The Greatest Generation

On Independence Day Eve, I had the privilege of officiating at a service for a man who served in World War 2. As you no doubt know, there are fewer and fewer of these folks left.

They are often called the Greatest Generation. It isn’t date of birth that makes a person a part of this special group; it’s much more than that.

More than about when a person was born, The Greatest Generation is about a way-of-living. It’s about learning the value of hard work, of a hard-earned dollar, and appreciating both. It’s about facing the challenges of the Great Depression, and coming through it, in tact, on the other end. It’s about rising to the occasion when the world’s peace was falling apart. It’s about making commitments and sticking to them. It’s about being faithful to your family, to your wife and children — year, after year, after year.

All of these traits were seen in Eugene, the man whose funeral was held the day before July 4. But like so many of his generation, Eugene didn’t talk much about his service in Belgium and Germany during the war.

One of the reasons Eugene didn’t talk much about his past is probably because he didn’t think it was all that dramatic. He would have felt that what he did was just what was called for. And so, many of the Greatest Generation don’t feel like they’ve done something great, but that they simply were doing what was necessary. They were simply doing the basic things.

But that’s exactly why Eugene, and others like him, are a part of the Greatest Generation. In a world where so many don’t step up and won’t step out – Eugene did. And what is greatness? – other than knowing what matters, what is central, and doing it faithfully.

Not only would Eugene not have claimed the title of ‘greatness’, like so many others of his generation, he was not one to talk about his accomplishments. In his mind, they simply weren’t great. But I beg to differ.

Living a life of love for your spouse and your kids and grandkids – for 62 years – this is a demonstration of the kind of love that does not come and go; is not based on the feelings of the moment – but is the greatness of committed love that is in it for the long haul.

Reclaiming each inch of Europe may not have felt all that majestic in the moment – but it was a collective act of greatness that preserved the freedom of the world.

Living an honorable, God-fearing life may not feel all that special — but it’s rarity makes it all the more notable.

So, thanks, Eugene for being a member of the Greatest Generation. Not by birth, but by life. May those of us who’ve come after, learn from you, and emulate, in our way, the greatness of a faithful life.

Your Labor Is Not in Vain

Sunday, I was able to share the reminder that Paul gives us in 1 Corinthians 15: because of the hope of the resurrection, our labor is not in vain. And with that, I shared a number of stories of families in our church who took up the challenge to bless someone during the Easter season. But I forgot one that I really wanted to share….

I remembered to share the one of the girl from our church who knew that another girl on her school bus was in a foster family, and so she reached out to her. And it was a great fit; for the girl from our church had also been in a foster family.

And I told about the college student in our church who is student-teaching at a local elementary school. She has two refugee families in her class – and one of them is in a family of nine kids. So she and her family blessed those families.

And one of the stories is ongoing. A nine-year-old took the $40 I gave him, and took seriously the challenge to bless someone else with it. He promptly added $10 of his own money to it, and then challenged his family to each give $5. With that, he quickly tripled the $40. He is making plans to ask Walmart and Target for a discount on school supplies, so he can take them back to his school for kids who can’t afford them.

So, that was Sunday, and some of the stories I shared. But I was going through my email on Monday, and I noticed I had forgot to share one of the stories. It needs to be shared, and even though I forgot on Sunday, I have a blog. So here it is:

wikmans

The Wikman family heard the challenge to bless someone, and decided to buy toys for St. Joseph Children’s Home. To maximize their efforts, they invited some friends from church to join them. Then another friend pitched in. And then three other families from their life group. The end result was that a number of families got to join together and bought all kinds of stuff for kids at St. Joseph’s: bubbles, sidewalk chalk, frisbees, kites, gloves, scooters, all kinds of balls, and a rocket!

wikmans 2

And it all started with a simple challenge, and a reminder: that our labor is not in vain. Everything done in the name of Jesus, and because of his love, matters. It counts. And is a part of what it means to be people who don’t simply believe in Easter, but LIVE Easter.

Lessons Learned in NYC & DC, part 2

Two weeks ago, I gave the first half of my top ten list of lessons learned on our Student Ministry’s recent trip out east. Since I know that David Letterman is waiting on me to finish my list so he can use it before he retires, here are the “final four” of my Top Ten Lessons Learned during Spring Break 2014 (see the first six here):

My girls on the NYC subway
My girls on the NYC subway

4. There is no place like New York. Where else can you ride a ferry (for free) past the Statue of Liberty? Or join more than a million people who ride the subway every day? Or see the Tiffany Diamond? Or a Broadway play? Or hear 800 languages? Or gawk like a total tourist in Times Square?

3. You really can run into famous people randomly in New York. Well, if seeing someone get in a car constitutes “running into” them. On our way in to gawk at the Plaza Hotel, we saw Alec Baldwin getting into a car. You’ll have to trust me that we really saw him, because the best we got was a picture of his hand closing the door of his car.

Alec Baldwin’s hand

2. There is no place like Washington, DC. I love stepping off the metro station and standing on the National Mall, with all that history and culture (and yes, even politics), all within eyesight and a brisk walk. Every American should visit Washington. All expenses paid. Perhaps there’s a government program for that….

20140403_1326471. It’s great to serve. Our group got our hands dirty painting, cleaning out a vacant lot, planting, painting, “yarn-bombing,” raking, pressure-washing, and learning to be ready for anything. After all, isn’t that what a servant’s heart looks like?

I’m grateful for the opportunity to take this trip, and spend time serving with students from our church, and the adults who gave a week to serve with them. Wherever we are — NYC, DC, or Louisville; at home, school, work, or church — let’s carry a servant’s heart, and hands, with us. After all, serving isn’t about a one-week trip, or a special occasion — serving is a lifestyle.