Sometimes when I get discouraged I take a deep breath and exhale real slowly. This seems to slow the world down a little bit. It also seems to help clear my head a little. I’m not sure it fixes anything, but it does seem to give me a little room to roam.
Trials and tribulations are just part of life. Not every moment is a moment of happiness. In fact, some moments almost seem unbearable. The answers you want just aren’t there. The clouds overhead seem like they are never going to go away.
One of the tools I use during those times is reflection. Sometimes it makes me feel better and other times it actually makes me feel worse. It all depends on which direction the reflections shift.
If my despair is related to wrong that I feel has been done to me, my reflections tend to lean in the direction to support the reason for my pain. Like a lawyer presenting his case, I roll down a list of items that prove I was unjustly treated. I leave very little room for any hint that any of it is my fault or that there might actually be a very good reason for my situation. In those cases, the more proof I lend my case, the worse I usually feel.
When my despair is caused by a sadness, my reflections tend to go into an effort to pump myself up. I may go out and do something or buy something. Those efforts tend to get my mind off the sadness and by the time I realize the trick I’m playing on myself, I have developed enough strength to conquer the sadness.
When my despair rocks my foundation, my reflections look for inspiration to ride along beside me. “Look, that person overcame great trials and you can, too,” is one thought I might entertain. Some of those who might inspire me could include family, friends, someone I’ve read about, or even leaders in the world or at church or at work.
There is a little wine-producing region in southwest Germany called Kallstadt. Kallstadt had a population of less than one thousand. Kallstadt had faced many years of unrest and many of the residents emigrated to others lands. The ones that stayed became very close knit. They were also an outgoing and proud people. In fact, their nature earned the name Brulljesmacher or “braggarts.”
Friedrich was born into a family that resided in Kallstadt. He was a sickly child. His mother believed he was in such poor health. Because of his health, she believed he shouldn’t work in the vineyards. So when Friedrich was fourteen years old she sent him to nearby Frankenthal to become a barber apprentice. It was a two year program.
After he finished his apprentice program, Friedrich saw no future in being a barber in Freankenthal or any of the nearby towns. He had heard from several people of all the opportunities in America. In fact, he had a sister who lived in New York City. Friedrich decided to immigrate to America. At that time immigration laws for Germans entering the United States were very friendly and very lenient.
Germany was a very different story though. Germany required a three-year stint of military service for conscription age boys before they could even apply to emigrate. Friedrich was in too much of a hurry to leave to do that. He would be labeled an illegal emigrant.
I believe his name might be used more than anyone else in the Bible. His name is not always used to refer directly to him. The funny thing is it wasn’t even his birth name.
He was a nomad. He was constantly on the move. He was a momma’s boy, and he had a major falling out with his brother. His brother was much tougher than he was. He decided to run away. He had been a nomad ever since.
One day he came to a stream called the ford of the Jabbok. Maybe he was just discouraged by all the traveling. Maybe he was just tired. Maybe he just needed some alone time. Whatever was the reason, he decided to send his family and all those traveling with them on their own while he took a breather. They would take all the possessions, too, and he would catch up with them later.
One of the best places for me to be inspired is at the graves of those I have admired. I have often visited my grandparents’ grave. I have stood there in silence for a few moments. I think about how much they have touched my life. I think about how much I looked up to them. Then one of the most inspiring parts overcomes me. I begin to realize part of their “greatness” resides in me. I can’t overlook that. I have to make sure that “greatness” continues.
I remember turning the corner and seeing where Ronald Reagan’s grave was. It looked out to the beautiful mountains. I thought about how relaxing it was to stand there where his body is laid to rest. I think about how bad things were and his reassuring words had helped comfort a nation that had been bruised so badly. I wanted to hear him speak once again. I realized that his words were inside me. I can’t overlook that. I have to make sure his manner of comforting continues.
If you visit Philadelphia, you can’t help but be reminded of the “we can’t give up” patriotism that swelled in the hearts of our Founding Fathers. You see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Not too far away in a little cemetery is the grave of one of those great patriots, Benjamin Franklin. As I stood there, like many before, I tossed my penny (he said, “A penny saved is a penny earned”) on his grave to honor his great fighting spirit. I then realize his fighting spirit rested in me. I can’t overlook that. I have to make sure I always fight and never give up.
When Friedrich arrived in New York, he took a job as a barber, even though he listed his occupation as a farmer. He soon tired of being a barber and decided to join the crowd heading out west for the gold rush. He didn’t head to California, though. He headed to Seattle. In Seattle, he would gain his citizenship.
Friedrich had no interest in mining, though. He decided he would rather have an establishment where the residents could spend their money. He found a place called the Poodle Dog that sat in the seedy area of town where all the dance halls were. He renamed it the Dairy Restaurant. The miners, gamblers, and prostitutes were his regular customers.
He became quite successful and used some of his proceeds on land purchases. Then he would build a hotel. In 1896, he would even win the election for Justice of the Peace for Monte Cristo. He would win the vote 32-5. He would tire of all this, too, and would sell everything and return east.
But Friedrich still wasn’t married and he missed his homeland. He returned to Kallstadt to visit his Mom. He met a twenty-year-old girl named Elizabeth Christ. He would return a year later and marry her. When he returned home this time his passport would list him as a “hotelkeeper” and not a farmer.
Friedrich decided he wanted to stay in Germany. Germany, remembering his fleeing military service, realized he was now too old to serve in the military. They decided he needed to leave. Friedrich would plead with them, “Please don’t send us back to America.” The German officials would not listen and soon Friedrich, his pregnant wife, and his little girl were on a boat headed back to New York.
Our Bible character decided he would rest up against a tree. He was alone and he was looking forward to some peace and quiet so he could do a little reflecting on his own.
But Jacob’s rest was not to come, for an angel (some claim it was God himself) came and wrestled with Jacob all night. Jacob was a fighter and would not give up. The angel finally said, “Enough is enough.” Jacob would have none of that. He told the angel he would not let go of him until he blessed him.
The angel had a few tricks up his sleeve, though. The angel put his finger on Jacob’s hip and the hip immediately slipped out of joint. The angel then asked him what his name was. Jacob told him his name. The angel then told him he would now go by the name Israel.
Many translate of the word Israel to mean: struggles or wrestles with God. Israel, or Jacob would have twelve sons who would be known as the twelve tribes of Israel. The word Israel, whether used to describe Jacob, the nation of the twelve tribes, or the descendants of those twelve tribes, is found over 2000 times in the Bible.
Friedrich would open a barber shop on Wall Street. The address was 60 Wall Street. He would eventually move to Queens and become a hotel manager.
World War I would break out and “hyphenated citizens,” like German-Americans became the target of American wrath. This would cause immigrants to claim they were from countries other than those that Americans hated or feared.
Shortly after the start of World War I Friedrich was walking home with his son. He told his son he wasn’t feeling real well. He went in to lay down and he would never recover. There was a worldwide flu epidemic and it would claim Friedrich as one of its victims.
Shortly after Friedrich arrived back in America, his first son, Fredrick was born. Many years later, Friedrich’s grandson would build a seventy-two story tower real close to his grandfather’s old barber shop. It would be located at 40 Wall Street and be called the Trump Building.
Friedrich’s son was Fredrick “Fred” Christ Trump, who was the father of Donald John Trump, our forty-fifth President. Fred Trump would claim his family was from Sweden, so he wouldn’t have to endure the wrath of German haters here in the United States. The strange thing is that Fred’s son, Donald, would also claim he was from Swedish roots when he was running for President.
Everyone needs some time of reflection. Seeing what we are inside inspires us in those difficult times. We may wrestle with what is staring us in the face, but it usually makes us stronger and more determined. It makes us proud of who we are and it entices us to build on the heritage others have starting blazing for us.
Prayer: Dear Mighty Father, You know all too well how discouraged I sometimes get. Thanks for giving me a family that has a rich history of overcoming difficult times. Thank you for all those You have placed on my path to inspire me, especially when I struggle. Please be with our nation and our new President. Please grant him the wisdom and patience he will need to help us heal our land. Amen.