One Minute Before Midnight

“And He spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

Luke 12:16-21, King James Version

We live in a society or culture that is constantly telling us to prepare for the future. Prepare for a rainy day! Prepare for retirement! Many work an entire lifetime to only enjoy a few years of retirement, if they are lucky enough to have that. Many work all of their adult lives to afford extravagant toys, large houses, fast cars, and fancy clothing.

I have recently been confronted with questions that many of you have asked yourselves at some point in life. “What do I have saved for my future? What sort of inheritance will I be able to leave my children? Will my spouse be financially secure when I am gone?” My wife and I recently found out we are expecting twins. This raises a ton of questions about the future. One child makes you think about things. Two children makes you think about all those things a little bit harder! With a daughter already in her late teens, two on the way, and being forty years old, I am asking myself those hard questions now more than ever.

I know of some who have passed away in recent years. We all do. Some spent all of their adult lives preparing and building their kingdom. They created a dynasty for themselves, with the hopes like everyone else, that they would be able to someday sit back and enjoy the splendor they’ve worked so hard to accumulate. But, just like all of us, life happens. We can’t predict it, don’t want to expect it, but we can’t delay it. We are thrown curveballs. Life takes an unexpected turn. The years we spent so long to prepare for never come. If we are blessed to be able to live a long life and enjoy that nest-egg we saved for, chances are we won’t be able to enjoy it enough to pay for the years we spent working to build it.

In 1857, the financial market in the United States collapsed. Overnight, men went to bed dreaming and counting their riches, only to wake up the next morning bankrupt. Everything they had prepared for and saved was gone.

All this sounds kind of grim, doesn’t it? I’m not trying to make anyone second guess saving and preparing for the future. I’m also not trying to say we should squander all we have today and not save for tomorrow. No, that would be foolish and unwise. What I am saying is what this parable is saying. Better yet, I am asking. Where are your riches? What have you invested in? Has all your money gone to pay for the fancy car that will rust away? Have you built or purchased your dream home, that overnight could burn to the ground? Have you built a bank account that will go to someone else to spend when you die? Even if you spend it all, none of the things you purchase will go with you. Someone else will inherit your money or possessions, and while they may be thankful for it in the present, they will soon want more. Your money and your possessions won’t be enough.

Why are we foolish and always desiring more? Why do we spend so much time working and away from family, only to have it vanish in an instant? Is the money and time away from family worth it, if you lose your family as a result? Is the money and time worth it, if you sacrifice your health in the process? But hundreds of thousands of people are doing it every single year, despite the impending outcome.

While 2020 has definitely thrown us some curveballs and punched us in the face with things we never expected, it has also provided us with some invaluable lessons. For me personally, it has pushed me to return to the basics in life. To get back to the smaller things in life. The things that maybe didn’t seem to matter before, but really end up mattering the most. The events of this year have caused me to slow down a bit, be a little more aware of those things around me, observe more, listen more, talk less, and cherish the irreplaceable things in this life. It has also made me focus even harder on those things which carry eternal weight.

In the parable above, Jesus calls the rich man a fool, and states that even that night, his soul would be required of him. When I read it, it made me think of my own life. One minute after my soul enters eternity, will I have any regrets? Will I wish I worked more? Will I wish I spent more time away from family? No, of course not. So if I could look back after this heart stops and body dies, and know the things I would do differently, and can name them off one by one, why am I not doing them now?

Why aren’t we all?

The Assassination of Accountability

It doesn’t take much digging into the news headlines over the past several months, to see a growing trend here in America. A scary trend, that if followed, I believe will kill the concept of accountability. In fact, it didn’t just start within the past few months, but rather recent years. It’s a trend, that when I think about it’s consequences and repercussions on the way we live, makes my stomach turn. Maybe you have noticed them as well. If not, let’s just take a look at some of the things I’ve noticed.

Accountability can be simply defined by saying responsibility. Webster’s defines it as, “especially an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.”

Where do you see a lack of accountability in your world today? Well, you can do a simple Google search for “lack of accountability in America,” and you’ll be given a wide variety of news articles, opinion articles (like this one), and sources that range from credible political sources, all the way to conspiracy theory websites. I dug into some of them and it started giving me a headache. If you’d like to see them all, feel free to research the topic on your own and draw your own conclusions from what you find. What you will find however, is a growing lack of responsibility within our nation.

I started noticing this downward spiral a few years ago. Seems as though we like to shift the blame for our issues onto someone else, or place the blame on a disease. Are you an addict? Alcoholic? Gambling problem? It’s not your fault some say. You have a disease!

I’ve recently heard about the sick and twisted agenda of having pedophilia listed as a gender identification. It’s mind blowing, and a lie straight from the pit of hell, to think an adult sexually attracted to a child is okay; that it is just how a person is designed. No, it is not okay folks. It is wicked, and we are being spoon-fed these lies straight from the father of lies, Satan himself.

We have a growing number of marriages ending in divorce, ripping families apart, and having a disastrous rippling effect on future generations. Has your husband let you down? It’s okay, it’s not your fault. Not attracted to your wife anymore? It’s okay man, have that affair! It’s not your fault. Children left at home without a Mommy or a Daddy, all for the sake of selfishness. It’s sad people! And somehow we expect these children to grow up without any emotional or behavioral problems.

We are focusing on this COVID-19 pandemic, while we have a bigger problem here in America. We have this growing “cancel” culture thing happening, and there’s more and more being chipped away every single day. That’s an entirely different post to dive into, but it’s a problem. Why? We are accountable to the present and the future generations, to not repeat the mistakes of the past. If you erase the past, you just might repeat the past. Nothing to look back on when there’s a blank slate!

We have some radicals in America that want to defund law enforcement. I’m not talking about Smalltown, USA. No, we are talking major cities like New York and Los Angeles. What happens when you get rid of law enforcement? Who then enforces the law? What rules are there to follow? You know what you lose? Besides protection, you lose accountability! Less than twenty years later, and we have people who want to defund the very men and women who raced into the World Trade Center towers on 9/11/2001.

We have a culture that not only wants to get rid of police, but they would love nothing more than to get rid of God from our culture. Why? Get rid of God and you no longer are accountable to a higher power. Without good, there is no evil. Well to all those radicals who think that’s a good idea, I will tell you this. God’s Word is very clear that while this earth may pass away, His Word will never pass away. Try and destroy it, get rid of it, silence it, or suppress it, but the gates of hell itself will not prevail against God’s Word. The attack on the institutions of marriage and law, will eventually lead to an attack against God’s people. If you don’t believe me, why did the Black Lives Matter protesters burn Bibles recently?

Well, I’m going to stop right there for today. In closing, we need to return to a day when we were accountable; to our spouses, our parents, our children and their children, to law, to our community, and to God. Take away all of that and remove accountability, and you remove truth. Remove truth and all you have is lies.

It’s time to stand up and stand out.

More Contagious Than COVID

Am I the only person, when seeing someone post on social media regarding the death of another person, or tagging that person who recently passed, clicks on the name and browses their social media timeline? I find it amazing, when browsing their profile, how many of these individuals had posted or commented on a post within the last twenty-four hours preceding their death. I am almost certain that ninety-nine percent of these individuals also weren’t aware that within twenty-four hours, their life here on earth would come to an end. Amazing and sad at the same time.

Here we are in the midst of this global pandemic that began several months ago. It’s been a crazy four months. We have argued and debated over toilet paper, paper towels, diapers, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, to wear or not to wear a mask, and the list goes on! We have watched as states are added and removed, only to be added again, to a travel advisory watchlist, and we have all experienced a change in plans; whether it be wedding cancellations, postponements, vacations being disrupted, etc. It has been one heck of a ride thus far for 2020, and we are only halfway into it. I’m honestly nervous for 2021 to get here because I have no idea what it will bring!

There are things outside our control. There are things in life that no matter how much we think we can control, we can’t. If I was a betting man, I would almost bet everything I have on the fact not one single person reading this, knew we would be where we are right now. We can plan the best we can, even have the perfect plan (to us), and have it all get tossed out within a matter of minutes. Many of you experienced this with different states being put on a travel watchlist. I for one know how it is living in New York, where we currently have 31 states on the no-no list. Travel there and be prepared to spend fourteen days in quarantine upon return! We just can’t control some things. I can plan for a dinner so well put together that Gordon Ramsey himself would praise it, but I can’t guarantee I would be at that dinner. I can plan and plan, but none of it matters unless I’m there to carry those plans out. Aren’t there many who woke up this morning, have great plans for tomorrow, but will never see the sun rise on a new day? The only thing we can certainly plan for in life, and know that those plans will be carried out exactly how we wanted, is our death. That’s a fact.

While there are things way outside our control, even know we may like to think they aren’t, there are certainly things within our control, or scope of influence. You want to know something more contagious than any pandemic the human race has ever faced, what we are facing now, or that any will ever face? Joy. Mindset. Each of us have the ability to control what goes in, how we respond to it mentally and emotionally, and then what comes out. Here’s an example!

Yesterday I was in a convenience store that I frequent often. While waiting in line with my coffee and Twizzlers, a man walked into the store without wearing a face mask or any sort of facial covering. Now I have seen people on social media get really upset and irate about these types of individuals. I’ve seen people report businesses or take photos of individuals not wearing a face mask. I had a mask on. Every other person (about a handful) had one on. The clerks had them on. There were even signs on the door telling people to have them on! How was I going to respond to this? Well, I will admit the first thought that came through my mind was, “Yup, one of them.” But I didn’t say anything, and I made perfectly sure that my body language didn’t give away the thoughts going through my head. I’m not the mask-police. I don’t know this individual and if he has a medical condition that precludes him from wearing a mask. It just wasn’t worth getting upset over. I paid for my items and left the store.

When I got in my car, it was pouring down rain. I mean really pouring! The man left the store as I was driving away, and I noticed him walk around to the back of the store, and grab a bicycle that looked as if it had seen better days. I was immediately emotionally convicted for the negative thoughts I had when he first walked in. Was this man homeless? I do not know.

We control how we respond. I could’ve, like many do, made a scene inside the store, only to find out this man was homeless and didn’t have a face mask. We both would have left the situation losing; me for embarrassing him, but also for making myself look like a complete jerk, and he would have felt embarrassed. Whatever the reason, it really is none of my business.

How many things on social media or in the news, do we see, react, and then wish we could rewind thirty minutes and do over? How many things do we respond to on impulse, only to wish we could take it all back? How many trivial things do we waste our energy on, both mentally and emotionally, that have zero to do with us? There’s so much we can control, but refuse to in a positive way.

Joy. It’s contagious and begins with you and I. We both wake up every day and have the ability to make someone smile or laugh. On the flip side, we can also do the exact opposite. What’s more important, and will make you feel better when the day concludes, and you lay your head on your pillow?

It’s simple. Choose joy.

Leaving the Ninety-Nine

Seems like the “Black Lives Matter” or “BLM” movement is all people are writing about nowadays. Seems like the saying, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” is truer now than ever. Lately there has been a post circulating throughout social media, in which the parable of the lost sheep in the Bible, is quoted (out of context I might add), and used by the BLM followers to further support their agenda. Have you seen it?

If you haven’t seen the post, it is basically slamming anyone who calls themselves a Christian, but doesn’t get behind the BLM movement. It takes the story of the lost sheep in Luke 15, and compares it to the racism we see today in America. Let’s take a look at the passage.

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?” Luke 15:4. The post that is circulating typically stops right there. That right there is the first part of my complaint. The individuals using this verse from the Bible, aren’t going on to tell readers what it then goes on to say; how the lost sheep is like the kingdom of God, and there is rejoicing over even one single sheep rescued! They don’t tell you that this parable, an illustration Christ used oftentimes to speak to those listening, was also followed by two other parables, “The Lost Son,” and “The Lost Coin.” These three parables, each describing something precious that was lost, had only one thing to do with race. The human race. What do they all mean? Each parable was used to illustrate sin, our human nature to run towards it, the cost of it, and the lengths in which the Holy Spirit will go to in order to rescue us from the depths of that sin. That’s it!

I’m all for people quoting Scripture. But it needs to be quoted in context. I used to believe a saying, that I would’ve sworn came from the Book of Proverbs. It went something like, “God helps those who help themselves.” You know what? Such a verse doesn’t exist! In fact, that thought right there goes against every single teaching of Christ, because we know that man can do nothing of himself, apart from God.

Well that’s all for this one folks. I really felt the need to clear that up, because I’ve been seeing the verse used over and over, out of context and only partially quoted, and they are wrong.

Stay safe, do great things, and feel free to comment with your own thoughts!

Nine Miles of Memories

Just outside of the world famous city of Saratoga Springs, NY, known for the inventions of the club sandwich and potato chips, the oldest horse racing track in the United States, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), the mineral springs, and the famous mineral baths that used to attract royalty and celebrities alike, lies a stretch of road nine miles long.

If you drive this nine mile stretch of road, you’ll pass through fields, over and along streams, and through wooded areas that seem to come alive with a past two centuries old. You won’t pass any convenience stores, but you’ll certainly see your share of wildlife; rabbits and deer call this place “Home.”

When you finish your drive through this landscape, you will be able to say you have driven through nine miles of the most historic pieces of land in America. You’ll step on some of the same grounds that helped shape our nation, breathed life into our independence from Great Britain, and where the turning point of the American Revolution took place.

I am talking about the Saratoga National Historical Park and the Battles of Saratoga. It was here where American patriots fought the British, defeating them and bringing the largest military force in the world closer to surrender. It was here where Benedict Arnold fought and was wounded. Yes, it’s along this road, that I not only relive history from colonial America, but also memories from my youth.

These grounds are not only home to deer, rabbits, and other wildlife. They’re not only home to centuries old trees that speak to you as you walk amongst them. They’re not only the burial sites of thousands of Continental Army and British soldiers. These grounds are home to some of my greatest memories in life.

It was along this road that I remember bike riding as a child. It was always a treat for us growing up, to load the bikes into the car and head to “the battlefield,” as we call it around here.

It was along this road that we used to come for a quiet drive, windows down (no matter how hot it was), radio off, and driving below the 25 mph speed limit on the one-way tour road. Even when I drive it today, I still turn off the radio and roll the windows down. It’s a land that although once soiled with blood, now demands peace; a land that once echoed with cannon and musket fire, now demands quietness. A land which was once filled with the battle cries of freedom, now asks for only whispers.

It was along this road that I learned to drive. My Dad once had a Ford Bronco stick-shift, and it was along these nine miles that I stalled and jerked the engine over and over. It was along this road that I learned how to push in the clutch, shift, stop on a hill, and come to a stop. It was also here that I learned the patience of a father.

Along this road I learned how to cross country ski, how to approach a deer from upwind, downwind, and everywhere in between. Along this same road is where I began to train and condition my body before joining the Air Force; running and walking the miles of pavement on cold March days in 2001.

Along these roads is where I returned in 2017 when I retired from the military. No longer a boy on a BMX bicycle, no longer a teenager learning to drive, and no longer a young man seeing how fast he could run a couple miles. I returned as an older man, weathered and experienced from life and death, war and peace, joy and sorrow. I returned to these grounds for one simple reason, and it’s the reason I keep going back.

From the very first day I rode my bike there, to the days I learned to drive, to the days my feet pounded the pavement, until now, the grounds remain the same. I return and can go to the same exact spot I went three decades ago, and it remains untouched. I can tell stories, or I can remain silent and just remember a day from years past come alive in the moment.

Nine miles of road. History shaped. Memories made. A life transformed.

For more information about this area, visit the Town of Saratoga Historian’s blog.