On Saying Goodbye to Friends

A long week came came to a close tonight with the above photo. Hands down it was the hardest night I’ve had a in while — surprisingly hard. We all look happy, and we are, but just a few minutes later everyone in this photo had tears in their eyes (minus the babies). Happy hearts turned to bummed hearts because we had to say goodbye to one of the families. Due to a great new job opportunity for the husband, the Lord has willed that they move across the country. We really don’t know if they will every move back to California or what the Lord would have, all we know is that tonight would be the last night we would really see them for a while.

I actually didn’t think saying goodbye to them would prove to be so difficult. It’s not that we haven’t known for months what God’s plan was. We even made arrangements to spend the last four days with them, just to get our time in. And it’s not that we don’t trust God’s sovereignty, because I believe we all do. The truth is we are friends, and in many ways we are closer to these people than our families. We have grown together, laughed together, worshiped together, camped together, ministered together, and enjoyed our families together. These are the kinds of people you let watch your kids, and you do the same for them. They are kind of people you give your house key to, and the ones that loan you their truck when you’re moving across town. They are ones that let you live in their place for six months before you get married (rent free) just because they want to bless you. They are the ones that open their home up once a week so a college-aged Bible study has a place to meet, complete with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. They are ones that invite you over to watch the World Cup and cook bacon wrapped hot dogs. They are the friends who you share struggles with, joys with, and the unknown with. They’re the ones you ask to pray for you and know they will. They are friends who love God and love people, and the kind of people you want to be around. That’s why it was so hard.

I don’t know what the future holds for my friends, but I know that I can’t be selfish with them. I’m sure there are other people across the country who need them and maybe God has sovereignly moved them just for that? Sad or not, I have to be OK with God’s plan. I need to learn more and more to trust Him even when it’s hard. I hope and pray God will use these good friends in their new home and new community to bless others the same way He has used them to bless me.

The Medal of Honor And A Confused Culture

[U.S. Army Medal of Honor with neck band] (LOC)

If you Google “medal of honor” you’re confronted with some very interesting results. The first two (three if you count the “sponsored link”) are links to a popular video game with the same name, and the third result is for the “Congressional Medal of Honor Society” which was created by the U.S. Congress to remember the recipients of the highest award given to U.S. military personnel — that is, the literal Medal of Honor. This might be confusing to some, but not to Google. Google is just returning back what it thinks are the best results of what people are searching for. But Google’s results illustrate this reality: we live in a confused culture. Confused over what? The simple answer: everything. We are a culture that doesn’t understand parenting, gender, race, sex, death, development, God, religion, and many others. But in the case of the medal of honor, we are confused over reality, or said another way, we’re confused over what’s real and what isn’t.

Staff Sargent Sal Guinta is the first living person since Vietnam to awarded the Nation’s highest medal, the medal of honor (you can watch his personal account of the story in this video). Three years ago he bravely fought off the enemy in Afghanistan and his story, though heart-breaking, will give encouragement and hope to many Americans. It’s the story of a real young man, with real strength and valor, doing something that few would ever do. He stared down certain death and risked his own life for his fellow soldiers and his country. Even in his own words, he believed he didn’t deserve the medal, but wanted it to represent the many other who fought along side him and those who are still fighting today. He sounds like a humble and self-sacrificing man, and I personally want to thank him for his service to the United States. But as I listened and read his story, I couldn’t help but think that so many other young men are out there right now, sitting behind a screen playing a video game that, though entertaining, doesn’t teach them anything about life in the real world, with real pain, and real risks. I like the way one former Marine officer Benjamin Busch put it in his article “Why A Video Game Does Not A Soldier Make”, he says

“Playing and risking your life are different things. In the video war, there may be some manipulation of anxiety, some adrenaline to the heart, but absolutely nothing is at stake…A video game can produce no wounds and take no friends away.”

Some young men probably stood in long lines back in October waiting for the release of the latest “Medal of Honor” video game. Many of them probably didn’t even hear about President Obama awarding the actual Medal of Honor just a month later. But then again, there’s really nothing exciting about an old guy giving some young guy a little necklace, right? Wrong. My concern is that young men today don’t know anything of the bravery, valor, or even honor displayed by Sal Guinta. And what they do know of it is probably highly distorted. While they sit at home in their bedrooms playing video games created by companies that spend millions of dollars to create reality, there are real men and women risking their lives every day, many of whom have left their friends and family here and aren’t guaranteed a return ticket home. Again, officer Busch’s comments are relevant,

“And for those who truly want to play for a Medal of Honor, recruiters are standing by. Only eight have been awarded since we invaded Afghanistan. All but one have been posthumous.”

It’s easy to live in a confused culture and not see the weird dichotomy it creates at times, or the blurred lines of reality and fantasty. As I look forward to training and educating my own son about the world around him I would do well to see the problem here and make the necessary adjustments. I hope and pray that he would grow to understand that there’s more to life than entertainment and that he would always separate what’s real from what isn’t, even when the lines look blurred. More than that, I pray he would be a man of great courage, valor, and honor — not just for his country, but for his God who deserves far greater allegiance.

Watch President Obama reward Sal Giunta with the Medal of Honor:

The Beginning of the End For Marriage?

© Shay Thomason

I got married at 21. Next month my wife and I will celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary — I couldn’t be happier. But apparently I’m not the norm. At least that’s what the Associated Press is saying in a new article out today with the tagline “Is marriage becoming obsolete?” I offer you this snippet for your own discernment:

As families gather for Thanksgiving this year, nearly one in three American children is living with a parent who is divorced, separated or never-married. More people are accepting the view that wedding bells aren’t needed to have a family.

About 29 percent of children under 18 now live with a parent or parents who are unwed or no longer married, a fivefold increase from 1960, according to the Pew report being released Thursday. Broken down further, about 15 percent have parents who are divorced or separated and 14 percent who were never married. Within those two groups, a sizable chunk — 6 percent — have parents who are live-in couples who opted to raise kids together without getting married.

Then there’s this gem just in the middle of the article:

The changing views of family are being driven largely by young adults 18-29, who are more likely than older generations to have an unmarried or divorced parent or have friends who do. Young adults also tend to have more liberal attitudes when it comes to spousal roles and living together before marriage, the survey found.

via Four in 10 say marriage is becoming obsolete - Yahoo! News

Thoughtlessness

I’ve been seriously contemplating a major swing in the content of my blog. Mainly due to convictions in my heart in regards to narcissism and pride, I want to continue to post and re-post helpful and encouraging reading when I can.

Today I give you a snippet from J.C. Ryle’s Thoughts For Young Men, originally posted on the “J.C. Ryle Quotes” blog titled “Five Dangers For Young Men”. Danger #3 is “Thoughtlessness”:

“Not thinking is one simple reason why thousands of souls are thrown away forever into the Lake of Fire. Men will not consider, will not look ahead, will not look around them, will not reflect on the end of their present course, and the sure consequences of their present days, and wake up to find they are damned for a lack of thinking. Young men, none are in more danger of this than yourselves. You know little of the perils around you, and so you are careless how you walk. You hate the trouble of serious, quiet thinking, and so you make wrong decisions and bring upon yourselves much sorrow.” - J.C. Ryle

Read about the other four dangers (Pride, Love of Pleasure, Contempt of Religion, and Fear of Man’s Opinion) here.

*Correction: An earlier version of this post had a photo of my friends doing silly things. This image has been replaced with the photo of J.C. Ryle to protect the innocent and hopefully not lead people to think I’m bashing my friends, which was never my intention. I too am quite thoughtless at times.

Free Resources You Should Download

I forget sometimes things I’ve come across or read that I want to share with people, but today I remembered a fantastic resource that you need to be aware of. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) has a great, updated website with some wonderful resources for Christians. Specifically they have put together digital booklets for free download which I highly recommend. Though I haven’t read them all, I have read the “From Boy To Man: The Marks of Manhood” and thought it was a very helpful resource on the topic of Biblical manhood. Obviously I have a vested interest in the topic as a man myself and with a son that is quickly growing, but I’m sure the other topics (counseling, modesty, homosexuality, and pastoral ministry) would be of interest to you.

You can download all of the booklets for free by visiting “Southern Resources” or by clicking the specific links below (all links are direct to the PDFs):

From Boy to Man: The Marks of Manhood
Counseling and the Authority of Christ
Homosexuality and the Bible
Modeling Modesty
The Pastor as Theologian