Have you ever given much thought to what hell is like. I'm not talking about getting caught in a freezing rain storm while going north on Michigan's I-75. And, I'm not talking about the comment from Frank Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond about how hell has a dry heat.
I'm talking about the real hell mentioned in the Holy Bible, like some people go to heaven and some go to hell. What's it like to move into the devil's neighborhood?
Thumbing through the Bible, I found this verse in the book of Isaiah. Chapter 66, verse 24 says:
And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.
What do you think? Is hell real? How do you get there? Know anybody who might have already made the trip there?
I may have a family member there. I hope not. Did he understand the consequences of rejecting Jesus Christ? I'm not sure. Did he ever reverse his course and accept Jesus as his savior. There's no evidence of that.
Thinking about the worms and the fire, I pick heaven. It gives me hope. It's a hope that everybody can grab onto.
The first thing I usually reach for in the morning is a cup of coffee. We have a collection of coffee mugs, including several from Starbuck shops around the world. Today, I chose this one that I got at a Promise Keepers event more than a decade ago. For most of that time I kept pens and pencils in it. Now I'm putting it back into circulation as a coffee mug. I need to be reminded about who I choose to serve everyday.
In this coming year, it seems like uncertainty will reign at all levels, on a personal level, state, national and international. There seems to no guarantees for anything. Psalm 23 is a direct promise from God. He's a protector and a guide and somebody who looks out for my best interest. These are the first Bible verses I read this year. I need to drill them into my heart everyday.
Will the divisions in our country and the world continue this year? It's an age where people so easily trash talk each other with the ultimate threat of "unfriending" you. You can unfriend me, but I urge you to not unfriend Jesus. He's the only thing that makes sense in this world and the only one who provides real hope.
When I came back from a mission trip to Haiti and to the West African country of Mali, I fantasized about what it would be like to serve as missionaries on a long term basis. I surmised that such a move would be challenging for sure, but I wasn't aware how not being prepared could suck the life out of your good intentions until I read this book "of stillness and storm" by Michele Phoenix
This novel was written in a style that shows the real grittiness of many mission fields and how poor communication between a couple on the field can have a life-changing impact for a family.
The best of intentions, even those where the hand of God feels close can leave you tired and broken without the proper preparation and communication.
I'd highly recommend this book for anybody contemplating a mission trip this next year, either short or long-term. It will add layers of understanding to real life on the mission field.
While our son-in-law was away on a short business trip this fall, we visited our daughter and their three kids. Our oldest grandson-six years old--and his dad are tight. My son in law has always shown him how to do lots of stuff, including cook.
One morning my wife asked our grandson what he wanted for breakfast. He said an omelet. My wife said she wasn't very good at flipping them.
He responded, "Grandma, I'll show you how I do it." My wife was a little leery about his cooking skills.
These videos show the steps he took. Notice how he grooves to some inner music by dancing around and then in step 4, see how he flips it. It was a great job.
When we cleaned out my mother's house in Bay City, we took many crates of old papers, clippings, pictures and greeting cards that she had saved. In it, we found two memories of my cousin Roger Moll of Bay City who was killed in Vietnam in 1968.
I remember how Roger's death upended the life of his family. My Uncle Ralph took years to sort it out in his heart and come to peace with the fact that his oldest son had beaten him to heaven. I remember how my mother's siblings--six brothers and five sisters--circled the family wagons to give Ralph and Anna Mae extra love and ears to listen.
The top clipping from the Bay City Times shows his family receiving his medals in 1968 and the bottom was his obituary that has been on my workbench for the past year.
I thought about my mom yesterday and her compulsive, driven desire to keep the sidewalks in front of my boyhood home shoveled and free from snow. I was thinking about my fairly new snowblower and how doing our driveway was tiring and then I thought of my mom with her well-used snow shovel.
When it snowed in Bay City she was always out there shoveling or sweeping. She looked with disdain on neighbors who waited to clean theirs. She'd be out there early in the morning and late at night.
This whole business of being "driven" to do something made me think about the year ahead and about what drives me. I mean really drives me. Not the kind that gets me to the dinner table. But what do I have a passion about.
As I get older--beyond 70--I find my passion waning. I can still carry on about the election and then it fades. I'm "driven" by being involved with our family.
Another area would have to be health. I need to turn up the fire on staying healthy.
Then there's my relationship to Jesus. I need to be "driven" to expand and maintain that.
As you age, what are you driven by?
Our personal anthem for this past year has been 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redmond. It expresses our feelings about the past twelve months.
I felt like I couldn't talk. The words were in my head but they were coming out of my mouth. It happened just before Labor Day in Lansing as Gladys and I walked into a neighborhood bar for lunch and a craft beer.
It’s been that kind of year with lots of life-changing moments that touched our hearts in extraordinary ways. It included two hurried runs to hospitals in two different states and experiences that almost got me to bust out in song.
We had just finished our Meals on Wheels route in south Lansing when we decided to catch lunch at a nearby craft brewery, Eagle Monk. They have a somewhat healthy thin crust pizza and beer that you can split with another person.
My eyes were adjusting to going from really bright sun to a darker bar when I felt the tug at my leg. I heard this little voice excitedly saying “Bubba, bubba, bubba.” It was my two year old grandson Miles. I looked over and saw my kids, Krista and Justin and spouses and their kids.
They surprised me big time for my 70th birthday. They wore special t-shirts with my picture, including my two new grandchildren. The picture of me they took shows the shocked look on my face.
Other top tier highlights include the birth of our two new grand babies.
Krista and family are back in the states
Krista and Adam have returned to Indiana from five years in Bosnia. She came home pregnant with her third child. That’s why we got an early morning call and went to the hospital on the north side of Indy.
Their son—Jacob Wesley—came into this world quickly. The nurses delivered him before the doctor arrived. Yes, they took my name for his middle name. Again, I was caught without words. Really honored.
Justin and Lauren added Eloise Martha
After the weather warmed this spring, we got a call from Justin in St. Louis. Lauren was ready to deliver their second a daughter, Eloise Martha. We had the honor of being able to share the first day experience with them.
And again, the name is special. Little Eloise’s middle name Martha is my mom’s middle name.
In the course of all this, I developed a severe case of “smile ache.” It comes from holding and looking at new grandchildren for an extended period of time.
Drones, reading, puzzles and selfies
The older grandkids: Xavier is in first grade who has a big heart and an insatiable curiosity. He’s developing into a real reader. Gretchen is four who has a rock solid sense of her own identity. She’s smart and she’s charming. Justin’s son Miles is two and knows how to take a selfie. He’s very mobile and very social. He calls me “bubba” and Gladys “amma.”
I love looking at You Tube videos with Xavier about drones and listening to him read. Gretchen loves puzzles and has a delicate voice she uses when she says, "Grandap will you play puzzles with me?" Miles who is two-plus knows how to take a selfie and how to use Face Time.
Gladys is still in the classroom
Gladys is now a student teacher supervisor for two universities. She gets into different grade school classrooms several times a month. She’s guiding these new teachers through the cauldron of educational changes.
This past year, we’ve spent more time at the local Goodwill than usual. We takeover stuff as we empty our house to put it on the market. It’s time. Someone with kids can make better use of the space.
We are looking at condos in the outlying area. Our goal is to have it on the market in early spring.
That’s a longish, but quick summary of our past year. We invite you to let us know about happenings in your life.
Grab onto the hope of Jesus
Times right now seem to be getting more chaotic in our country and in the world. It’s hard to cut through all the noise of the times and to know which leaders to believe. Our God, at times, seems to be farther and farther away.
But, at this Christmas, we will be basking in the reality of His coming to earth. With his birth, death on the cross and his rising from the dead, we have real hope in the real God who will never leave us.
May the joy of His birth be real to you in a special way this year.
Those are the highlights. Please stay in touch. We'd love to hear from you.
Wes and Gladys
Were you born between 1946 and 1964? If so, then you're a baby-boomer. I was born in the first class of boomers in the year after my dad came home from World War II where he served in the South Pacific.
I was raised by my mom during a period in this country when social services were non-existent and where many still had vivid memories of the Great Depression and WWII. Growing up I was always hearing stories from my mom and her siblings about what they experienced during this period.
Life for my mom and her 11 siblings on a farm in the Thumb of Michigan was a saga that was made for either television or John Steinbeck. When I was a young child I heard the stories all the time. During that time, I'd dutifully listen and not pay attention to details. If it happened now, I'd have an iPhone camera and shoot constant video. I come from people who were driven to survive and thrive. Life for them was never uneventful or easy.
How about you? Have you had a similar experience? Do you remember any of the old stories? Do you have kids or grandkids who might love to hear those stories someday?
Now that I'm a little past 70-years-old, I find many of those stories getting really fuzzy. The details are either lost or they're uncertain. I feel like my grandkids have been cheated out of knowing the people who partially made them who they are.
What important memories do you still have? Are you writing them down?
Do you have a blog? If not, have you ever thought about starting one?
I started this blog 12 years ago before social media became a thing and during a time when people thought it was a funny four-letter word. I first read about them in the Detroit Free Press when a reporter did a story describing what they were and how they were different from ordinary websites of the time. I was also intrigued by the first person writing.
When I was 58 I decided to play with it. Now I'm 70 and I have almost 3,000 blog posts on this blog. I'm trying to evaluate why I should continue it.
Back when I started it, I was just finishing a career in and around politics. All my jobs involved writing whether writing news stories, news releases or speeches for politicians. My taste for politics has lessened greatly.
During the intervening years, I got married, had two great kids who gave us five really wonderful grandkids. I love being a husband and a grandfather, but . . .
I have to fill in the spaces of my life. I keep asking myself "with what?"
The above quote seems to say it well. Writing blog posts can help me figure that out. The sand in my hourglass is moving quickly. I need to get more of this sorted out.
I get it. I need to write this blog for me to help me better understand myself. It's way cheaper than going to a $200 an hour therapists who asks a lot of questions. I ask myself questions all the time. If nobody else reads this, I feel comfortable in saying I'm writing this for me.
I was 13-years-old when it first happened to me. I was getting a haircut at my uncle's house and, as we usually did we talked politics and about how the pope would move into the White House if John F. Kennedy was elected.
This is all true. It was a time when there was serious suspicion between Protestants and Roman Catholics. Many Protestant parents would question the wisdom of their dating age kids getting involved with a Catholic. And for many of them the symbol of all this was the pope.
In many Lutheran circles, there were plenty of publications about room being made in the White House for the head of the Catholic church. It was assumed that this country would be run from the Vatican City.
This all happened before the web and it's hundreds of "news" sites. Back then, it was all newspapers and radio news and a little television news.
Now it's fake news sites pretending to be real news. Readers are taking them for truth. What about the recent disclosures that President-elect Trumps National Security Adviser found to be the purveyors of the falsehoods.
What have I learned to help?
One of my professors at the MSU School of Journalism, Bud Meyer, taught us: Never Assume Anything.
It was pounded into our heads. Citizens need need now more than ever. The future of our country depends having confidence in reading what is being thrown out as news.
The answer: "Never Assume Anything."
How? I think I'll have more to share about this.
Did you ever buy gas at a Gulf oil station? These matches bring back memories from my boyhood in Bay City, Michigan, where I grew up and where the Gulf station was a regular stop. Part of our loyalty to Gulf could be because of my Uncle Wes Moll who owned one at Cass and Lincoln streets in my hometown.
Those were the days when every business advertised through book matches that it had readily available at its cash register for those who smoked. Cigarette smokers were common. They were everywhere. So smokers needed matches.
I was trying to think about how my Aunt Aileen Anderson influenced my life. She was one of twelve kids in my mother's family who grew-up on a sugar beet farm in Michigan's Thumb and she died Wednesday at age 91 in a senior care community in West Virginia where she lived to be near her daughter Colleen.
Aileen was always part of my life. My mother was close to her younger sister. They talked and visited each other often. When I was a very young boy and my mother was sick in the hospital I stayed at her house where she and her husband Ron raised three children. They were married 71 years.
How did she influence me? The first thing that comes to mind is her gift of hospitality. My most clear memories of her involve food, sitting around a table at her house and eating a delicious meal and always feeling welcomed. She always had a smile and loved talking about how she cooked each course to make it as healthy as possible.
I was always struck by the energy with which she lived life. She was fully engaged with her immediate family and with her siblings and their families. Right beside her always was her husband Ron. They were a team that shared each other's life with meaningful mutual conversation and with support for each other when it was needed. They were there for each other.
When my mom and I were in a serious car accident in the late 1950s, Aileen was right there to make sure my seriously injured mother was watched over and taken care of and that I had a place to stay before my mom got out of the hospital.
I remember when their son Kent had a tragic death, Ron and Aileen were each other's constant support.
One more thing comes to mind. She told everybody about her faith in Jesus Christ and why it was important to her. It was the most important thing in her life, followed by her husband and her kids. Some may have winced when they heard it. She'd smile and remind you that you need to hear and believe and depend on it. That faith was the source of strength and hope that she relied on everyday of her life.
Why do I mention this?
I was born and raised by a single-mom who was a saint. Aileen and Ron who died last year gave me a template for everyday living and loving that has stayed with me. I'm part of their legacy.
Are you an evangelical Christian? Watch these evangelical Christian pastors have to say about Donald J. Trump's victory. Something's wrong in their response. Right? What would Jesus say and do? I don't get it.
Do you eat cereal for breakfast? What kind?
This morning while grocery shopping with my wife at one of the local Meijers, we went through the cereal aisle where I was caught by the large amount of shelf space given to Cheerios. They had the old-fashioned kind along with a variety of flavors. Honey Nut Cheerios seemed to dominate.
Who eats Cheerios? Do they appeal to a demographic? Are infants just starting to eat solid foods major reasons why the cereal is so popular?
As a senior baby-boomer, I've moved beyond Cheerios to oatmeal and the like.
Maybe, I'd reach for it on the shelf, if it had a prize in the box.
I'm glad we early voted today. If turnout was any indication at the early polling station, it will be wicked busy on election day when it will be more fun to stay home and watch the returns on television.
My first vote for president was in 1964 when I voted for Barry Goldwater. Democrats made him out to be a wild man who could not be trusted. Even though he was a Republican, he was closer to being a Libertarian. He was very principled, but effective in his duties as a United States Senator.
Fast forward to our current season of political polarization where political types are running around like they have partisan distemper. I listened and I asked a whole lot of questions. I was not convinced by either candidate. They both fell short of what I felt was necessary to be a good president.
Many of my Republican friends put a bullseye on my back because of my lack of enthusiasm for Donald J. Trump. I was told that not voting would result in more abortions and a move away from conservative values. Hmmm. . .
I resolved that today when I wrote in the name of Evan McMullin for president. It's hard to ignore his experience and his values. He little to no chance of winning, but I feel good about what I did.
We had about 80 "trick or treaters" in our Lansing neighborhood tonight. The kids were extraordinarily polite and most had parents with them. How do you manage sitting on the front porch in mid-Michigan on the very last day of October? It's not a mind-numbing cold, but it leaves an impression after an hour.
While shopping at our Meijers yesterday, we picked up a bottle of Witches Brew from Leelanau Wine Cellars in Traverse City. This spice wine is best when hot and after two minutes, it has an aroma that talks to your nostrils and a taste that distracts you from the cold air while you're sitting barefooted on the porch.
All-in-all Halloween 20016 was a success. There were lots of little kids who were old fashioned cute and there were a lot of dads with them.
Now it's time for me to go to my Instagram Direct and see how my five grandkids living in other states celebrated the occasion.
I had barely hit my corner of the couch this morning with my iPad in hand when I read this story from the New York Times about how Trump supporters were ready to start or they would expect violence if their guy isn't given the election.
This is definitely worth a read regardless of whose side you're on in this election. This is pretty extreme talk from people who call themselves conservative and it needs to be talked about.
Have we really reached that point where people need to start marching to and taking over State Capitols if their guy doesn't win.
Who is stoking this kind of response? Is it the Republican candidate? Is it guys like Franklin Graham, the son of evangelist Billy Graham, who says election day will be the most important day in this country's history? Also, consider that many if not most of Trump's supporters describe themselves as followers of Jesus Christ.
What's happening? Is the New York Times manufacturing this or does it reflect the sentiment of a lot of people?
What will we wake up to on November 9, the day after the election? Will there be violence in the streets?