A Way To Grow

Today is Memorial Day for the U.S. This traditionally means that we take time to honor the troops that have served, or are currently serving in the armed forces. I wanted to take this time to honor my Uncle Dennis Dale Kramer, a former Marine who volunteered to serve in the Vietnam war. He fell in Vietnam at the age of 19. Dennis was known for his excellent writing skills. He was a war correspondent with the Mountain Democrat newspaper in Placerville, California. He also enjoyed writing poetry. Below is my favorite poem that he wrote:
A Way To Grow
By Dennis Dale Kramer
Your heart is far across the sea
In pails of memories.
You feel a year is lost in life,
Ambitions drown and freeze.
But, friend, no matter where you are
There’s much to grasp and hold.
There’s much your heart can seek and find,
There’s much your hands can mold.
Experience expands your thoughts
Your ideas bloom and glow.
The world becomes more rational
Interpretations grow.
Experience is like a plant
That’s nourished day by day,
If cultivated properly
It grows in every way.
So let your mind absorb the things
That life has in store for you,
Let each thing you learn become
An everlasting cue.
You find so-called necessities
Are luxuries at their best,
And deprivation not so mean
It’s just an intruding guest.
Your heart may be across the sea,
But life has brought you here
For reasons you cannot discern
Without an open ear.
There are many treasures to uncase
No matter where you are,
Just grab each cue and you will find
Your heart is not very far.



Recently I had the privilege to read some of Dennis’ letters back to home from Vietnam. I quickly came to understand that Dennis was a man who loved God and loved his country. The one question I felt I needed to have answered was why he went to war in the first place. Was the United States in such eminent danger that he needed to defend it? Perhaps this played a part, but I know that what Dennis was most concerned about was the brutal oppression of people who weren’t Americans. It’s one thing to lay down your life for your country, but in Dennis’ duty to God, his love for others had no borders. I appreciate his willingness to die for a group of people, who we will never know or understand the horrors they could have experienced had men like Dennis not stepped in harm’s way to protect. Dennis didn’t fight for his own glory. He fought for the glory of God.
In this poem, Dennis’s primary audience appears to be to the soldier who has experienced war in all its ugliness and could benefit the most from Dennis’ words. Dennis didn’t write this poem just for the soldier though. Each of us, whether experienced in war or not, have our own war stories. We have our own battles that we have fought and have experienced things that others may never understand. There is a physical war, which Dennis was part of. But that is not what he is talking about In this poem. There is a spiritual war going on every day that covers all life’s experiences.
 Tim Keller, a pastor and author said, “The main problem in your life is not what's happened to you, not what people have done to you; your main problem is the way you've responded to that.” Every experience has meaning. It is God’s way of testing and disciplining how you will react to the circumstance. How have you responded to that in the past? Have you put the blame on others? Do you harbor bitterness? Experience will send you to the depths of despair and to the brink of losing the battle. God’s gift of understanding will pull you out and give you a heart to help others who are hurting, which is ultimate victory.
Dennis indicates in this poem that there are those who look at life as being meaningless and random. But for Dennis, he saw everything in life with Divine purpose. God has brought every good and bad experience into your life for a purpose. These are not the problems in themselves. The problem is in how you have responded to those experiences. More importantly, how will respond to future events? There is much your hands can still mold. As Dennis’ pleads:  “Let your mind absorb the things that life has in store for you.” 
"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, 
but against principalities, against powers,
 against the rulers of the darkness of this world, 
against spiritual wickedness in high places." – Ephesians 6:12