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A few weeks ago I spent a lot of time watching Ken Burn’s documentary called The War on PBS. The documentary ran for 7 nights and was about 14 ½ hours long. It chronicled the history of WWII not through the eyes of historians or professors but through the eyes of the men who served in Germany and Japan and through the eyes of the men and women who “fought” the war on the home front here in America. The stories were intimate and personal. There were many tears. The last two episodes focused on the final stages of the war in Germany and focused on the last two major battles in the Pacific. My grandfather was in both of those last two Pacific battles. The first on a tiny island called Iwo Jima and the second at a place called Okinawa. The fighting at Iwo Jima and Okinawa was some of the most viscious fighting of all of World War II. Ken Burns had uncovered hours of color home movie footage of the fighting at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The color footage was a stark contrast to the black and white WWII footage that we usually see. It made Okinawa and Iwo Jima very real and very painful to watch. At the end of the last episode, the following words came onto the screen: 1000 veterans of World War II now die every day in the United States.


I became overwhelmed with emotion. My grandfather is in a nursing home in Virginia. My mind and my heart were very much with him as I sat alone in the living room. There are things in life which we very much associate as the fruits of our own labors and our own efforts. We have a safe and comfortable home. We have two cars in our driveway. We have two beautiful children who both go to good schools. Kyra and I both have jobs that we love. We eat good meals and wear comfortable clothes. We are good citizens; participating in our community and exercising our right to vote. Sometimes it is tempting to think that all of these “good” things are the result of our own hard work and effort.


But sitting in the darkness of my living room, watching the closing scenes of that documentary, thinking about my life and about my grandfather, I was struck by this truth: any good things that I have or any good thing that I am is a gift to me from my grandfather.


James, in his little New Testament letter writes these words, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all that he created.” (James 1.17) Anything good or perfect that exists in my life is a gift from God.