You people are the best!
No, not those in the photo, although they are pretty awesome, but I’m talking about you—the people who read this blog.
Sara and I just returned from a ten-day vacation in the Caribbean we got to share with our kids and grandkids. We had such wonderful time and a what a great opportunity to relax with our family. Since I was not going to be off the grid mostly, I asked that people hold their emails until I returned since I would be off the grid during my stay. And. You. Did. I received the fewest emails ever in a ten-day stretch and just had a few to reply to this morning as we are settling back in. I was deeply touched and grateful to all of you who resisted the urge to write me during that time.
And what a vacation it was, too! It couldn’t have gone better. I got my relax on with some golf, reading, beach time, snorkeling, swimming with the grandkids, walking with Sara, and best of all, the great conversations that come from spending so much time together. It’s a vacation I’ll remember for a long time. I’m thankful our family was able to get away together.
My vacation read this year was Grant by Ron Chernow. He’s a great historian and I’ve read other works of his about some of our former presidents. Now that I’m helping a friend with a civil war-era novel, I was really looking forward to getting into this book. It has not disappointed! However, I had some other books to finish up first, so didn’t get to it until until well into our time there. Thus, I’m only half way the 1,024-page read but am finding it fascinating. History really does give us context for our own lives and interactions with others, and reminds us of horrible times people endured in our nations history.
I’m amazed at two things so far: the pettiness of generals and politicians even in war time. While young men are dying on the battlefield, they are squabbling over who can get the most power. When a field general showed great promise in war tactics, they would pull him from the field and bury him in paperwork somewhere, because those above him were afraid he’d outshine them and they would get reassigned. At times, as they did with Grant, they would make up rumors of being drunk on the battlefield, simply to discredit it him.
The other thing that amazed me is how so many of the generals on both sides of the conflict had been friends before. They knew each other each other well from having been at West Point together and many fought side by side in the Mexican War. Now they are pitted against each other. How horrible that must of been! In fact, when the Confederate forces surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, three of those surrendering had been in Grant’s own wedding party well before the war. How easily “an issue” can pit good friends against each other as mortal enemies.
It amazes me how we expect that people will be honest, treat us fairly, and that we will be rewarded on our merits. We are always so shocked when people don’t turn out to be who they present themselves to be, or we are confronted with circumstances we don’t deserve. The Bible is full of that, too. We should know better. Life is unfair; people will treat you horribly just out of petty jealousies and personal greed; and not all sacrifices are well-rewarded, at least in this life. It reminds me to keep setting my heart in a better kingdom with a Father who is not only incredibly loving and tender, but honest and fair. Not all will be settled in this age the way we think best. He won’t always do what we want, but he will never fail us. Even through the brokenness of this age he can guide us, setting us ever more free from the tyranny of our own desires, to find a greater freedom in the knowing of him.
Next week I am leaving for a brief trip to New England. I’m doing a retreat at a campsite in Winthrop, ME the weekend of July 13-15, then hanging on for a few days with friends in Maine before heading south to Reading, MA for a few days. You can get details and contact info here if you’re in the area and want to join in while I’m there.