Posted on

Back to the Fundamentals of Life: Remembering our First Love

Last Thursday we celebrated the 154th Thanksgiving since it was made a National Holiday by President Abraham Lincoln. Although the day does have its roots back to the first recognition of Thanksgiving, the event we colored pictures of growing up, the fundamental of the holiday has always remained the same giving thanks.

This position of gratitude is not just giving thanks in general. What often goes unsaid is that every mention of the holiday, the thanks was given to:

In Jamestown, VA in 1619 proclaimed, ” a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.”

In a 1782 a declaration by the Continental Congress a day of solemn thanksgiving to God for all His mercies.”

In 1789 and 1795, George Washington states, “it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God.”

And finally, President Lincoln in 1863 with this proclamation of a day of, “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

Do you see a trend? Those are just four of many instances. The picture of people being unselfish, sharing with one another, and genuinely giving thanks for the provisions they had been given. Every instance of Thanksgiving involves God’s hand of provision.

Today, families gather every fourth Thursday of November to eat a large meal that took hours and often several people to prepare, and the one thing that is primarily left out is giving thanks. The talk over dinner is not about how God has blessed their lives; it’s about what store are they going to visit first for Black Friday sales.

Disregard for Others

America has lost its appreciation for what they have through the anticipation of what they want to have, at discounted prices. Never is greed so evident than it is on Thanksgiving night. You see people’s true nature when a store only has twenty televisions and one hundred and twenty in the line for that TV, all with the mentality of: it’s my money, I earned it, and I deserve it, so I’m going to get it.

It is disheartening when greed overtakes the thankfulness we were expressing just twelve hours earlier. It’s shocking to see someone pushing another over for bath towels at a Black Friday sale. That is not an exaggeration. I was there and saw it first-hand, it was not pretty. While I’ve never seen bloodshed, three years of working at Walmart on Black Friday did teach me a valuable lessonsome things are not that important.

Our culture has become incredibly self-centered. We covet the things we do not have and envy the ones that do. These feelings grow so strong that some cross the line and take the things they feel they are entitled to. After all, why should the life circumstances, that have been forced upon them, penalize them from the things they want?

There is no moral compass anymore. It even spills over to those who do have success. Recently there was a story of three college basketball players. While visiting China as part of promoting the basketball league, they visited several local stores and felt the need to steal from a few of them.

I don’t understand what can go through a person’s mind to get them to want to steal anything. I can somewhat see a desire to take something that does not belong to them if a person is homeless or starving, but these boys were neither. Yet they still decided to disrespect; the law, the stores they stole from, the country they were visiting, the league and the team they were representing, and America as a whole. The sad part is that this is not an isolated instance.

We have lost our first love, the concern for others.

Remembering Others

I grew up in a day when if there was some sort of hardship someone would write a song about it to create awareness of a cause. Some of you may remember Band-Aid, U.S.A. for Africa, and Farm Aid. People were active in causes to help raise money through hard work. Nowadays, we don’t petition each other, we petition the government and lay blame on them when the problems are not fixed.

Matthew West writes in his song, “I Created You,” about a person seeing problems of hunger and pain around them. They are saddened, upset, and asking God why doesn’t he do something. And God answers that he did, he created the person asking the question.

We are going to be the ones to enact change, by helping others. We cannot rely on the government to solve the personal problems this country faces. It is up to the people to act. I am not talking about revolution or anarchy. I am talking about need. I am talking about reaching into our own pockets, using our personal time, and using our voices to spur others on to helping change come about. As Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

It reminds me of a scene in Star Trek II, during a heartfelt moment between Kirk and Spock these words are spoken, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. We need to regain our sense of humanity by considering others in our words and deeds, even at the sacrifice of our own prosperity.

Disregard for Love

For the last month, we have seen news stories about those in prominent positions being accused of sexual harassment. It seems we cannot turn on the TV without hearing about a movie star or news personality being drug through the mud. Of those exposed, some have come clean, some even apologizing and appearing to get help, while others vehemently deny pointed fingers.

Since society reflects what it sees in the media, what people see the media doing becomes the norm of what is acceptable. We see the media telling us what to drink, what to wear, where to shop. If they tell us we need to drive a Lincoln, we think to achieve prominent status we need to drive a Lincoln.

So, what does it say when these men’s secret lives begin to come to light? Love for them is a forced action; they covet someone, instigate affection, and expect reciprocation. Or we see some being arrested and put on trial for the assault of a wife or girlfriend. Love for them is: do what I say or else. Not the role model we grew up with. There are no Ward Cleavers or Dr. Heathcliff Huxtables anymore. (And even Mr. Cosby is not above approach.)

Love is viewed as a light bulb. When that bulb burns out, we toss the bad bulb out and replace it with a new one. And so, it goes; if feelings change, just break up or get a divorce. We treat love as an old pair of gym socks.

We have lost our first love, an example of the permanence of love.

Remembering Love

Love is not something that is here today and gone tomorrow. Love is permanent. There should not be any circumstance that could change love. Despite common belief, love is not a feeling. Love is a decision. We choose to give someone affection. Personal feelings have little to do with the decision to show love. Colossians 3:14 tells us, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” If love is something we put on, then how can it be an anything but a choice?

In 1 Corinthians 13, known to most as The Love Chapter, we are instructed about what love is. It is patient and kind, it is not seated in envy nor should it cause anyone to boast. It is never arrogant or rude, forcing its own way on someone. It does not become irritated or resentful with lack of reciprocation. Its truth is always celebrated. It bears through all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and it endures through all things. Most importantly, love never fails.

When love is a decision, then there is no pressure when we don’t feel love. We don’t question or doubt our decision about the one we have married. Instead of treating love as a perishable, we need to treat it as a something that is sustaining. A fire comes to mind: it can be fed. As long as you continue to feed wood into a fire, it will continue to burn. The more we feed love, the longer it will  continue to burn.

Disregard for Life

A variety of public service advertisements air, demanding that you sponsor a pet. If you don’t, those animals will be euthanized. Then, seconds after that commercial ends, the news comes back and reports on a federal judge who prohibited a state law from being enacted that banned a dangerous abortion procedure. We are giving more consideration to saving soulless animals than we’re giving to a living human being. Let the dog live, kill the child. What is wrong with people? We care more for the pardoning of a Thanksgiving turkey than for finding the morals within ourselves to value human life.

You cannot turn on the news without stories of who shot who or what deranged person walked into a public place and opened fire on a group of innocent people. We blame the guns, the manufacturers, and the laws that exist, ignoring the real problem; morality. We shine a temporary light on the communities affected, mourn the losses, then move on to the next tragedy. It is a sad endless cycle. Not in the spotlight leaving an impacted area, but that it continues to happen all over the world.

We have forgotten our first love, the sacredness of life.

Remembering Life

Unlike love, life is not a choice, though some would argue the case. One of my favorite quotes is from Ronald Reagan from the 1980 Presidential Debate, “With regard to the freedom of the individual for choice with regard to abortion, there’s one individual who’s not being considered at all. That’s the one who is being aborted. And I’ve noticed that everybody that is for abortion has already been born.” He goes on to say that if there is any question at all about if life exists, then the answer should be yes until there is evidence to the contrary.

The respect for life goes beyond abortion; it goes beyond the tragic events that claim lives, it is about having the morals that scream that all life is sacred. It’s not in the segregated efforts of different organizations. It lies in the combination and unification of these organizations. Once we come to the realization and acceptance that all lives matter, then every single life will matter.

Treating a stranger as a brother and a friend, and not the enemy, is the mentality we need. God created each of us. According to Jeremiah, He knew us before we were born, and He has a plan for each person. If each of us has a specific plan for their life, then no one person is greater than the other. We are all on a level plain. Since we are all on a level plain, then we all should strive to succeed in what we were called to do. Most of that calling is to love one another. And loving one another gives us the desire to help your brother and friend in their efforts to succeed.

Final Thoughts

1 Corinthians 10:24 says, “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” It continues in 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals.” And it all culminates in Mark 7:20-23, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” We can choose to do good, or allow the bad to corrupt us.

The solution is in Galatians 5:16, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Seeking what God desires and living a life that is pleasing to him, is what can help this world turn from the greed and selfishness that have plagued it. If we consider the good of those around us, not letting the things of this world corrupt us, then we can become united in the stand against all that is immoral.

Reagan said, in that same 1980 debate with Congressman John Anderson, that this country needed to get back to the fundamental beliefs we once had that had been abandoned. He felt that America had the hunger for a spiritual awakening, but he also said that churches were not doing what they need to do regarding the government involving themselves in the family. The church needs to take a stand.

This feeling is the same today. Once again, we need that spiritual awakening. We need to take a stand in support of the traditional values we have left behind. Until we wake up, we will continue to see the atrocities of life flourish. America has forgotten its first love, the acknowledgment of a higher power and living a life in accordance with a moral code that the forefathers knew all too well. The morality of having standards of life, liberty and a pursuit of happiness.

Posted on

Veteran’s Day: A Tribute to our Armed Forces

On Friday morning I sat in a School Auditorium and listened to poems and songs in honor of those who have served in our military. The first and second grade sang songs. My daughter who is in the third grade recited a poem. The fourth grade recited the Preamble to the Constitution, and the Kindergartner’s delivered the Gettysburg Address. The fifth grade sang, “Proud to be an American.” Then, members of the High School band played The Star-Spangled Banner after each branch of the military’s anthem was played through the sound system as members of those branches stood to be recognized.

If you have children in Elementary School, I am confident that most of you had the same Veteran’s Day Assembly experience I had. But the question I have for you is, did it move you?

Does the steadfastness of our Constitution give you chills?

The Preamble itself is filled with declarations that are summed up in six essentials: Unity, Justice, Tranquility, Defense, Welfare, and Blessing. All these things early Americans held sacred. They no longer wanted to live life under a supreme ruler and grew fed up with taxation without representation. They were being told, “this is how it is going to be, and you have no say so in the matter.” Realizing that their whole reason for coming to the new world, to get away from tyranny, was still being forced upon them. They had to make a stand. And they stood. It all began with 52 words.

Words have the power to ignite a person’s soul. If it were not for the minds that wrote these words of declaration, the cause would have never been made into something tangible. America would not be here today, well in its current form, if it were not for those who fought for a cause that was specifically lined out. The names of those who fought are figuratively signed at the bottom of the preamble in the blood of those who died.

Do Lincoln’s words make you think?

On November 19, 1963, President Lincoln delivers a speech at the dedication of a once battlefield, now cemetery for those who lost their lives in the Civil War. Lincoln begins his speech with a reminder of why this country was established. Lincoln continues, “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.

 Men and women died in defense of a belief in 1775-1783 during the Revolutionary War. They fought and won freedom from tyranny. The children and grandchildren of those fought and died for a belief in 1861-1865. They fought and won freedom for equality. The idea of standing up for beliefs was ingrained in citizens of the U.S. From the time of the Forefathers, to Lincoln, to present day. People choose freedom, even to the point of dying for those beliefs.

Do those who have fought make you feel thankful?

Wars have come, and wars have gone. From both world wars to the more recent wars in the Middle East. Still, men and women fight to keep our freedoms safe. They even fight to help others realize their freedoms. They choose to accept the responsibility of providing for common defense. If they did not believe in those freedoms, then they would not desire to pick up arms to defend them.

It is sad to me that those who choose the honor of representing our country get ridiculed, mocked, and words put into their mouths. Many would have you believe that every member of the armed forces is being coerced into get on a cargo plane, shipped to a foreign land, given a gun, and told to hunt down an innocent enemy. These generic spokesmen fill the papers, news feeds, and airwaves with tales of soldiers not wanting to fight, even with all evidence to the contrary.

The irony here is that the naysayers are trying to stifle the very ones who provided them the ability to exercise their freedom of being able to stifle them. These men and women in uniform could choose not to fight. They could be relieved of their weapon, forfeit their rank, and surrender their uniform. But they don’t. Trump is right, these men and women know what they sign up for. In fact, to them, it would be a great honor to die in a fight for freedom. Of course, no one wants to be killed, but they know there is that risk, and accept it with open arms.

These men and women are just like you and me. They have parents, they grew up, went to school, got braces, had acne, went through puberty, and messed up countless times. Just ordinary human beings, but they felt a calling to service. The desire overcame the cost, and they chose to enlist. There are no supermen among them. At least that is what they would say. Still, they make a conscious decision to sign up, battle through basic training, endure the advanced training, and put themselves at risk for each of us. Often get separated from family for long periods of time, they see children grow up via photos and video chat. They are doing something I could never do.

When I see a uniform, fatigues, or even a window decal I feel indebted to that person. If it were not for their sacrifices, you would not be reading these words I am writing to you now. And to those who turn up a nose, whisper a curse, or take a kneeyou should be ashamed of yourself. Even if you have the freedom to do so.

The greatest thing in all of that, those that serve could care less. They know that the freedom they are fighting for is the very freedom you are using to scorn them. If the freedom to mock them were taken away, then what are they fighting for in the first place?

 Does Lee Greenwood’s song make you stand taller?

I am old enough to remember when “God Bless the USA” was released. Although, it was a sad year for my family. My father, an Air Force veteran, died that year after a short battle with cancer. I don’t know if he ever got to hear that song before he passed, but I know for a fact it would have made him proud. My greatest memory of the song was the Fourth of July celebration my church would have every year. One of the choir members would sing that song, and it touched my heart every time, even as a 10-year-old boy. I still get chills every time I hear the intro and must turn up the volume and sing along.

It is disappointing that it takes a national tragedy for Americans to come together and unite in pride for the U.S. After 9/11, pride exuded from everyone’s pores in this country. It was echoed from the abundance of car flags to musicians writing and recording songs in support of our country defending itself. Putting a boot in someone’s ass became a catchphrase, people were proud to live where the stars and stripes and eagles fly, and everyone remembered where they were when the world stopped turning.

Now its more like, have we forgotten?

American soldiers took up arms and defended ourselves from the atrocious act that was taken against us. And we were proud to send them off in defense of the lives that were stolen. Yes, many of them did pay the ultimate price, but again, they were honored to make that sacrifice if it meant that we here in the states would be protected through their sacrifice.

Do the anthem and the flag bring you to tears?

I live in south Texas. We love High School football. Every Friday night, you can expect half the town to attend the local Varsity game. My son is a senior and plays wide receiver, so yes, we are at every game. Now, being in South Texas, at a High School Varsity game, you know they are going to begin with the National Anthem. The marching band, in which another son plays French horn, gets things going with a drum roll as local Air Force cadets march out the flags in cadence. Once they reach the 50-yard line, another flag is raised at the north end of the field. Then our Mighty Indian Band honors the flag, and those who enabled it to be raised, with The Star-Spangled Banner.

This is one place where you will never see anyone taking a knee.

Although the song was not adopted until 1931, the poem itself existed over 100 years before. In 1814, after an American victory at the Battle of Ft. McHenry, Francis Scott Key penned these inspiring words of what he witnessed. His amazement was over the flag that still was erect after the heated battle was won. In the darkness, he would not know who won the battle until the next morning, the dawn’s early light. When the sun rose, he saw the American flag waving victoriously. And he was moved.

Does seeing the American flag wave in the breeze move you the way it moved Francis Scott Key? Do you think about those men and women who made the sacrifice that allows that flag to be raised? Are you thankful for the freedom you live under that others have provided?

Final Thoughts

When this is posted, Veteran’s Day will be a memory. But don’t allow it to become a once a year event. Every time you pass a courthouse, school, or business that has Ole’ Glory on display, remember those who have chosen to represent those who have chosen not to. Thank the Lord that you live in a country that allows us the freedoms to worship in the manner we chose. That we can stand up and voice our opinion without fear of reprisal, and that those who oppose that view have the same freedom to express themselves.

Take the time to thank a veteran. Shake their hand, look them in the eye, and express your gratitude for their service. They may not seek the spotlight, but they will be grateful that someone took notice and acknowledges their untold sacrifices.

Posted on

Thankfulness, Freedom, and Praying for Our Leaders

I have been writing this blog for almost two months now. I have written on subjects like The Second Amendment, Immigration, and Gun control. The Presidents words and actions have been topics I have covered as well. Over the last week, I have gone over each entry and have come to a conclusion: our country is being lost a little more each week. It wasn’t until I reviewed last week’s post that I figured out what is wrong.

Last week’s post was my tribute to those who have served in the armed forces. That post fits into the theme of this upcoming week; being thankful. It is appropriate that Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving are so close together. If it were not for those men and women who fought and died for this country, we would not have the things we have that make us thankful.

How We Fail to be Thankful

In this country, we have grown accustomed to having stuff. Personal items like clothing, cars, homes, and electronic devices, have become part of who we are. We have developed a sense of entitlement, and we feel we deserve everything we have. Well, don’t we? We put in our 40 at work, we pay our taxes and give to charitable organizations. If we want to spend some of our excess on a new Samsung TV, a Louis Vuiton purse, or dinner at Ruth Chris, then we should have that right. We deserve it, and I for one enjoy a good steak.

Our gotta-have-it mentality has blinded us to what we already have. We are constantly looking for bigger and better. What we currently possess is never enough. So, how can we be thankful for the things that we have if we are always looking for the things we want. We find ourselves quite unthankful and bitter when we cannot have the newest model. We should be ashamed.

How Can We Be Thankful?

First of all, we need to take inventory. Not physically writing a list, although if you are a list writer, knock yourself out. Look at all the stuff that you own, but look at it from the aspect of being blessed with those items, not how they lack from what is on store shelves right now.

Second, take each item individually and consider what it took to get it, then think of what your life would be like without that item. Doing this gives you an appreciation for that particular item. Once you see that thing through a thankful state, move onto the next.

After a while, you will notice a trend. You begin to appreciate what you have a little more. The newest model may still appeal to you, but you will not take for granted what you have the way you did.

 One Step Further

Now that we have looked at what we have, and gained a different perspective on being thankful for our possessions, consider the bigger picture. We tend to be so narcissistic that we don’t look beyond our circle. The bigger picture is with those around us. What would our life be like without the friends we have, our jobs, the city we live in, the state we live in, the country we live in. We take each of those for granted as well. We have grown up with so much freedom that we have become blinded to the freedom that freedom brings. No, that is not a typo. Read it again, slowly. You will see what I mean.

Next, we need to ask, what is freedom? Where did it come from?

As we were reminded last week, freedom came from those who fought and died for it. The men and women of our armed services willingly chose to put their lives on the line so that you and I can live in this wonderful country free from tyranny and the evil that lurks about us. For that, we need to be eternally thankful. Without their sacrifice, we may not have the ability to make choices as we do.

We have the freedom to worship as we chose.

We have the freedom to be educated.

We have the freedom to choose our profession.

We have the freedom to take a stand for what we believe in.

We have the freedom to take a stand in opposition to what others believe in.

This freedom comes at a cost. A cost that is decided by the powers and entities that exist to govern us. Starting with the President and making its way down to our local mayor. These men and women make decisions that affect each of us. No one is exempt from the choices they make. No one is exempt from the laws they enact. Which is why it is imperative that we are involved in the process.

What is Our Part in the Governing Process?

If we want to retain the freedoms we grew up with; we need to do these three things. First of all, we need to vote. If you do not vote, then you should have no standing when you complain about the governing decisions.

Second, you need to stand for what you believe in. If you do not make your voice heard, then we cannot come to an understanding of each other in order to find common ground to build a bridge between our ideals.

Thirdly, and I feel most importantly, because it ties all three together, we need to pray. Without prayer, we wouldn’t know who to vote for, we wouldn’t have a set of ideals to stand behind, and we would never have an ultimate source to go to when all does not go how we want it to.

Prayer is the Key

This does not mean that we pray for our guy to be elected, or for a competitor to fail. This type of prayer is unproductive as there are greater powers at work than just what we want to happen. There is an ultimate design and the will of God that is at work. Regardless of how many of us feel, the powers that be are in their positions due to God’s will, or allowance. The issue is how we chose to react when someone who is at odds with our position is in office. Will we bellyache and turn our backs, or will we support them in spite of our personal feelings?

If we want to see changes we need to begin with prayer. Pray for our leaders. Pray that God will guide them in their decisions. Pray that God will change their hearts if they are supporting a view that opposes God’s design. Pray that God will influence their actions, to be honest, and fair. Most of all pray that God softens our hearts towards them, accepting them as the authority figure, even if we do not approve of them spiritually, politically, or personally.

The Bible encourages us to pray for those in power (I Timothy 2:1-2). We should not resist them because if we resist them, we are resisting God who has placed them in power (Romans 13:1-5). I Peter 2:13-17 tells us we should not only honor the higher powers, but to respect those who are below them. Honoring each other, God, and those He has set in place.

Thankful Prayer

It does not matter if we view a leader as good or bad, our government needs the support of its people. That support should always begin with prayer, even if we do not like the person in office. Our prayers do not have to be for their agenda’s success. Our prayers should be for God to guide our leader in making right decisions in accordance with God’s will for our country.

Often our prayers are given based on how thankful we are. And how thankful we are rooted in how much we appreciate the life we have. If we feel we have a mediocre life, it will produce mediocre prayers. When we know we are living a blessed life, then our prayers will reflect it. When we see the good through the bad, we become thankful regardless of our situation.

Above all, we ought to be thankful for being born in a country that has freedom. We ought to thank God that we can live without a governing authority forcing us to say certain things, do specific things, or believe certain ways. And if we fail in any way, we are punished up to and including death. This is happening all over the world. It is our prayers and retaining focus on what is important that keeps us from suffering the same fate of freedom denied.

Freedom will never have any true meaning for us if we continuously degrade the process that enables us to be free. The negativity keeps us from developing a sincere appreciation for the life we have been given. An appreciation for life brings about the desire to continue in that life. And the way to continue to live a thankful life is to support to the ones who are responsible for that life to exist. Our leaders need guidance to maintain that life. Our prayers bring that guidance. Prayer is where the process begins. Prayer is the universal answer. Because no matter what your political view is, we all desire the best for our blessed country.