The Uncomfortableness Of Decisions

29 08 2005

The path we take is often marred by bad decisions. It is often lifted by decisions that have a positive impact. But ofttimes it is the decisions that are made that cannot be easily categorized into a positive or negative list that are most troubling and most prone to questioning.

These decisions usually have positive and negative outcomes on both sides of the decision. With the anniversary of the Enola Gay’s deadly payload, I have recently pondered the distressing choice that Harry S Truman must have faced. Obviously, the circumstances of that are well known and need no further hashing by someone so uneducated as myself. The anguish of such a decision must be gut-wrenching. How can man make a decision to take so many lives? How can make this decision when it will save so many?

In daily life, these decisions are faced. Perhaps not on the magnitude of hundreds and thousands of lives, but affecting personal, social, financial, and emotional lives. However, these tough decisions are ones that must be lived with. Further still, they are decisions that one must live and die with.

An interesting dynamic is that of human feeling. Where as an animal could make a choice based purely on say, food or water, a human takes so many other factors into consideration. It is the separation of feelings and other influences that often make these decision so difficult.

Being pragmatic is not always wise. It just usually is. But this desire to be pragmatic often overshadows human decency and kindness. It leads to that indescribable concept of grace.

A recent sermon I heard spoke of grace. It’s unfairness is so frustrating, but it’s mercy is so refreshing and such a relief to those who need and appreciate it the most.

Reflecting on those great people who faced uncomfortable decisions brings comfort to one who must face choices of a smaller nature in daily life. Jesus’s decision to return to Jerusalem. Stephen’s decision to tell the history of Jewish faith to the High Priest. Abigail’s decision to go to David. Samson’s decision to tell of his secret. America’s Founding Fathers’ decision to break away from England. The South’s decision to secede. Lincoln’s decision to burn a swath across the South. Roosevelt’s decision to be involved in world war. George W. Bush’s decision to wage war. Perhaps the magnitudes of these do not match that of choosing a career, but perhaps there is a lesson to be learned.

The Book of James tells us that if we lack wisdom, we should seek God. I think if we look at decisions throughout history, it can be assessed whether the decision maker sought after God.

In daily decisions, it may be difficult to bring ourselves to seek and to find that wisdom. Peace must come to those who seek and find.

Hammer and Chisel

17 08 2005

“There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow.”
-Ecclesiastes 1:11 (NIV)

I was walking today and thinking about how rather sad life is. Perhaps I seem morbid with these posts about death and a seemingly preoccupation that I have with it. To be honest, I don’t think that I have an unhealthy obsession with it, but I do wonder what I’m going to do with my life.

Andrew Carnegie once said, “People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents”. To me, mediocrity is chilling. It’s so boring, so forgotten, so unimpressive. I drive past cemeteries and wonder about the people laid to rest there. Where did they work? What did they do? Did they love their job or hate it? Do they have children? Do their children miss them? What legacy do they have? Did they live a mediocre life? Did they live a life that is forgotten?

Perhaps my youth allows me to dream. The dream carries me to a place where I will not be forgotten. A place where my acts here on earth lead to hope and a future for people who did not have a hope and a future. A life that is not mediocre. A life full of purpose and a life full of realized dreams. Did others have this vision? Do I share this vision with someone whose tombstone is now casting a shadow on the parched August grass?

But what separates me from a casket full of bones? What distance is there between my vision and the vision of a man long deceased? A mere six feet and a short lifetime. But what choices are made are made by these men long forgotten that cause them to be forgotten? Why is the author of the verse long remembered but the centuries of men who have read it long forgotten? Certainly it is not wealth, fame, or beauty. Instead, it is the legacy left by a life lived.

A legacy must be intentional. A legacy must have a vision. However, a legacy can be so many different things. It can be an idea. It can be children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friends, or neighbors. It can be hope. It can be a seed planted, a bridge built, or a wall torn down.

There are few people remembered. Fewer still whose lives are celebrated. Think of people who are remembered. It is interesting. As I wrote that, I could honestly think of no one who could be written there. I tossed around the idea of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and more. But in reality they will be forgotten. But they did leave a legacy. This legacy will carry on after their memory has been forgotten.

Perhaps, the legacy is enough. A life full of a motivated vision will end, marked with a cold piece of beautiful granite. But if someone out there is walking, talking, hoping, dreaming, loving, and changing the world because of the life disappeared from the body, then that life is remembered. It is not remembered not by me or you. But it is remembered in the legacy. The legacy of a life changes the world on person and one breath at a time.

Dan and Jessica are getting married. Dan wanted me to post something about it, so I post in the form of a challenge. Let your marriage lead to a legacy. You’ll be forgotten, but may the way you love each other, the way you raise your children, the way you move to Guatemala leave such a legacy that your marriage can be traced back to from the impact it has on the future. Don’t let the hedonism of this world cloud you.

Instead of “Gone, But Not Forgotten” on my tombstone, just leave a hammer and chisel. Let them sit in the sun and rain for a generation. Let the granite weather and be battered by storms, storms like the ones faced in life. And let the next generation write my epitaph. Let my legacy lead them to the words that forever shall be etched on my grave. If my life was mediocre then my resting place will be forever untended. And let the blank, cold stone with rusting hammer and chisel eternally mark that mediocrity.

Another Day, Another Death

16 08 2005

Death scares me. Death that is not my death scares me. Perhaps not as much as my own death, but I still find death chilling. I went to a funeral home tonight. It was for the death of an elderly couple.

I think you can feel death. I wonder if you can feel death coming. Are there premonitions? Possibly. But can you feel it? Can you feel death coming?

Death. The beginning of eternity, the end of life.

Life. Waiting for eternity. Are you ready?

The Sadness of Mortality

8 08 2005

Grove City College Junior Dies In Hiking Accident

With great sadness, Grove City College shared with the campus community news of the tragic death of Lauren Castanza, a Grove City College junior, who died after a hiking accident in New York on July 30.

Lauren was a junior biology major at Grove City and was active on Orientation Board and the Orchesis Dance Troupe and served as a statistician for the men’s soccer team. She will be remembered as a vibrant part of the campus community—dedicated in her Christian faith and influential in the lives of her friends and classmates.

Arrangements for visitation and the funeral service are provided below. A memorial service will be held in September in Harbison Chapel for the Grove City College community. Lauren, 19, lived with her parents, Mark and Pamela Castanza, and her brother, Sam, at 11080 Transit Road, East Amherst, N.Y. 14051.

Grove City College students who have concerns or would just like to talk may contact Dr. Stan Keehlwetter, Dean of the Chapel, at (724) 458-2142 or

Visitation with the Castanza Family will be from 2 to 4 and 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, August 4, at the Amigone Funeral Home, 5200 Sheridan Drive, Amherst, NY 14221; (716) 836-6500.

The funeral service for Lauren will be at 10:30 a.m. Friday, August 5 at the Chapel at CrossPoint, 500 CrossPoint Parkway, Getzville, N.Y. 14086; (716) 631-2636;

More information in available in the Buffalo News at

We don’t think we’re going to die. Well, we do. But we think we’re going to die at the average American death age of 77.71 years. But sometimes, this doesn’t happen.

There’s no reason to live a life of fear. When it’s your time is up, it’s up. God has allowed us so many days. However, we don’t know how many we have. And we also don’t know why some people have fewed than others. Lauren was a great Christian girl. Why would the Lord take her home? Why didn’t He take some person who would cause death and destruction and not hope and life?

There’s no reason to live a life of fear. When it’s your time is up, it’s up. God has allowed us so many days. However, we don’t know how many we have. And we also don’t know why some people have fewed than others. Lauren was a great Christian girl. Why would the Lord take her home? Why didn’t He take some person who would cause death and destruction and not hope and life?

Be thankful for each morning. Each day is precious. We don’t often think of this. Perhaps we should.

In the midst of our quest to enjoy our lives, perhaps we need to take the time to be thankful for the breath we have. And to reflect on the plan for each of us.

The Watchman of Ezekiel

4 08 2005

1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, speak to your countrymen and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, 3 and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, 4 then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not take warning and the sword comes and takes his life, his blood will be on his own head. 5 Since he heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning, his blood will be on his own head. If he had taken warning, he would have saved himself. 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood.’

7 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. 8 When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. 9 But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself.

-Ezekiel 33 (NIV)

There are many times throughout life that a decision has to be made. There will be times when you see someone participating in something that you know will harm or hurt them. But what do you do? Do you speak to them about it? Do you assume they see the harm or the danger but are ignoring it? Whether sin or dangerous behavior, is it your responsiblity to tell them?

Nobody likes to hear they are doing something wrong. Especially when they don’t see what’s coming. Perhaps they’re rolling along, enjoying life. Sometimes they’re blinded by love or by hate.

What responsibility do we have to talk to our friends? What about our families? What about people on the street? Should you stop someone riding a bicycle without a helmet and warn them of the danger? What about the co-worker who drinks too much? Or the two pack-a-day smoker? Is there a responsibility or a need to tell someone participating in these behaviors that they can cause problems?

In the last week, I have had two situations where close friends of mine are doing things which they’re going to regret. In both cases, it was dealing with relationships. But what do you say to someone? Do you say something now? Do you wait and become the friend who says after they break up, “I knew she was like that all along”?

I think there is a responsiblity that we have. In the beginning of this post, there is a reading from Ezekiel. It speaks of how the watchman, the man looking for danger, will be held accountable. Will we then be held accountable if we see danger and do not report it?

Unfortunately, this responsiblity as a watchman carries with it dangers and implications. It may mean the end of friendships. It may breed anger. It may cause misunderstanding. However, the book of Proverbs speaks of foolish men not heeding the words of those pointing out dangers.

So often, we stay out of it. We remember the plank in our own eye and don’t want to be reminded of it when we point out the speck in somewhere else.

Perhaps it is time we take responsiblity. We must take responsibility for our own actions. And we must also take responsibility for the actions that we see others taking. If we see them, it is our duty. We are told that everyone we meet is our neighbor. You would call out if your neighbor’s house was on fire. But would you call out if you saw your neighbor cheating on his wife?

Let there be caution though that you do not cause unneeded strife in your warnings. Obviously, the warning by itself will be cause for discomfort alone. Be understanding. But do not be apologetic. Be sympathetic. But do not be remorseful.

After the warning, there is no need to continue to ride someone on an issue. You have called out the danger, but you cannot force someone to heed your advice. Perhaps you are even misguided in your views. But even if you are not, your responsiblity as a watchman is to call out and to warn.

Begin to take responsibility. Begin to take the keys away. Begin to teach others from your own mistakes. Be willing to tackle the issues. Don’t be afraid. It’s better to deal with a day’s worth of anger than pregnancies, broken hearts, and death.

Although the wicked man will continue to die for his sins, the righteous man must continue to point to the narrow way. If he does not, he is accountable for the death of the wicked man.

The Imprint of Muskoka

1 08 2005

This past weekend, I vacationed in Muskoka with my family. They’re up there for two weeks, but I just went up for an extended weekend.

My uncle tells me that a childhood home will imprint on you. It will give you an emotional attachment that tugs at you each time you arrive and leave. I don’t seem to have one, maybe because I didn’t really have one childhood home. But there is something about Muskoka that has that feeling with me.

The entrance to Muskoka is marked by Weber’s. I don’t care where the maps say the line is, this is the line. When you sink your eyes into the ambience and your teeth into the burger, you’ll know you have arrived. You are in Muskoka. Behind you, Toronto. Before you, granite, beaver, wild blueberries, and the smell of the pine.

Traveling up Highway 11, granite guards the roadway. Cottages line the lakes and waterways. Blue sky and large white clouds float overhead. The temperature hovers around 75 and at night it dips to 40. This is Muskoka.

Obviously, Canada is a special place to me. However, once you cross that line into Muskoka, it’s even more of a special place. It’s a place where you can pretend the wilderness will overtake you. It’s a place where the bull moose is still lounging in the lilies. It’s where the bear still roam, snacking on blueberries. The beavers play on the roadside on Highway 60. Your hands are wrapped around a Tim Hortons cup and CBC is playing in the background. The Toronto Star is beside you and the cooler has the milk in a bag.

Camping evokes such a wider range of emotions. It seems that every provincial park has rough pea gravel on the sand, winding through the birch, white pine, and aspen trees. It passes by the dark brown buildings into the woods to your site marked by the dark brown post with the yellow number. Leaving the site, the trail to the beach slides past the red raspberries, poison ivy, and trillium.

No matter what park I visit in Muskoka, the experience is the same. The campsites are different, each one unique in its own way. However, as I strap on my bike helmet and ride down a trail, each one leads me to the same place: an almost wilderness with an edge of adventure.

Although the region is a popular tourist attraction, it’s not Clifton Hill and not Las Vegas. Restaurants such as 3 Guys and A Stove add a flavor to the region that isn’t dwarfed by Kelsey’s or The Swiss Chalet. Each little shop that sells wood carvings, moccasins, postcards, t-shirts, and ice cream is different. There are bakeries, breweries, O.P.P. stations, and homeowners paying the heating bill by selling firewood.

This was my first trip to Muskoka in 4 years. The memories were still fresh. I started to say “eh” and call them washrooms. I missed the cold lakes, kayaks, canoes, sand, fresh fruit, and the goldenrod blooming in July.

This is what imprinted on me. I can’t get to the building where I lived after my birth. I couldn’t drive to the house that I lived in until I was four. But I can get you to Muskoka.