The 80’s song by the Australian band Men at Work comes to mind as loss once again comes knocking on our door. The longer we exist on earth, the more frequently this unwelcome visitor appears at the threshold.
I lost my parents in 2009 and 2017. My father-in-law passed in 2014. Recently, two classmates passed as well. In November, I had to put down our 16 year old feline family member after being diagnosed with renal failure.
Over the weekend, my sister-in-law called to inform my wife that their younger brother was no longer with us. He was only 46 years old, but had lived with diabetes since childhood. My wife looked at me and said “now there’s only 7 of us” referring to the four members of our family, her sister and spouse, and her mom.
While longevity is certainly what we all wish for it does come with this caveat. The longer you live, the more frequent visits from loss will occur.
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
I Thessalonians 4:13-14 NKJV
In past years, we would alternate each year who would write the Christmas newsletter that would be included with our Christmas card. In 2017, that traditon ended as a result of two painful losses we suffered that year. They were always a great way to wrap up the year and look forward to the coming year. It is in that spirit that I write this blog post.
2021 began with us in Texas assisting Renee’s mom following major back surgery. I was able to telework from there for the IRS as a Contact Representative. That is just a fancy way of saying tax collector. At the end of the month, we returned to Utah for a few days before the family went back to help mom while I remained. February passed with us spending our anniversary and birthdays apart for the first time.
As Easter approached, the family would return and this time only Renee would leave to help mom. The rest of us stayed in Utah until Mother’s day when we would all remain under the same roof for the first time since January. Renee spent 6 months helping her mom and was happy to be back together in Ogden as was I.
Summer was filled with swimming lessons which Karri enjoyed greatly. In June, we met up with Jim as he traveled from San Diego to his new home in Colorado with his pups. We would pay them all a visit in July to see the new place and spend some time together. Summer ended and Karri began kindergarten.
As Fall arrived, changes began to occur professionally. Jesse and I would both start new jobs. I reapplied to the school district after the part-time job I had previously held was made full time. The position with the IRS which allowed me to telework was moving to the next phase where I would begin placing levies and liens against taxpayers. I was not looking forward to that and was grateful to be offered a position as Site Tech at a nearby high school.
In November, we traveled to California to attend San Diego Comic-Con after missing it for several years. It was the largest crowd we had been around since the onset of the pandemic. With all attendees required to be fully vaccinated and wearing masks, it was good to be back amongst the fans.
As 2021 comes to close, we hope the challenges we faced in the past year will not be repeated and that many new blessings await us in the new year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours.
Each of the logos above is from one of the schools at which I have taught or been a staff member. After graduating from Christ for the Nations Institute in 1992, I served as a youth pastor and began teaching 4-6th grade in the church’s private school. I would eventually move up to 7-12th grade to teach and coach athletic teams. In 1996, I attended Oral Roberts University working during the year as a student worker and over the summers coordinating faculty payroll.
After moving back to California in 2003, I was employed by Excelsior Education Center as a computer tech and an instructor. I taught at the high school for a short while before moving to the Prep Academy, their junior high. I even attained a California teaching credential. I left education again in 2006 until I rejoined the Silverado High School staff as a computer tech in 2015. I left that position in May 2019 to join my family in Utah after a prolonged and unplanned separation.
In September 2019, I became an office assistant part-time at Bonneville Elementary School entering attendance. In April 2020, I transferred to Ogden High School after securing a position as a part-time computer tech. Unfortunately, the pandemic forced my resignation and another departure as I began teleworking for the IRS full-time helping taxpayers with their tax debts.
After the computer tech position was converted to full-time with benefits, I reapplied with the Ogden School District. The position was not offered to me and I remained with the IRS. A few months later another computer tech position within the district became available and I reapplied. I am now returning to education at Ben Lomond High School and the “Friendly Fighting Scots.”
It’s exciting to be going back to where I once belonged. Whether it was as a teacher or a staff member, I always enjoyed being in education. I hope the rest of my career is spent there.
Today marks twelve years since the fateful morning of my mother’s desperate call to me while paramedics worked to resuscitate my father following a heart attack. He was 67 years old when he passed that day and had suffered a heart attack almost thirty years prior outside my bedroom door. I saw paramedics in the hallway working on him from the bottom bunk while my younger brother slept in the bed above me.
Yesterday, I met with my cardiologist’s PA a year after my own heart attack to check my progress after a stint was placed. I was told I am doing great with good blood pressure, pulse and having lost 15 pounds. I was cleared to stop a few prescriptions, but still have two arteries with blockage percentages that will keep me taking some of the meds.
I miss you pops and wish you had done more to make sure you were around longer to see your grandchild grow to adulthood. I will do all I can to make sure I stick around as long as possible to be here for my grandchild.
I said that to my father as he lay paralyzed on his left side from a stroke in a hospital bed in Lakeland, FL on the morning of 9/11. It was a day of loss and selfless sacrifice by 1st responders rushing into danger to try and save lives.
As we honor their sacrifices and remember the many who are departed, I wonder how many more times I would have repeated that phrase standing next to my pops as we observed events of the recent years. We have seen a callous and uncaring police officer kneel on a man’s neck until he expired. We have seen over a half-million of our countrymen pass from sickness. We saw the sitting president whip a crowd into a frenzy to prevent the certification of his successor.
The many selfless acts from that day 20 years ago have been replaced by so many selfish acts of today. The death of a man of color unjustly does not prompt outrage by all and some are more outraged by the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” The mandating of a life saving vaccine causes people to object to their individual rights being trampled instead of seeking to stop a pandemic. A large portion of the electorate believes the election was rigged because their guy lost despite no evidence to support their allegations. My way over others is most important.
John F. Kennedy said “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Matthew 7:12 says “Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get.” MSG
Let’s set aside our selfishness for selflessness!
I bit the bullet and opted to reactivate my FB account. However, in doing so I chose also to reduce the number of “friends” as well. Having been unfriended myself without notice, I am certain their will be unintended hurt feelings. It is an odd thing how we allow people we have shared a common experience with at some point to have continued access to your life. Does being a classmate, coworker, sharing a common interest or bloodline mean I grant you continuous unending visibility of the details of my life?
If anyone is upset about no longer being a “friend” on social media, my apologies as that wasn’t my intention. I just realized I had allowed far too many people a window into my life. I spent a year away and during that time, only a handful made contact. Some on social media were only in my life for a short period and have not been a continued presence since our paths separated. I am still available should they decide they need to talk, but most didn’t miss me while in my exile.
If my life touched theirs in some significant way on our journey to eternity, it gives us so something to talk about at journey’s end. I am not pursuing large numbers of followers or friends and hope those that remain are there to contribute to my life and not just stand by and obseve.
Giving a commitment to follow Jesus involves turning away from one’s past and embracing the promise of redemption through Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. You pursue holiness and conformity to the message and lifestyle he demonstrated for us. You understand that it is through His pardoning of our sins that we are able to stand blameless before a Holy God. We have no ability to cleanse ourselves from the ugliness and corrosion of this world on our own. He cleanses and then empowers us to overcome as we rely on Him and the power of the Holy Spirit to transform and renew us day by day.
Yesterday, we returned to visit the congregation that we met in when I was a GI and Renée was a high school student. It was a bit of a time warp and also a bit of a reckoning on how far we have traveled on this journey of faith. The message was one we had heard 30 years ago and the cultural influence was also dated. Although our faith sprang from that soil, it could not grow there now. There were political statements made that we didn’t agree with and mocking of Covid19 that was troubling as well. Add to that a pistol packing pastor and we all knew that we were making our only and possibly final visit amongst them.
An Indian missionary penned the hymn “I have decided to follow Jesus” which concludes with the line “no turning back.” I don’t think we can return to where we once were after committing to follow Jesus. We aren’t who we once were and cannot turn back the clock to do what we once did. Growth involves shedding of old ways and conforming to the image of the Savior.
“And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].”
Romans 12:2 AMP
When it comes to military service to this country, there is a significant heritage in our family. I was told growing up that on my mother’s side, I descended from John Paul Jones, father of America’s navy. Closer to my generation was my father and siblings service to our country.
My Uncle Jim served in the US Coast Guard while my Uncle Bill, Harry, Ray and Ed all served in the US Navy. My father chose to join the US Marines straight out of high school. He met my mother while stationed in San Diego and spent a year of my early life in Vietnam at Khe San during the Tet Offensive. He was reassigned to Barstow, CA where he exited the service and raised my brothers and I.
I chose to enlist in the US Army at 19 years of age to escape Barstow only to return twice to train at nearby Ft Irwin National Training Center. I also participated in the Cold War exercise REFORGER(Return of Forces to Germany) in 1987 to keep East Germany and the Warsaw Pact at bay. My younger brother would follow Uncle Jim into the Coast Guard and served 10 years while I left the Army after only 4 years to pursue ministry. Later in life, he joined the Oregon Air Guard as well.
Additionally, I would meet and marry an Army brat whose father retired from the Army and was a member of rival unit where I was stationed at Ft Hood, TX. My best friend Jim enlisted in the Navy serving 30 years and retiring as a Command Master Chief.
Many of us have taken the oath pledging our lives to the defense and protection of our countrymen. Serving the United States of America is our heritage!
It’s funny how your observation of the passage of time changes as you have more miles behind you than ahead of you. Growing up, you don’t spend any time reflecting on where you have been as you know you have so much more lying ahead on your journey. After reaching the half-century mark, dates on the calendar remind you of significant moments more frequently.
Today is the 27th of September and one month ago I had a heart attack although it went undiagnosed until the following day. I have changed my diet and have increased my physical activity. I have dropped a few pounds with a goal still to meet. Renee has been alongside every step of the way.
One year ago was the eve of my first day of work at Ogden School District. I worked as an Office Assistant at Bonneville Elementary School tracking attendance. I stayed in that position until Spring Break when I became Technology Site Specialist at Ogden High School. I now work for the Internal Revenue Service.
Six years ago today, I stood in front of my son and his bride leading them in their exchange of vows. Their relationship would end three years later and we now live with him and his daughter in Utah. We had no idea the heartache ahead of us that day, but we are so very grateful for the blessing their relationship brought into our lives in the form of the Precious. She brightens our lives each and every day we share with her.
I have no idea what this day may bring in the future, but I am glad to be with my loved ones to share this one. We have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. We can’t change the past, but we can join arms as we go forward into whatever may come our way. Slip away if you must time, but we will keep our eyes upon the keeper of all time, the Lord God Almighty.