Cloud of Uncertainty and Conflict

“For Tom, life went on as usual except for the cloud of uncertainty and conflict hanging over his home and neighborhood.” For me, 70 years later, another cloud of uncertainty and conflict are hanging over my home and neighborhood.

For Tom, it was World War 2. For me…

This is the point where I leave you guessing for a minute about what comes next.  Given the economic status of our country, you could say that the cloud of uncertainty for me is economical.  Given the political unrest in parts of the world, you could say that the cloud of uncertainty could be focused around another war.  Given the outcome of the latest elections, you could say that the cloud of uncertainty could be focused around the status of our country.  But no, it isn’t any of this.

It’s Black Friday.

So many stores, so many sales, so many choices.  What to do, where to go, how to pay for it?

At the beginning of this week I knew that I would not be participating in Black Friday sales this year.  I wanted to avoid the stress and chaos that I have felt the last few years.  So guess what happened?

No, I didn’t go shopping on Black Friday (in fact, it is almost Noon and I am still in my PJ’s).

On Wednesday my mother-in-law picked up a paper with all of the Black Friday ads included.  I rummaged around and searched every page of every ad.  Yes, there were some deals that I just couldn’t pass up…yet I still didn’t want to go out and shop at 5:00 am in the cold.  Then I saw the Walmart ad.

Gray Thursday!  Starting at 8:00 pm…and they had some things I wanted to get.

What is the justification for going?  I was feeling bad earlier in the week for all of those retail employees that would have to work on Thanksgiving because their employer wanted to get a head start on the sales.  Now I was going to have to compromise my feelings for their plight and instead offer a theoretical “too bad, so sad” attitude when I walked in the store.

Could my conscience handle it?  Was my integrity at stake?

You can see the cloud of uncertainty and conflict hanging over me.  Tom only had to worry about war.  I had to worry about post-Thanksgiving retail crowds. I think some of the battles in Walmart, specifically in the electronics section, have been worse than some of the combat skirmishes in the Europe.  And no, I am not making light of a war in which many people have died.

In fact, I am making a statement on the fall of humanity in the name of saving a buck in the pocket and making big bucks in the cash register.  And I participated in it.

There is one thing that helps me feel a little bit better about it.

On the way out the door at Walmart, a Marine stood sentry to a box.  The box was labeled “Toys for Tots“.  In his hand was a can with a slot in the lid for money to be donated.  And one of my children was with me.

The same military that has risked their lives for me to be able to participate in all this retail foolishness was passively asking us to sacrifice a little to help those children who are less fortunate and may not be receiving much for Christmas this year.  And it seemed that 95% of the people just walked by without even noticing…or caring if they did notice.

I made it past the front door and into the parking lot and didn’t feel very bad.  I didn’t have a toy to donate and I didn’t have cash on hand.  But I only made it 50 feet.  I paused, opened my wallet, and saw a $5 bill.  It couldn’t sit there, especially after I had just spent hundreds on gifts for family members.  It was all the cash I could donate, but I could still donate it.  Or save it to pay for lunch one day next week.

There was another cloud of uncertainty and conflict hanging over me.  But I was able to rationalize the shopping.  It should be much easier to rationalize the donation of a small amount of money.

I took the money out of my wallet and gave it to my daughter.  I asked her to run back in and give it to the Marine inside the door.  I don’t know how she felt doing it, and I don’t know who will benefit from it.  But the Marine said “thank you” and I felt good for giving.

As my daughter and I walked to the car, I told her that if she ever has an opportunity to give when someone else is truly in need, she needs to give.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be money.  It could be food, it could be service, it could be time.

We are all faced with uncertainty in life and we all face some form of conflict, even if it is only internal.  But when we have a difference to make, will we make it?  Will we see the selfish follies of life and forget about the needs of others?

Tom saw the uncertainty and conflict of his time.  People were in need…their lives were at stake.  Tom joined the Navy and served the USA during World War 2.  Since then he has given his life in service to his community, his nation, his planet, and his God.

I think I can do better.  I think if I do, the uncertainty and conflict will leave…or at least greatly diminish.

Can you?

Just another view from a palmtree.



Living in God’s Country

Two campers with gear hiking through Bear Moun...

Image via Wikipedia

With a title like the one that I have chosen, I might just be leading you astray… a least a little bit.  Maybe not.  Your thoughts on what God’s country is could very well be what I am thinking about right now.  Likewise, they could be very different.  But even so, I still understand why you would think that.

Many people in the United States, especially during the first half of the month of July, refer to the whole country as God’s country.  There is a feeling of patriotism, loyalty, and superiority that bring along an attitude of this land being divinely set apart to be a land above all others.  For other people, those feelings of patriotism and superiority last all year long.

I’m not saying that people feeling that way are wrong.  In fact, I share in those feelings.  But that is not what I am focusing my topic on today.

I have travelled all over the United States.  In pretty much every place I have been I have met people that love their hometown (or some location not far from their hometown) so much that they refer to it as God’s country.  I take that back.  Even on my trips to southern California or the New York City area there has been someone that has referred another area of the state as God’s country because it is so beautiful.  They don’t say it about anywhere in SoCal or NYC, but I have heard it said about the upstate areas of those two states.

Montana is where I hear it the most.  And I think I have to agree more with those folks than with others.  Have you been to Montana?  Specifically, have you been in the western half of Montana?  That is some great looking real estate.  Let me clarify… If you like wide open places with mountains and valleys and a cowboy feel to them, Montana has some great looking real estate.

But so do Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, and Nevada… all for the same reasons.

If you have been to Hawaii, you might think of it as God’s country.  Well, maybe if you worship the Sun god, or the Sea god.  Maybe it is because you are a guy and worship the Hawaiian Tropic goddesses.  But I won’t count Hawaii right now (even though I have been to Maui and thought it was beautiful) because it isn’t part of the 48 contiguous states.  And for the same reason, Alaska isn’t included.  If someone wants to send me on an all-expense paid trip to Alaska so that I can experience the state, I will be glad to add it to my list.

I live in Utah.  I have lived in Utah my whole life, minus two years that I lived in Brazil, and 18 months that I lived in Houston, Texas.  Tomorrow I will be going on a backpacking trip in some of Utah’s mountains.  I will be going camping in God’s country.

I enjoy the mountains.  If I could buy one, build a cabin and live there for the rest of my life, I would be in heaven… or at least a little closer than the rest of you (hello, the elevation difference alone put’s me closer to heaven). For me, camping in the mountains is the most enjoyable way for me to enjoy all of God’s earthly creations.  There is flora and fauna (I still remember the term from my 4th grade Utah History class), there is clean air, and other than the sounds of nature, there is quiet.  To me, this is the place where I can feel more at one with God, where I am more in tune with Him, where I can feel more of His influence and watchful eye.

From a religious point of view, mountains are sacred ground to me.  And they must be sacred to God too because of how much he used them while interacting with man.  For example, Moses went up onto a mountain and received the Ten Commandments.  Abraham was told to go up onto the mountain to sacrifice his son Isaac.  Mountains were an integral part of religious teachings as shown in the Old Testament.

I will be going on this hike with five other adults and six teenage boys.  My son is one of them.  The fact that there are teenage boys coming along may cause it to not be as serene as it could have been, but this campout is for them.  They will get to experience something that not many teenagers get to experience.  It will be good for them.  It will be good for me to be with them.

If you don’t have mountains near where you live, find a place where you can experience the tranquility that the back country wilderness can give you.  Spend some time and rid yourself of stresses that come from life.  Try to become a little more attached to nature.  Get yourself away to your own version of “God’s country”.  It will do you some good.  And if you want to load a fifty pound pack on your back, camp out for four days, and do it with a teenage boy, you will get an even different point of view about life.  I just hope it is a good one.  As for me, I will enjoy this opportunity.  And when I get back, I may just write a travelogue and let you know what you missed… or have to look forward to.

Just another view from a Palmtree.