ever heard of the author.  Michael outlines why we need a platform and offers step by step guidance in building your own, including building your home base, expanding your reach and handling social media.



The One Thing, The surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results.  By Gary Keller. (Published by Bard Press).
Gary is the Chairman of the board and co-founder of Keller Williams Realty, the largest real estate company in the world.  The One Thing focuses on success and productivity by addressing three major points.
A. The lies we’ve been told about productivity and work, and how they have misled and derailed our success.
B. The simple truth about real productivity.
C. Getting extraordinary results and unlocking your possibilities.
It’s a great book that even comes with a “Do not disturb, I’m working on my one thing” door hanger bound into the back of the book.


Living Forward –  a proven plan to stop drifting and get the life you want.  Michael Hyatt & Daniel Harkavy.  (Published by Baker Books).
This book focuses on our desire for a life of meaning and significance, joy and satisfaction.  Michael & Daniel break down life planning into three main parts.  First, understanding the need, second, understanding the mission, and finally, making it happen.  This book is very interactive, and asks you to take a minimum of one full day to stop, and give real real, intentional thought to your life.

They first ask you to write your own eulogy, with a sharp focus on how you want to be remembered.  The authors encourage you to break your life into categories, and then establish a vision in each.  Living Forward helps you to identify and write down the goals for each category, and establish a plan to accomplish them, while continuing to grow in each.  Both Daniel & Michael are Christians and they acknowledge that our plans will change as we come to know and more fully understand God’s direction for our lives.  They have a built in review schedule for you to tweak, update, or fully revise your life plan.  I highly recommend this book.


Essentialism – Greg Mckeown.  (Published by Crown Business).    Greg starts off telling the story of Dieter Rams, a lead designer for Braun.  Deiter designed by a principle which in German is stated – Weniger aber besser. The English translation is “Less, but better”.  I now have this statement on the wall in my office at work.

It was Deiter that we can thank for taking the home stereo from being the Oak, or walnut monolith of the past, that took up a large portion of the living room, to being the sleek, streamlined component based stereo that fit in far less space.  Less, but better.  Essentialism is not about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done.  Peter Drucker said “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”  There are a lot of people who are very busy but not productive.

Essentialism examines the discipline of finding the essential, and eliminating what is not.  It asks and answers the question:  How can we discern the trivial many, from the vital few.


The Traveler’s Gift – Seven decisions that determine personal success.  By Andy Andrews.  (Published by Thomas Nelson).
The Traveler’s Gift is a fictional story of a man named David Ponder.  David is a 46 year old man struggling with his life.  On the way home from being fired from his job, David is in a car accident.  His last words before losing consciousness are “God, Why Me?”

David awakens in another time, and in the course of his journey through time, he meets seven people.  Each person gives David a scroll with a message on it.  These messages are nuggets of wisdom that ultimately change David’s life.


Decisive, How to make better choices in life and work. By Chip and Dan Heath.  (Published by Crown Business).
I found this book very insightful.  It helped me recognize areas in my decision making that were not very helpful.  The Heath Brothers examine decision making by highlighting the four villains of decision making.  There is good advice and guidance for the person struggling with choices.

They discuss everything from our tendency to only collect research that supports our already held beliefs or desires, to our tendency to only look at our problems through a remarkably narrow frame of vision.


Love Does – Discover a secretly incredible life in an ordinary world.   By Bob Goff.  (Published by Thomas Nelson).
Bob is the founder and CEO of Restore International.  A nonprofit organization fighting injustices against children. He also shares leadership in a law firm in Washington state called Goff & Dewalt, which practices in Washington and California.  He also serves as Honorary Consul to the Republic of Uganda.

This book is full of remarkable and interesting stories from Bob’s own life.  Each chapter declares a topic, Bob gives a short sentence about his personal belief, and then tells a story about it.

This book challenges the Christian to move away from the heavy weight of being religious, and just start loving, serving and helping people.


Take the Stairs – Seven steps to achieving true success.  By Rory Vaden.  (Published by Pedigree Publishing).

This book examines productivity, procrastination and self discipline.  Rory outlines seven strategies for helping us to live a more disciplined life.

He points out that many people don’t take the stairs because they are too busy looking for the escalator.  Rory points out that there really is no escalator, and that, once you kill the idea that there is an escalator (an easy way), you’ll realize that the fastest way to get what you want is to actually do the work, and make your goals a reality.


There you have it.  These were all worth my time to read, and I find myself using nuggets from each of them in my everyday life.

What books have you read that you would recommend?  Please share in the comments.

Until next time,