Veterans Day thoughts…

November 11, 2020

Today is Veterans Day in America. I wondered this morning what percentage of the U. S. population actually have served in the military, whether in combat or peacetime. Google that and you will get many different answers from various sources (depending upon the date of the information) that average out at about 7% of the population. Less than 1 % of the current American population is currently on active duty somewhere in the world.

I’ve posted here before that I served in the Army in both the Middle East (Iran) and Viet Nam. In normal (non-COVID) years, I march in the Memorial Day Parade. That parade, like all other big events was cancelled this year. The Memorial Day parade organizers arrange groups by the wars in which they fought. The lead group, which has diminished greatly over the last few year is the WWII group, followed by the Korean War Group. Our Viet Nam War group is the third group and usually the largest group. The various Middle Eastern and Gulf Wars groups follow us with a small group for the Invasion of Granada in between.

The Memorial Day Parade is Milford’s biggest parade, both in terms of the length and number of participants in the parade and the number of people who turn out to see the parade. People literally line the parade route from the VFW Hall on W. Commerce Rd all the way through the downtown to Central Park. The crowd of several thousand is usually several people deep. It is heartwarming to hear the constant applause of the crowd and the shouts of “thank you for your service”. We in the Viet Nam contingent did not get that type of welcome when we returned home back then.

I saw a story on last night’s news on NBC about a 99-year-old WWII vet who is still jumping out of airplanes. He was a paratrooper in WWII. They had an interview with him as part of the story and one thing that he said really rang true – He said “We don’t talk about it.” Most vets don’t talk about it because it is a very personal thing and some have more of a problem with it than others. More veterans probably died from abuse of alcohol or drugs and suicide after they got home than were killed in actual combat. It can be that big of a thing.

The impact of the intense experiences of combat is something that has only recently been understood and given a name – PTSD. We used to call it being shell-shocked or experiencing “the fog of war”. We are currently seeing a similar stress related syndrome in our frontline healthcare workers and they fight the war against COVID-19. Like soldiers in combat, they are experiencing day after day of intense emotional response to the events that are happening around them. We have already seen stories of doctors and nurses committing suicide or having to walk away from their jobs because of the traumatic stress of watching patients in their care die.

So, today – Veterans Day – say “thanks for your service” to a veteran that you might know. I’d say to give them a hug, too; but our current situation dictates against that. And, if you know a doctor or nurse who is on the frontlines in the war against the Corona Virus pandemic, say thank you to them, too. The most helpful thing that you may be able do for people in ether group may be to give them a shoulder to cry on and a sympatric ear for their stories.

Let’s all make it a great Veterans Day.


Who abandoned whom?

November 10, 2020

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed revisits an age-old question – “Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes into hours?”  (Gordon Lightfoot, from The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald song) 

The Lightfoot song paid homage to the tragic sinking of the freighter Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior during a storm, but the sentiment of God somehow abandoning us in our times of need is the focus of that line. The real question, in my mind, is who abandoned whom in those times? Does God in fact let us down and leave us hanging out to suffer; or, did we wander away from our faith in God during those times?

It is so much easier to put your trust in faith in God during good times or times when there is no emergency or threat. It feels good to thank God for our good fortune; for being there with us or maybe just protecting us from making a mistake. But what if that mistake happened or we suffered an injury or maybe a loss. Why do we immediately think that God must have abandoned us?

God never promised us a life without setbacks. Indeed, He even said that our lives will be full of event or tests of our faith in Him. He also promised to be there without and not to test us beyond our abilities –

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1:2-3)

But, the most important thing that he promises us is the one thing that should give us the greatest comfort during the trials that we may suffer – life after death. After all, most of us might imagine that the worst thing that could happen, the worst outcome of a hardship and the worst possible conclusion to the dilemma that we are in is that it kills us. If we steadfastly cling to our faith, even that outcome is not something to be feared.

It is not God who has abandoned us in times of great duress, but rather us who have wandered away from our faith in God. Therefore, one should not lament, “God why have you forsaken me?”, but rather pray, “God forgive me for my lapse of faith and return to me the trust in you during this difficult time.”

The good news for those who temporarily wander away from their faith during a time of hardship is that God is patient and relentless in His love for us – “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5)

So, who abandoned whom? In answer to Gordon Lightfoot’s question in his song – God’s love didn’t go anywhere. God’s hand is always out to provide us the help that we need. You have but to turn and reach back to Him to receive His grace and help.

Have a great day in God’s hands!


Time to move on to the next game…

November 9, 2020

Pastor freed used this quote in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, this morning, “Let the healing begin.” (Joe Cocker song)

The same sentiment has been used by President-elect Biden himself and many others since he election was called in Biden’s favor. Certainly, it is important that the healing process take place in America – in our politics, in our rhetoric and in our actions. However, right now, in the minds of far too many people, those words sound like the sanctimonious trash-talk of the victor and not the olive branch that they were probably meant them to be.

Before the healing can begin, the anger in the environment needs to die down. Most times the sentiment on the losing side of any contest/conflict is one of disappointment. The high hopes of persevering to a victory had been dashed; however, if it was perceived as a fair fight, the loser must accept that he was bested that day and move on.

For some this election feels more like a lost football game where the refs made a bad call, or at least the fans think it was a bad call. That feeling was heightened throughout the election campaign by unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud or irregularities. The post-election feeling is most like the reaction to that pass interference call that wasn’t made on the last play of the game, – the play that would have led to victory. A missed call like that most often leads to anger, even if the replay shows it to have been the right call. Usually, in the sports world. by Wednesday of the next week fans have put the last game behind them and focuses upon the next game.

A major difference in this situation, of course, is that we are all in this game. The decisions that were made over the last four years affected us all and the decisions that will be made in the coming four years will affect our lives. Some may say, “Well those last four years under Trump didn’t kill me, so I guess I can survive the next four under Biden”. However, those last four years also contained the COVID-19 virus and many feel that the lack of an adequate National-level response to the pandemic did lead to the deaths of an awful lot of people. The campaign promises of Biden foreshadow a greatly different response to the pandemic – one requiring more sacrifice and discipline than we have yet shown as a nation.

Step one in our collective recovery is probably to admit that many are angry about the election outcome and perhaps more than a little afraid for their future. There is plentiful advice available about dealing with anger, such as

Think before you speak. …

Once you’re calm, express your anger. …

Get some exercise. …

Take a timeout. …

Identify possible solutions. …

Stick with ‘I’ statements (and not “They” statements). …

Use humor to release tension.

All of those things require that one regain control over themselves enough to actually do any of those things. Maybe “Take a timeout” should be at the top of the list.

Once people have curbed their anger a bit, they can move onto dealing with their fears. The advice to identify possible solutions is a great starting point for that. By doing that, you are empowering yourself to become a part of the solution and not to play the role of the victim. Unlike the mythical football game that I used as an example earlier, this “game” called life is never over. That one bad call that you think the refs made is last week’s news and the game goes on.

However, there is a role for everyone in this game, even supporters of opposing viewpoints and solutions. One can get to work supporting candidates for the next election, which for much of the legislative side of government is only two years away. There will be parades to march in again (hopefully next year). There will be local and state-level positions of influence that need to be filled. Of course, there will be tweets and Facebook posts to be made, videos to be uploaded to YouTube and TikTok and  blog posts to be written. These are things that one can be doing, beyond just being angry.

The “healing” that needs to begin is not the abandonment of the opposing views, but rather the reduction of anger and disappointment and finding ways to move on with new actions that one hopes will influence everyone in that direction. It’s sort of like being a loyal football fan of the team that just suffered a big defeat. You move on. You get ready for the next tailgate session and the next game in resolute hope that better days are just ahead.

Perhaps the words from Martin Luther King Jr. that are on a sign in my yard expresses what must be done now – “We must move on with an arduous faith in the future.” Keep the faithit’s Wednesday in America – it’s time to move on. There is a bright future ahead and another game next weekend.


DISCONNECTED…

November 7, 2020

I’ve been trying for some time to put my finger on how to describe the feelings that I have about the current state of things in the world and in my life. The word “disconnected” keeps popping up and I think it is perfect to describe that feeling. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned everyone’s world upside down and for all of us it has led to disconnects. Disconnects from our normal work world. Disconnects from our normal social world. In addition, disconnects from our normal religious world.

Many have been sent home to work, cutting us off from the normal interactions that we have at work and from the sense if identity that comes from those interactions. The normal conference room meetings, hallway conversations and day-to-day job activities in the workplace provide a big part of the framework that we see as our identity. We may still perform most of the same job activities, but doing so over a Zoom link does not bring with it the same since of identity. The fact that we don’t even have to get up and get ready to go to work adds to the loss of identity. Where is that person in the nice suit or business casual outfit and who is this slob still in pajamas at 10 AM in the morning?

As a Realtor and an outside sales person, I have noticed how disconnected I have felt, while I was unable to call on clients in person. Sure, I could still send emails and text messages and make phone calls, but there has been very few face-to-face sales calls. It has become much too easy for regular clients to just back off making their normal buys, when we were not meeting in person. How disconnected have you become from your “normal” work environment?

Socially, not being able to get together or even to go out to eat in a restaurant was certainly disconnecting during the time we were all in the lock-down by State mandates. Even now, eating in a restaurant is not anywhere near the social event that it used to be; plus, we are now advised to not even gather in groups around the Holiday table. The social fabric of our lives has been rendered and we have withdrawn into our nuclear family groups. How disconnected socially has your life become?

On the religious front, my church, like many others, has not met regularly in person since March. My church had one social event this summer (an ice cream social)  and has held two drive-in church services, with mixed results, in terms of attendance. The age of our congregation (probably averages 70+) and the guidance of our Synod Bishop continue to dictate caution and not holding in-person services. I produce and post videos of our church services each week and we have been fortunate to have the continued support of our musical staff to provide music for those services, yet it is not the same. Most of the church related groups – the book club, the knitting club and the women’s group  have continue to meet and that helps keep those bonds intact. The Pastor holds a “coffee hour” via Zoom each Sunday at about the time that services would normally be over and that helps some; but, for many there is a growing sense of disconnect. How has your religious life been impacted by the pandemic?

I think the important thing is to acknowledge these disconnects and to take positive action to overcome them, rather than letting them drag you down into depression. Things are not going to be the same for quite a while, if ever; so we need to adjust to the “new normal” and find ways to reconnect at work, socially and in our religious lives.

Our work life identity may have switched from our office or cubicle to the little box down and to the left on the Zoom screen, but we are still responsible for the important aspect of the business that we were hired for and we need to feel good about dong that job. Maybe it’s time to force ourselves to get up, get showered and put on all of our “work” clothes; even if it is just for a Zoom meeting – no more “waist-up” dressing.

 Maybe it’s time to venture out to a restaurant or to go shopping at the mall (just remember your mask). Maybe you can sit down and call those people that you’ve been missing and have a nice, long conversation with them. I’m sure that they have been feeling lonely, too.

Or, maybe it’s time to watch a church service video and sing along with the music. The video’s that I post on our YouTube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSTzf6Jn_j2iepSePY4yiyw?view_as=subscriber –  have the words posted for each song, so that the viewer can sing along. I invite you to try this week’s service at – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3f4_YVyPz6o&feature=youtu.be

 I won’t tell you that you shouldn’t feel somewhat disconnected, that’s just how things are for a while; however, you can take positive steps to reconnect and to feel more like a part of the new normal. I’d even suggest that you buy a mask with a smiley face on it, just to start some conversations and to give yourself a smile when you look in the mirror or see yourself in your little Zoom box. When someone on the Zoom call asks you, why you are wearing a mask on the Zoom call, tell them that you heard about computer viruses and didn’t want to catch one. That may get a laugh and a conversation started. In fact, this picture from the internet is the perfect virus mask for that.

The key is that you do something about feeling disconnected. Reconnections won’t just happen, you have to make them happen. Get up. Get showered. Get dressed and get reconnected!


What will you build?

November 5, 2020

We live in acrimonious and disturbing times that cry out for a return to the values that many of us grew up with and the lessons that we learned in Sunday School (back when people went to Sunday School instead of out to the playing fields) – humbleness, honesty, integrity and caring for others.

I recently saw a post on Facebook that read something like this – “Those who have success in life should build a bigger table not a bigger wall”.

That saying seemed to me to sum up both the state that we are in and the decisions that we must make going forward. It sums things up by pointing out our choices. We can either share the wealth of our nation and our people with those less fortunate by building a bigger,  more inclusive table for all; or, we can decide to husband what we have been fortunate enough to achieve as a nation and a people by building walls to close ourselves off from the world.

Of course, the table and the wall are just symbols of the political and socio-economic decisions that we must make going forward. Most of us probably try to teach our children to share their toys with playmates or siblings when they are very young. It not only keeps the peace, but it’s the right thing to do. I’m not sure when we stop trying to teach them to share, but somewhere along the line many “learn” how to be selfish or uncaring for others. Maybe they see how we act as adults and take their cues from that behavior. Imagine what the children have learned from the adults around them recently.

Another vexing thing is how many so-called Christians have joined in “build walls” side of things. I can’t find any references to building walls anywhere in the words of Jesus, but there are many about sharing and caring for others. Jesus would have chosen to build a bigger table and not a bigger wall. In fact he instructed his Disciples  his last meeting at the table to go out and share with all.

So, what will you build? We all have some success in life, even if just being alive is all that we can think of at the moment. Give of yourself. Choose to share your life and time with others and not to wall yourself off. Build a bigger table, not a bigger wall.


Trust your faith “sense”…

November 2, 2020

Pastor Freed started of his week with this post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words –  “Just because I can’t see it doesn’t mean I can’t believe it.”  (Jack Skellington)

He went on to write about things that we see can’t see, but in which we still believe. Of course, in that category he included God.

Humans tend to rely quite a bit on their senses of sight, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching as a basis of believing that something is real. Things that we can see like the wind, we can still sense as it touches our faces or hear as it rustles through the trees or howls outside the house. Most of the time we will not have to see the skunk to know and believe that it is there (or has been). We also have a range of emotional “senses” that tell us when we are sad, happy, frightened or maybe in love.

Then, there is our “faith” sense – the feeling of peace, calm and assurance that comes over us when we sense our faith in action and the presence of God in our lives. People often express those feelings when they have felt the hand of God in their life, many cases in times of great sorrow or danger, but also in times of great joy.

There is that sense of relief in “knowing” that you are not alone and a warm feeling of safety and security may wash over you. You can’t “see” God, but you know that He is there. You feel His hand on your shoulder just as sure as if He was standing next to you and you “hear” his words – “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

So trust your “faith sense” as you go through your day as we have been told – “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews/11/1)

Do you have conviction in your faith, even though you cannot see it? Can you feel it working in your life? Can you see it guiding you through the day?


What kind of karma are you making?

November 1, 2020

Recently Pastor Freed used this quote in his blog, Jack’s Winning WordsKarma is what happens to a person because they caused it by their actions.” (Free Encyclopedia) 

I guess I had the wrong definition of karma in mind until I read that and went and looked it up myself. I had thought of it more as a benign and passive thing that we just stumble into, rather than something that we actually cause by our own actions. That immediately brings to mind the question – What kind of karma am I creating?

We hear often of a person having good or bad karma, which must then mean that the person was doing good or bad things to cause what happen to them. Maybe karma is a variation on the old phrase, “What goes around, comes around” or the even older advice from the Bible,

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6: 7-9)

So the good or bad that we are doing (sowing) will determine our karma and what fate awaits us, not happenstance. It is also important to heed the warning not to give up doing the right or good things in life. It is tempting to take the shortcuts in life or to turn away from a problem or a person in need, but it is not the right thing to do. That is just making bad karma.

It would seem that making good karma by doing the right things in life and making good decisions is based upon taking the time to think about each decision that you make within the framework of right and wrong. That presupposes that one has a solid understanding or foundation for that framework of what is right and wrong. For Christians build that framework upon the foundation of their faith and the guidance that they receive from the teachings of Christ that they find in the Bible.

If our karma is based upon our actions, and our actions are based upon the teachings of Christ; then we can have nothing but good karma and good things will happen to us. Maybe starting out each day with a little prayer asking God to help you make the right decisions to achieve good karma will at least get you thinking in the right way and started in the right direction.

May you day be filled with good karma.