Tuesday, May 26, 2015

One Last Memorial

Roland was a spoiled brat. No way around it. He was momma's favorite son. She let him get away with anything he wanted, and she always stepped in when dad tried to correct him.

He was bright, and from an early age he knew exactly how to manipulate her. He could embarrass her, break her heart, then just smile and bat those blue eyes, and she couldn't stay mad at him. He knew a quick, "I'm really sorry. I love you, mom" is all it would take to melt her heart and get him off the hook -- again.

Then Roland ended up smack in the middle of World War II. He was Private First Class in the 4th Pioneer Battalion of the 14th Regiment of the 4th Marine Division. The Pioneers were engineers who operated bulldozers and other heavy equipment to prepare and repair roads and airstrips. They cleared minefields and did any number of things required to assist our troops' movements, while disrupting the movements of our enemies.

His battalion saw action in the Pacific Theater, island hopping through the Mariana Islands, Saipan and Tinian. Then the Pacific Fleet re-gathered its strength, and launched a huge invasion on Japanese soil -- a hellish volcanic island known as Iwo Jima.

Early on the morning of the third day of the invasion, two regiments of the 4th Division jumped off in an attack, meeting severe mortar, machine-gun, and artillery fire. After making small advances with heavy losses, they were confronted by intricately laid-out minefields. Roland's 4th Battalion Pioneers rushed in to clear the minefield, a deathtrap expertly placed by the Japanese general who happened to be one of the last of the remaining Samurai. He had fortified the defenses of the island for more than two years prior to the invasion. The Pioneers' only protection was the covering fire from tanks and marine units.

Roland was hit and was evacuated on a DUKW (one of those "ducks" you might have ridden in Washington D.C., the Wisconsin Dells, or some other tour) to a nearby hospital ship.

Three weeks later, the day before my dad was confirmed, two men in uniform knocked on grandma's door and told her that her beloved Roland "died of wounds received in action on Iwo Jima on Wednesday, February 21, 1945."

That's all I ever knew about Uncle Roland, until I had a chance to spend time with his older brother, my Uncle Art, in 1991. He had instructed naval pilots in Corpus Christi, Texas, and bumped into Roland when they both went home during shore leave in late 1944.

Roland was a changed man. With tears streaming down his cheeks he wept in his mother's arms, apologizing for all the pain and hurt he had caused her. He returned to the Pacific assured of his mother's love and forgiveness.

This side of heaven, I'll never know for sure, but I like to think that his experiences in the war, and his chaplain's words of God's unfailing love, had led Roland to repentance, and faith. I hope he also knew the peace of God's forgiveness won through Jesus' suffering, death and glorious resurrection. Roland's experience reminds me again how short and fragile life can be: here one moment, gone the next. Thanks be to God for our victory over death through Jesus Christ. Now may He give us each the courage to share that saving news with the Rolands in our lives.

Please take a moment and click here to share your views on what Memorial Day means to you.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Of Caps and Gowns

It's graduation time again. Millions of young men and women are donning the cap and gown to celebrate finishing high school and college and the open road that leads to their futures. That road can seem like either a boundless horizon or a terrifying step into the unknown. One of those grads is my son, so I've been thinking of the doorway that stands open before him -- and the millions of others out there on that same threshold.

Finally, all that hard work on class papers, readings, projects, and tests will have paid off. But while you were busy jumping through all those hoops to earn your diploma, God was hard at work too. He has lined up all kinds of people, situations and opportunities through which He will keep you close to His side. From there He will guide you to the vocation that will be most satisfying and meaningful for you in the years and decades to come.

In the coming days He will bring some amazing people into your life; just be wise enough to listen to them and learn from them. Now that doesn't mean you should automatically accept everything they tell you. You need to weigh their advice alongside what God tells you through daily Bible reading and regular church attendance.

Yes, God's been hard at work, but (no surprise here) so has Satan. He's especially excited about your newfound freedom and independence. He's trying to catch your eye with those things your parents wouldn't let you do -- things they warned you against. He's laid out some attractive temptations that will play on your pride, vanity and sinful desires.

But your Lord Jesus has been through all that before. Remember, He was once young like you. But He knows those temptations for what they really are: minefields. Step in the wrong place and you'll be living with hurt and regret, and maybe even some closed doors for the rest of your earthly life.

In other words, proceed with measured caution.

The great thing is Jesus is going along with you, ready to guide you with His Word. His Ten Commandments are like a map to navigate that minefield. They clue you in on temptations to avoid, and make clear the path that will keep those complications and their explosive shrapnel out of your path. Even when you do fail -- and you will, we all do -- He'll be right there by your side to forgive you, cleanse you, get you back up on your feet again, and set you on your way.

Sure, it will be tempting to stand on your own, making your own way, doing it your way. But do you want your life to be satisfying? Meaningful? Impactful? If so, then seek to walk with Christ. Stay alongside Him, and you will move mountains together.

What advice would you have for a new high school or college graduate? Please take a moment and click here to share your wisdom and guidance with those at this critical juncture in their lives.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Dark Side of May 4th

Last Monday, Star Wars lovers among us got a chuckle with the date, "MAY THE 4TH BE WITH YOU." Unfortunately, that joke cost a man and woman dearly.

It started when the man was walking through a shopping center in Melbourne, Australia. He saw a Darth Vader cut-out poster that said, "MAY THE 4TH BE WITH YOU." Thinking of his children who were Star Wars fans, he decided to take his first selfie in front of the poster, and send it to them.

While he was standing there getting his phone ready, he noticed a couple of children walking up to the poster. He told them if they wanted to take a photo there, he would only be a minute. Their mother noticed this stranger talking to her children, took his photo, and posted the following on Facebook:

"Ok people, take a look at this creep. Today at Knox he approached my children when they were sitting at the frozen movie in the children's clothing section, he said "hey kids" they looked up and he took a photo, then he said I'm sending this to a 16 yr old. I immediately removed the kids from that area and took them to security at the front so I then followed them and took his picture and he took off. Centre management were straight onto and so are the police, hopefully he is caught. Police said if he is a registered sex offender he will be charged, this happened at Knox, be safe with your kids"

That's when social media did its thing. Faster than wildfire, her post was shared more than 20,000 times, and the innocent man started getting nasty phone calls during a meeting at work. His co-workers noticed his picture was being shared on Facebook. He went straight to police, and they cleared his name. They contacted the mother who, with deep humiliation and embarrassment, quickly corrected her post. Soon she found herself in the innocent dad's shoes -- receiving death threats over social media for her "stupid mistake."

Both this father and this mother are urging people not to spread stories over social media that have not been investigated by police, or reported by a reputable news agency that verifies facts before publishing stories.

It's easy to get hurt and offended by things other people do or say (or leave undone or unsaid.) It's tempting to vent through the social media world. But what if we simply misunderstood or misjudged the other person's motives, without knowing what was going on in their minds?

God gave us the Eighth Commandment to protect each other's reputations so we would give the person the benefit of the doubt first or speak directly with the other person first before letting rumors fly. Doing this keeps the matter between you and him/her alone.

As the saying goes, a reputation is easily ruined, and difficult to repair.

It's good to remember to use social media the same way we use every other word we speak: with special care and attention, even when we're deciding whether to "like" or share something we received from someone else.

Have you seen, or been the victim of, this kind of social media misunderstanding? Is there something you can convey to Men's NetWork readers that might give them a "heads-up" on how social media can go seriously wrong?

If so, you can click here to give us your perspective.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Sensitivity Training

Carolyn Hax is an advice columnist. She had a beaut of a letter this week: "A mother-in-law won't take 'no' for an answer." It was submitted by a woman whose married son, daughter-in-law, and grandson live eight hours away. Her husband wanted to celebrate his birthday by taking his son hiking to reconnect over a long weekend. His son's wife gave her blessing and planned to stay at home alone with the sixteen-month-old grandson.

That's when the troubles began. Mother-in-law didn't want to spend the weekend alone, so she offered to ride along with her husband. This would give her the weekend with her daughter-in-law and grandson. The daughter-in-law had already given several reasons why that would not be a good idea. But thinking she could easily resolve those problems, the mother-in-law came along with her husband without first okaying it with her daughter-in-law.

Needless to say, when mother-in-law showed up at the front door, daughter-in-law and son were furious. Father-in-law was pretty ticked off too, having been under the impression his wife had worked everything out to their daughter-in-law's satisfaction ahead of time. The daughter-in-law allowed her to stay the weekend, but was pretty distant and cold.

The mother-in-law asked, "What exactly did I do that was so bad? How do I remedy a situation when I don't know exactly what the issue is? I don't want to be 'that' mother-in-law."

I liked Carolyn's answer. She didn't mince words or beat around the bush. "The issue is that you showed complete disregard for your daughter-in-law's wishes because you wanted to visit ... Regardless of the specifics on her end, you decided that your wants and needs were paramount and just steamrolled her wants and needs completely. You still seem confused that she has needs. And that is what you have to apologize for, fully, immediately and without defensiveness, which means no "but I thought ..." constructions.

Life gets messy when we don't take the time to listen -- really listen -- to each other.

Carolyn concluded her response with another thought: "I think you have to go beyond an apology and offer to make it up to her somehow."

Have you been caught in the middle between your mother and your wife, or between your wife and your daughter-in-law? It's not a good place to be, is it?

How would you suggest she make it up?

You can click here to give us your insights to this prickly issue.