Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day 2012

It was February, 1945
Allied troops had fought their way to the edge of Germany.
It was cold - bitter cold ---  and wet ---and miserable.
But the troops moved forward, gaining ground, inch by inch foot by foot.
Now it was necessary to cross a flooded river
intentionally flooded by the enemy.
Joyce's brother Will was in the combat engineers
and it was their responsibility to bridge that flooded river
under enemy fire
The river eventually was crossed and troops continued to move toward the Rhine
But Will wasn't with them
He was a casualty, mortally wounded doing his job the best he could.
His grave lies in a Netherlands American cemetery along with thousands of others
who died serving their country the best they could
striving to free the world of war.
We look across the expanse of the Margraten cemetery and realize that so many died
not in vain
but because they loved peace
They are not forgotten
Their sacrifice lives on
Rest in Peace

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Achieving Stress

"Even though I walk through the
valley of of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil
for you are with me...

                                                                                                  Psalm 23:4

Can we generate personal stress? Sure, and I have, over the years, managed to create some magnificent moments of stress. However, checking my Bible concordances to write a blog, I could not find the word "stress". I could find examples of stressful situations, but not that specific reference.

In today's world it is virtually impossible to avoid stress. It is part of our lifestyle and we seek relief in a multitude of ways. In the Old Testament book of Job, we find Job crying out, "The churning inside me never stops; days of suffering confront me." Every day life seems to be worse now than when I was young. That doesn't mean it didn't exist back then - in the Great Depression people were losing everything they had - money, homes, job,  health, family tensions and fear of the unknown. For some the solution might have been so extreme that they would jump off high buildings to escape the stress they endured in life. That kind of stress still exists, but people now try to find a solution to their tensions from self-help books, therapy, time-management workshops, massage parlors, guru's, and recovery programs. Then there are those who try to handle stress with drinking and drugs. For many, nothing seems to work. I have a hunch part of it is wrapped up in 21st Century lifestyles, loud and wildly upbeat music, stress-filled reality television and movies, and trying to keep up with the neighbor.

I know what it is like. I've been down that road. One time I was taking a solid schedule of college courses, refurbishing an old house, and working a full time job, all at the same time. Suddenly I was hit with laryngitis from stress and had to back off from non-essentials. There was a time when I was on a Navy aircraft carrier on crisis readiness not knowing whether the next day would bring war. Trying to support a family when there never seemed enough resources brought considerable stress.

But then I found an amazing strength filling my soul. I prayed to God for relief - for His Spirit to give strength and comfort in day-to-day life. Most of us have to come to grips with the reality that, by ourselves, we do not handle stress well. We need more than human resources. We need to have faith, and trust in God. Jesus said, "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls..." (Matthew 11:28-30)

I don't say I am immune from stress, for I still contend with inner turmoil and deep concerns most every day...illness...aging. . financial questions....welfare of the world....situations in my family.
But faith and a very deep trust in God's power and love goes a long way toward  a sense of
peace and assurance.  Stress is still there - always there - but the Spirit of God makes life a whole lot better. I speak from experience.

Lord God:
Forgive me when I cry out, "Why me, Lord?"
Instead fill my heart with assurance
that I have a guide and counselor
in every need of life.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Down in the Pits

"Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord;
O Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy"

                                                                                              Psalm 130:1

When I graduated from high school I had no real aim for the direction of my life. To be sure, my yearbook reflected the dream of my one day becoming the projectionist at New York's Radio City Music Hall, which amazingly enough is still a great theatrical center in the Big Apple.

But with World War Two nearing its end, and millions of veterans returning home, jobs were becoming harder and harder for a young high school graduate to find. I tried working for RKO Radio Studios in their film exchange. I lasted a week there - the work was exhausting and the pay hardly enough to cover my train tickets to and from Albany. I pitched hay - worked the fields - searched for work - to no avail.

Then I happened to find an opening in a gas station in a nearby town. The manager was someone I knew and liked, and occasionally he would send me 'uptown' to get some automotive part - and I had the great privilege of driving his wonderful old Packard. Who cared if the front shock absorbers were bad - the car rocked like a Navy destroyer in heavy seas. It was the thrill of driving a PACKARD.

It was the days when service stations lived up to their name: full service. Check the oil, water, tires and clean the windshield while 15 or 20 cent a gallon gas swished into the tank. Once in a while you might even met someone famous, like Claude Rains, the movie star. Or beautiful. Or even a grumpy old codger that I hoped I would never become.

It was great working at the gas station in the fall, but things changed as the year approached its end. I discovered that it was hard and dangerous work work repairing or replacing truck split-rim tires. I discovered it was dirty work and challenging for a smaller person like me.

But the worst work of all was working in the grease pit. It was unpleasant at best and hard to endure in the winter when ice and slush built up on the bottom of cars and trucks fell off on me. It was bad enough to be cold - it was much worse with the droppings from cars. If there was anything I hated in the job, and sought release from, was working in the grease pit. would think, if not pray, "Lord, lift me out of this miserable pit."

But that's life. No matter who we are, no matter where we are, we all face moments when we wonder about the injustice of life. Maybe it might be losing a job. Maybe it might be frustration with a boss or neighbor. Maybe it is when nothing seems to work out - money isn't there when we need it - things just seem to always go wrong. And maybe it is health situations. And we think to ourselves, "Why, me, Lord?"

It's all the same - as if we have been put in the sewers of life - or been forced to work down there in the grease pits in the the worst weather possible. I guess I've learned a few lessons about that, though.
We go down here in the depths and do the best job we can knowing that eventually we'll be lifted out.
We may not know how that will occur, but for every  downer we face there is the potential of rising to new heights. If not physically we can be lifted emotionally and spiritually. I like to think that that comes of living faith.

I don't like bad moments.
I don't like bad things that happen.
Give me the will and faith
to be lifted from the pit to new faith and hope.