See it to be it.

Often when working on a big project, it’s helpful to “Flip the script”.  By flipping the script, I mean to begin with the end in mind.  You establish where you want to go, and then work backwards from there to determine the steps it will take to get you there.

Amerah Shabazz-Bridges, writing about the struggle of the women in her family, said that from generation to generation they “did better when they learned better”.  Ignorance isn’t a bad word, it just means that you don’t know.  When it comes to manhood, if we are ignorant of what a good man is, we probably won’t ever become one.

Keith Moore points out that God has designed us in a specific way so that we become what we behold (see Romans 12:1-2). If young men don’t see quality examples in front of them, they will not know what a quality man looks like, and can’t become it. If they don’t know it exists, they can’t even hunger for it. Seeing is always a prerequisite for changing. That’s why God used the stars and the sand as visual aids when communicating with Abram.

In your own life, this flows both ways.  You need to be all the example you can be, while at the same time, continually looking to the things that will strengthen your own vision.

If you can see it, you can be it.

Hey Tough Guy!

Do you consider yourself to be tough?  What does it mean to be a tough guy?  Tough guy has sort of become a byword now.  It’s a label assigned to men who ACT TOUGH.  I emphasize the word ACT because that’s usually all it is.

Being tough was something I think most boys learn about pretty early.  When I was in first grade, Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man was the quintessential tough guy.  He was our model of what was tough, never mind that he had $6,000,000 worth of government enhancements that helped him be tough.  I was also a fan of Nick Barkley.  I remember the opening sequence of Big Valley clearly announcing that Nick was the strongest!  We all wanted to be Nick.

An unwritten rule of being a tough guy that all us tough guy wanna be’s learned in the first grade was that tough guys don’t smile in pictures.  I actually notices this first while observing an Elvis Presley album cover.  Just a little smirk…that’s all you get.  Big grins are not tough.  Apparently tough guys don’t get to show it when they’re happy.

As I grew older, I began to notice that in nearly every case where I met someone with admirable toughness, it wasn’t a tough guy attitude.  These people didn’t talk about being tough, because they never really thought about it.  They didn’t brag about how strong they were or who they could beat up.  Their toughness just showed up and made itself known by how they acted. It was in the way they lived.  Usually, when they were put under a heavy load or a high stress situation, they would respond with amazing self control and inner strength.  What we see in men like this is real toughness.

Acting tough.

Acting tough means putting on a show.  In my own experience, all through my childhood and school years, there were always boys that acted tough around other boys.  They would constantly be applying a mild threat to everyone around them.  The unspoken threat was “I can and will beat you up if you mess with me”.  This was usually a lie and when these guys would be put to the test, often there wasn’t any supporting evidence that they were either strong, or a good fighter.  What it proved was that they were all talk.  Their “tough” was just tough talk.  They were “All hat and no cattle”.  But that leaves us with a question.  What does it really mean to be a tough guy?

Being tough.

In my own mind, being a real tough guy means to have personal discipline. The men I have been most impressed with in my life are the men who did the things that were right, even when they were hard.  In some cases – really hard!  I’ve seen men love people who wanted to take a swing at them.  I’ve watched as people I know were wronged, hurt and publicly embarrassed; but then they almost immediately forgave, walked in love toward the one who hurt them, and never brought it up again.

Proverbs 19:11 says “The discretion of a man defers his anger, and it is his glory to pass over a transgression”.  This to me represents what it means to really be tough.  The ability to pass over the offences that come at you every day, exercise forgiveness, and walk in love.  Even when you don’t necessarily like the person that offends you, you have the spiritual fortitude to obey God’s Word and do what’s right.

A tough guy understands that a good marriage is built sowing and showing love to his spouse.  I say this because loving your wife is not a feeling.  Does the Bible say that “For us that God so loved the world that He felt warm and fuzzy toward us?  Or that He shouted from Heaven “I Love You!”?  No! We see His Love because the Bible clearly states He Gave us His only begotten Son.  This leaves us a clear example.  We also see that we are to model ourselves after Jesus’ own example in Eph 5:25.  Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it…   Love is expressed in giving – even when we don’t feel like it.

Love forgives – as many times as it takes.  True love in a marriage shows up in a thousand forgivenesses a day. Part of loving your spouse is the commitment to overlook and forgive.  It’s when a couple stop forgiving and begin to mark the offences, that serious contention starts.  Marriage is a type and a shadow of the believer’s relationship with the Lord Jesus.  Imagine how it would go if Jesus marked and held it against us every time we were offensive to Him. Thank God He doesn’t.  His forgiveness is everlasting.  There’s no one tougher than Him.  He did what was right even when it meant dying, and suffering the punishment for the sin of everyone.

He has become our example of what a tough guy really is.  Remember – “The discretion of a man defers his anger, and it is his glory to pass over a transgression”.

 

Four things that make America great.

To me, our political process has been exciting to observe as well as to participate in. I am deeply moved when I think about the men who established our country and set in order what I personally believe to be one of the finest governments to have ever existed on earth. While I think these men were some of the brightest, most intelligent people of the day, I also firmly believe that what was done 241 years ago to cause this country to be born was Divinely inspired.

sparkler flag

In the booklet “The Rebirth of America” published by the Arthur S. DeMoss foundation, the writers talk about the greatness of America’s land.

“Some say the land itself has made America great. One of our most moving patriotic hymns cites the beauty of America – a beauty that all who have traveled across the continent surely recognize. Katherine Lee Bates stood atop Pike’s Peak and scanned the sweep of the land, then wrote of the “Purple Mountain Majesties”, and the “amber waves of grain.” She concluded that God had shed His grace on this land – a vast unexplored wilderness that, in an astonishingly short period, grew into a great nation. It would be foolish to deny that the rich natural resources of the land itself have not helped to make America. The oil, the ore, the timber, the water, the soil, the climate, all have combined to nourish a civilization that would eventually spread from sea to shining sea. Other nations too, though, have been blessed with fine resources; yet some how these have not risen to such greatness.”

So what is it that has made America great? What is it that stands behind freedoms so great that they are the envy of the world? Why has America been blessed with such abundance when so much of the world goes to bed hungry each night? Here are a few things that I believe have made America great.

  • The Foundation of Our Law. Our founders firmly believed in the Creator and believed that He had endowed them with inalienable rights. They also believed that man was “fallen” and therefore could not be trusted to be his own law or judge. They therefore used the Divinely inspired Holy Scripture as the foundation for the law of the land. The law can not be simply what a judge or dictator says it is, It must comply with the Constitution which was based on God’s laws in scripture.  I think it’s important to point out that a country can’t have morality without religion and even though something is legal doesn’t mean that it’s moral. Our government is designed to give liberty, but with a moral fence.Calvin Coolidge – “The foundations of our society and our government rest so much on the teachings of the Bible that it would be difficult to support them if faith in these teachings would cease to be practically universal in our country”.
  • The Generosity of the American People. America has been and continues to be very generous. Whether it has been to help rebuild countries that have been ravaged by war, or help with relief for countries that have been ravaged by natural disasters, the generous spirit of the American people can be seen. America is blessed because many Americans continue to sow good seeds, be generous, and help the less fortunate.
  • The American Dream. America has been called the “land of Opportunity” and rightly so. The dream that a person can excel and become something in this country has been the driving force behind the immigration to our country for as long as it’s been in existence. The Free Enterprise system has ensured that everyone has a fighting chance to be successful if they will only take the opportunities. The ingenuity of the American people over the last 200 years has given the world well build, low cost goods, provided good jobs to millions and has given Americans the income to buy the goods they produce.
  • The Hand of God. All of our blessings really point back to this. In his writing “The Bulletproof George Washington” David Barton wrote: “Washington’s part in the battle of the Monongahela is indisputably one of the most significant events of his early life–his life literally hung in the balance for over two hours. Fifteen years after the battle, the chieftain of the Indians Washington had fought sought him out and gave this account to Washington of what had happened during the battle:“I am chief and ruler over my tribes. My influence extends to the waters of the great lakes and to the far blue mountains. I have traveled a long and weary path that I might see the young warrior of the great battle. It was on the day when the white man’s blood mixed with the streams of our forest that I first beheld this chief [Washington]…I called to my young men and said…Quick, let your aim be certain, and he dies. Our rifles were leveled, rifles which, but for you, knew not how to miss–’twas all in vain, a power mightier far than we, shielded you…I am come to pay homage to the man who is the particular favorite of Heaven, and who can never die in battle.”We read accounts of the British destroying the Capital during the summer of 1814. It really looks like just 38 years after America declared independence from Britain, we’re going to lose our place and be put back in subjection to the Crown. The British captured and set on fire the public buildings in Washington. Then the storm blew in. Weather experts indicate that this storm probably spawned several tornadoes. One hit Washington, destroying buildings that the British soldiers were hiding in. Some accounts indicate that canons were lifted & hurled through the air. On his blog “Historical Digression” Patrick Browne writes:

As the storm began to subside, one of the British officers in command of the invasion emerged from his shelter and said to one of the inhabitants of Washington, “Great God, Madam, is this the kind of storm to which you are accustomed in this infernal country?!”

She responded, “No, sir, this is a special interposition of Providence to drive our enemies from the city.”

I don’t know about Providence. But there can be no doubt that the tornado that struck Washington that day did more to save the capital than the United States Army ever did. The fires were largely extinguished. And the British limped back to their ships.

As you celebrate this Independence day, take a moment to stop and thank God for your country. Thank Him for His continued hand of protection and His continual guidance as we move forward as a Nation. We are here by His will and by His help. God Bless America.

What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a price upon its goods, and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated. – Thomas Payne, 1776.

Sources:
The Rebirth of America – Published by The Arthur S. DeMoss Foundation
A Tornado Saves Washington during the War of 1812
http://www.reversespins.com/bulletproof.html.
Originally published in part July 2014.

 

My Post Father’s Day Post

Each year as Father’s day comes around, I want to take some time to write a post about it because fatherhood is such a big deal to me.  If I’m honest though, it’s one of the hardest posts to write.  If you’re a regular reader, you know that my Dad and Mom separated when I was 10 and divorced when I was 11.  From that time to this, I’ve only spent time with my Dad once, and that was over Christmas break in the 1980’s.  The last time I heard his voice was the day my youngest daughter was born.  It will be 23 years ago this year.

While my Dad is still among the living, we don’t have any fellowship together.  I am not distant because it’s my choice.  I’m distant because it seems to be what they (he and his wife) want.

Truthfully, I really do want him to be happy, and if my presence or interaction with him and his family makes it hard for him, then I’m okay with keeping my distance.  My consoling thought is that when we both get to heaven, we will have a curse-less eternity to get things sorted out between us.  Until that day, I’m just going to love and honor him as best I can from this distance.

That being said, I try to always remember to send cards on Father’s day, his birthday and Christmas.  I don’t always remember but I try.  The reason is simple.  I want to make sure that I am doing all I can to honor him.  I might no be able to do much, but I will do all I can do.

If you read my posts, you will find that my writing is not about fixing your relationship with your Dad because I can’t really write about that with any credibility.  Instead, I focus on how to grow up and be a good, quality man, in spite of not having a Dad around.

While I speak about this issue honestly and don’t try to flower it up, I also NEVER throw my Dad under the bus so to speak.  I am honest but not derogatory.  I don’t use hateful speech when talking about him and I always try to emphasize that I love and honor him.

My experiences as a son have had a huge influence on my being a father myself.  I recognize the importance of being there and demonstrating my love for my children.  Hollywood often portrays the Dad as being foolish, childish or selfish, but a real Dad is none of those things.  Don’t get me wrong – Dad’s are usually great at horsing around with their kids, but real fatherhood is about training up your child.  It’s about learning things that are real enough and important enough to pass on to your children.  The goal of every Dad should be to make fully developed and mature sons and daughters out the the little children that God gave him.

 

 

But I Want It Now!

Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 (BBE) “But let your first care be for his kingdom and his righteousness; and all these other things will be given to you in addition.”  In this passage Jesus was talking specifically about physical needs, house, food & clothing but we see a bigger picture emerging.  He said in verse 31 “Then don’t be full of care…”  Then in verse 32 “Your Heavenly Father knows what you need”.  God cares about you, He has made provision to meet EVERY need that you have and the one thing he doesn’t want you doing is being FULL OF CARE (worried).  Trust that Your Heavenly Father knows what you have need of.

But God….I know what I want and I want it now!

If it’s something specific that you are wanting, maybe a new job or career path, ask yourself; are you ready for it?  Can you take on this new thing without it destroying you?   Trust God to work on the stuff you can’t control.  He knows exactly what makes you happy and He wants you to be happy. Ask God to help you.  Ask Him go grow you up – to bring you quickly to the place where you’re ready, and then join you to your blessed future.

Stop thinking about what you might be missing. When I first sensed the call to go to Bible School, I was hungry for it.  Every day that I had to wait to get there was frustrating.  Little did I know, God had a timing in place.  When it was finally time to move, EVERYTHING was in place.  It was quite easy to make the move.

The truth is that, even though you might be frustrated that things aren’t moving fast enough, the only thing you’re missing is the pain and torment of being at the wrong place at the wrong time.  Trust God that you are not missing anything good.  It’s all just being deferred until later. Ask Him to deal with you bluntly, and then commit yourself to hear….and to DO what you know to do. Focus on you.

God’s desire is for you to be transformed into the person He’s called you to be.  He’s able to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think according to the power that works in us, so I promise, His vision and dream for you is far bigger than the one you have for yourself.

Don’t be dead set on getting your way.  Don’t be married to YOUR plan.  Because God sees time from an eternal perspective, He can see what’s coming even when we can’t.  It’s important to understand that HIS plan for you is the best possible plan for you.  You may want something badly, but make the decision in your heart that you are willing to let your plan go.  If you really want God’s will in your life, you will need to get your own agenda out of the way.

Remember to keep God first.  There can only be one 1st place in your life.  Seek His kingdom first!  Then the other stuff will be added unto you.

Are you good at ignoring God?

If I really examine my heart, I would have to say that my greatest desire is to please God. Some might hear that and wonder whether I’m in my right mind or not. Many people don’t see pleasing God as something to be desired. It seems that a lot of people only want to get as close to God as they have to in order to get help and deliverance from some mess that they’ve gotten themselves into, but that’s it. Once they have received what they need, they are back to their old life. Back to doing it their way.

I can’t think that way anymore. Truthfully, there is NOTHING more important to me than hearing from God and knowing I’m in the middle of His will for me. I don’t want the edges of His will, I want to be right in the middle of it.

I was thinking a while back about when I was a boy. I would sit in church services and usually in each service, an altar call would be given. I would remember times of experiencing great heart conviction. My heart was being pulled to make a change. Through many church services I successfully resisted that conviction, but I felt it every time. What I didn’t realize at the time was that it was my Heavenly Father speaking to my heart through His Holy Spirit.  He was calling me to come closer. He was inviting me into a deeper relationship with Him. A choice I made once I realized that, even though I don’t completely understand it, He loves me and His ways are ALWAYS better than mine.

All these years later and I’m still a committed Christian. The thing I want to point out is this; that conviction that I resisted those many times, that sense that God was dealing with my heart, that is the same exact thing that I look for every day to hear from my Heavenly Father. That is the primary way He leads His people. While many people are looking to be led in spectacular ways, the main way God deals with us is through our conscience. It often shows up as that heartfelt conviction.

I would like to leave you with a thought this week. Every time we as believers over-ride our conscience, we are actually intentionally ignoring God. If you’re like me and desire to please Him – to know and do His will – the stupidest thing we can do is to practice and get good at ignoring Him.  Let’s make it a point this week to listen, recognize and obey even the slightest convictions of our heart.  Let’s practice and get good at obeying Him.

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
Sources:
http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/memorial-day-history
www.campaign1776.org/revolutionary-war/facts-of-the-american.html
www.civilwar.org/education/history/faq/
www.spanamwar.com/casualties.htm
https://www.pbs.org/greatwar/
http://www.nationalww2museum.org/
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-many-americans-died-in-korea/
http://www.archives.gov/research/military/vietnam-war/casualty-statistics.html
http://icasualties.org/
***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. 

Jet

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,

Art