Posted by: Jim E | December 16, 2014

A Christmas Story…Well, Make It Two…

A Christmas Story…Well, Make It Two…

I wrote this in 2012, a Christmas story, well, two of them really…they take me back to Minnesota and my childhood…with a dear neighbor…and then a story from a teacher I worked with for years…both very important to me…and I hope will make you think of your life and memories you have…Merry Christmas…

At Christmastime, I reach back to memories of the past…and my childhood…when you get my age, most people that I meet everyday are much, much younger than I am…it gives you Christmas tree snow coveredpause…Oh, it is not a negative thing…it’s positive…I love the fact that I can remember so much more than most around me…that I actually experienced the history that most people talk about…and you know, I remember talking to people who were born just after the Civil War…who fought in WWI…who fought in WWII…these were actual people, who were there…and, of course, with my age comes the passing of most of those people…almost all of them have died…and just yesterday, Judie’s Mom died…she was 92, almost 93…so much history she experienced…and of course, all of that personal history is now gone…only what we remember of her wonderful life is still with us…all of us who knew her will try and keep that alive…

Age is a funny thing…it comes upon us while we are awake or asleep…it comes with or without our permission…and Christmas upon Christmas comes and goes…I remember so many…but in my 70 plus years, they all seem to run together…it is hard to remember each and every one…in fact what happens is we layer them, one upon the other, so we view them as a stack of slides…viewing them as a whole rather than separating them…only special circumstances make one memorable from the others…let me tell you of two memories…one that is many stories, stacked upon the others…and one that someone told me and experiences it over and over every year…these two stories are the same kind of thing, only different…stay with me here…

When I was born on February 3, 1942, Jim Burton was about 70…about my age now…and 26 pendulum clock Jim Burtonyears later, I officiated at his funeral…now that may not seem strange to you…but it does to me…he and his wife, Mary, were great friends of our family…Mr. and Mrs. Burton (as I respectfully called them growing up) were our neighbors…they lived next door to my grandparents on the south, separated by two lots and we lived next to my grandparents on the north…that neighborhood was two generations old when I was born…Jim Burton was the real estate agent who sold those small lots to people like my grandparents…all during my youth, because Mary was blind and they were aging, my mom took care of them and their needs all the years I can remember…this was a close neighborhood and everyone knew Jim and Mary Burton 1everyone…

On Christmas Eve my mom and we three boys walked over to Burton’s (many times on the way home from Christmas Eve services at church)…to spend some of the evening with them…I wish you could have seen the inside of that small house…Jim had been in the jewelry business and the house was filled with clocks (in fact I attached a picture of the clock he gave Judie and I for our wedding, almost 50 years ago)…to a young child they were beyond counting…10 or so grandfather clocks, wall clocks, mantel clocks, “Regulator” clocks…just all kinds…large and small…and it certainly fascinated a young child…inside, it was reminiscent of a “Charles Dickens” scene…dark but welcoming…the furniture was from another century it seemed…overstuffed, worn and it had that “old” look and smell…and there on the table was their Christmas tree…lights and decorations and a fewChristmas lights in dark presents…and we would relax there with a cup of tea and goodies…settle back and listen again to the stories they told…the stories of other Christmas’ in other countries (she from Norway, he from England)…and stories of their time in America…there in the dim light…dancing over our faces…this couple, whom we loved and had become such an important part of our lives…weaved the stories of a lifetime into our lives on those Christmas Eve nights…

On the way home in the darkness, with the snow crunching under our feet…we asked mom questions and rehearsed things we heard…so much of which I have now forgotten…I miss the stories of Jim and Mary…from another age…from another time…

Christmas Tree at nightAnd so with that story of Jim and Mary Burton…in reality, many stories stacked upon each other year after year…I go to a story of someone who grew up on the plains of North Dakota…we worked together in my former life…a friend and a great teacher, who sent me this after I told one of my Christmas stories to the staff…it is a keeper…you will understand after you read it…he virtually re-lives this every year…

“That takes me back to my youth on the plains of North Dakota, when on Christmas Eve afternoon, my mother packed a shoebox of items to give to an old bachelor neighbor who lived by the river a mile south of us…I can still see the box and its contents: cookies, a Christmas napkin, a new handkerchief and a tin of Prince Albert pipe tobacco…About four o’clock, my dad and I walked to his place and gave it to him…It was a Hallmark scene and I can still see the snow falling and hear and feel the wind as it made small drifts on the path in the pasture…That was a long time ago, but I still take a walk on Christmas Eve afternoon around four o’clock…Even though my father has been gone for seventeen years, he still goes along just like he did on that special trip so long ago”…

With that I wish you Joy and Peace…and wonderful memories…Merry Christmas…

Posted by: Jim E | December 13, 2014

Wonder…Christmas…Mom…C.S. Lewis…And Others…

I wrote this in 2012…It still speaks to what I believe and feel during the Christmas season…it is filled with Wonder…the birth of Jesus Christ…my past, my present…and my Mom…what more can a person ask…

Wonder…Christmas…Mom…C.S. Lewis…And Others…

I like to get up early…in fact sleeping until 7:00 is pretty much out of the question…if I happen to wake up at 5:00, its hard for me to go back to sleep…afraid I will sleep too long or something…I keep thinking, “People have to get up and are on the road by 6:00, even before, so what am I doing in bed.”…I get more done in the morning…and just enjoy the time…and of Christmas lights on mantlecourse I don’t need to go to work, so I get to use my time as I like…

Every morning I get up and turn off the home alarm…then turn on the lights…empty the dishwasher, maybe the garbage…just a few things, so we can have a “fresh start”…then I go sit on the couch for a few minutes…the only lights on are the Christmas lights…the tree, on the mantel, and above the bookshelves…Judie decorates beautifully, and especially at Christmas…so I sit back, relax and think…go through the plans for the day, about our family, about, just things…it is a wonderful time…that’s the word I want…Wonder…I have a fresh senseChristmas tree Little Rock, AR of wonder…I love that time…to wonder about all kinds of things…

My Mom had that, wonder, that is…she was a master of it…she lived with wonder in mind at all times…I don’t know if she ever read of C.S. Lewis but she had some of what he had…someone wrote, “my belief that Lewis’s mind was above all characterized by a willingness to be enchanted”…”his delight in laughter, his willingness to accept a world made by a good and loving God, and his willingness to submit to the charms of a wonderful story”…”an openness to delight”…”the possibility that anything could happen to someone who is ready to meet that anything.”…Heavens, Mom had that…let me explain by telling you about her…portions of this are from something I wrote 8 years ago…just before Mom died…

It’s just a few days after Thanksgiving…and my Mom is in a nursing home…she no longer knowsimg019 us and sleeps most of the time…she is losing weight…but her heart just keeps beating…she is so strong…but then she has always been strong…her life was not easy, but I guess life itself is not easy…there are all kinds of mishaps along the way…things we did not plan…things we did not expect…but what I find amazing is how she approached a difficult life…she did it with such contentment, acceptance and yes, wonder…

At our house at Thanksgiving, out come the recipe cards…some Mom’s, some of both Grandmas…and it seems every year I am reminded of my growing up years…when Dad got back from the Navy at the end of WWII…they built a basement for a house that I”m sure Mom expected to build someday…I’m not so sure about my Dad…but they put a roof on the basement and we lived in what we called “The Basement House” all during my growing up years…

That basement house had no indoor plumbing (we had an outhouse), no plumbing under theimg018 sink (we emptied the pail in the back yard when full), Mom’s cupboards were wooden apple boxes attached to the wall (painted and had small curtains that Mom made), the walls of the two bedrooms were 2 x 2′s covered with cardboard (painted and sometimes wallpapered), the ceilings were cardboard too…no doors to the rooms…just curtains…a furnace in the corner of the large room…a refrigerator and stove…table and chairs…and a sofa, etc…

And though compared to today and even compared to that day, she had little…I never heard her even once, complain…not then or since then…and though she had a hard life, she faced it with such contentment…and she accepted what was given her, she was devoted to her three boys and her husband…and though Dad drank throughout our growing up years, was so difficult to live with and gave little money to Mom to run the home, yet my Mom worked, and made it work…

Recapture the WonderAnd she never gave up on Wonder…in “Recapture the Wonder”, Ravi Zacharias captures what Mom seemed to have…she saw things differently than most…she saw that “Fulfilled dreams are not necessarily fulfilled hopes. Attainment and fulfillment are not the same.”…many have dreams of careers, position, power…thinking that these will bring fulfillment…but what my Mom had, she could not put into words and I don’t think I can either…but her life and her fulfillment seems to have been above the “realities” of her life…she found contentment, acceptance and wonder within her experience…and I think that is within all of us…that place that is empty or nearly so…we may have attained much, but that place is still not “filled”…and my Mom found that place and filled it, in spite of her circumstances…it was what wonder is all about…

So how could a person like my Mom find at Thanksgiving and Christmas…and really at every time of the year…such fulfillment in what she “had”…it was more than happiness…it was wonder…she was always so excited about life…though many days brought hard, hard experiences and disappointment…yet she saw with eyes the wonder of life itself…of nature, of family, of living, of friendship, of caring, of work, of things she really did not fully understand…but she had it…she had wonder…

Ravi Zacharias has some descriptions of wonder…let me share a few: “Wonder is that possession of the mind that enchants the emotions while never surrendering reason. It is a grasp on reality that does not need constant high points in order to be maintained, nor is it made vulnerable by the low points of life’s struggle. It sees in the ordinary the extraordinary, and it finds in the extraordinary the reaffirmations for what it already knows. Wonder interprets life through the eyes of eternity while enjoying the moment, but never lets the momentary vision exhaust the eternal.”

Mom had it…she had it…it is how she faced what to me were very difficult circumstances…yet she followed “the voice of direction”…that “still small voice”, which says, “This is the way, walk ye in it” (Isaiah 30:21)…and though her voice was not strong…she would sing around the house…and that song came from this wonder...”But how do we find this wonder, not merely in His name but in such a way that our heart rests in that delight?”…So in whatever life brings we need to see the wonder all around us…and fill us with that wonder that makes life wonderfulPsalm sixty five verse 8 and sacred…no matter our circumstances…

So tomorrow morning…I will wake up early…I will sit on the couch…enjoy the lights and relish the wonder of all of this…Christmas and all it holds…and memories of my Mom…and remember Psalm 65:8 “You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.”…

Posted by: Jim E | December 7, 2014

Pearl Harbor…December 7, 1941…And Christmas…

Pearl Harbor…December 7, 1941…And Christmas…

I post this again this year…how for me, Pearl Harbor and Christmas come together…enjoy and remember…Jim E

It was in 2010, that I wrote this Pearl Harbor/Christmas post…and because my Dad served in WWII, remembering Pearl Harbor is easy for me…we got a light snowfall last night…just enough to cover the grass and the Christmas lights on our bushes…a pretty sight…and it sets up this post for me and you to enjoy…I hope you get the feeling of the American people on that December day in 1941…enjoy and remember…Jim E

It was only 17 days between the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7th, 1941 and Christmas Eve, December 24th, 1941…even for someone who loves history, it becomes difficult to comprehend how close those two dates were…and to think about how people in the United States were feeling about that time, it was so close to Christmas…I was born February 3, 1942…that was a little over a month later…my brother had been born in 1939…(here is a picture of our family taken in 1944)…my Mom and Dad were very young parents, struggling through the depression that still held a tight grip on this country…in fact the world…so it was a hard time anyway, and then comes the attack on Pearl Harbor and over night this country was in the middle of the Second World War, and so was our family…not only at war with Japan but Germany also declared war on America…this country was not ready to defend itself, let alone attack our enemies…it was a dark time…

I don’t know how to put it so we might have a perspective of how Americans felt at the time…the closest thing that comes to it would be “9/11″…if you remember how numb you were and how we didn’t really know what was going to happen…I remember that night, after all planes where ordered out of the skies over America…and a number of military helicopters flew over our house…I really wondered where things were and if we would be attacked again…it was a helpless feeling…one full of possible danger and questions…

If that was our feeling, how must it felt for those living in 1941…many people didn’t even know where Pearl Harbor was…and thought our oceans that surrounded us would keep us out of war…it was a very difficult, frightening and dark time…

Today is December 7th…it is always a time for me to remember as well as do many other Americans…it is one date that we should remember and be thankful for those who served in that war…and it is because of them that we are still free…

About two months ago I found a book that connects those two dates…it is really a Christmas book…but it is also about two songs of that time as well as our time…”O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”…the book is, “In The Dark Streets Shineth”…it is written by David McCullough, who wrote “Truman”…”John Adams” and many others…he is one of my favorites…because of what he writes about and how he writes…his books are compelling…this one is no different…it comes with a DVD which shows McCullough with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir at their Christmas concert…I will add a portion of his presentation of his book on YouTube…the rest you will have to get the book to see the rest of the DVD…the book is only a little over 50 pages but it is very good…it also has pictures of people of that time…both at home and also overseas…the book is unusual because the DVD and the book are the same…when you see the DVD you are hearing the book in its entirety…the book has many more pictures and it has the speeches of both Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt…both are worth the read…

Churchill came, as McCullough says, “at considerable personal risk”…across the Atlantic “in great secrecy” to meet with Roosevelt…and then he would speak to the combined Congress before he returned to England…but before that would happen, they appeared together at the White House, Christmas Eve, to light the Christmas tree…both would speak…before 20,000 people gathered there…it would have been an unusual night…the world at war, raging all over the world, with no end in sight…with things going very badly for both Britain and America…and it would be that way for a couple of years yet…no victories on the battle field or at sea for a long time…everyday bad news…

But their messages both referred to the idea of “light”…our faith, our freedom…and as Churchill said, “amid all the tumult, we have tonight the peace of the spirit in each cottage home and in every generous heart…Here, then, for one night only, each home…should be a brightly-lighted island of happiness and peace.”…the next day, Christmas Day, Churchill and Roosevelt went to church…”where with the congregation they joined in singing ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ which Churchill had never heard before.”…this American Christmas carol written in the late 1800′s has a line in the first stanza “Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light.”…McCullough then tells how that line in particular must have stood out to Churchill and Roosevelt…after his comments the night before of every home being a “brightly lighted island” in the dark…here I will add part of the DVD…it is only about 3 minutes of the over 10 minutes…but will give you a feeling of the rest of the book…[Note: I found the entire 10 plus minute video from the book, and add it here, it’s worth your time]

McCullough then goes to the song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”…written in 1943 by two New Yorkers…by 1942 there were one million Americans serving overseas…and that would grow…”when recorded by Bing Crosby in 1943, the song became the most popular song of the era, even more than ‘White Christmas’…”…this song expressed the longing for home and a light in the darkness felt by so many of those away from home for so long… click here for the song…06 – I’ll Be Home for Christmas …and who can now listen to this without understanding the longing for home by our troops who are overseas right now…the feeling is palpable…

So please, as you enjoy your Christmas season with family and friends…don’t forget how “History can be a great source of strength and affirmation, and especially in difficult, dangerous times.”…and the music we love can give us more than just something to listen to…

And how about this Christmas photo nostalgia…two young kids, oh, about 1949 or 1950…that’s me and my younger brother…just after WWII…seeing Santa…Jerry looks a little wary…me?…just as good-looking as usual…

Okay, okay…but let me wish you a Merry Christmas…we all need to remember…because that’s when life really begins…and will give us strength to bear whatever comes…memories are powerful reminders and give us courage to go on…remember our troops and do some good things for people you don’t know this Christmas…it will leave memories for you to remember…

And as this book does and as the two leaders of that day did…they “delivered a powerful message of hope that still resonates today.”…lets do the same…may joy, hope and peace be a part of your Christmas season…

When we moved into our first home in June of 1971, in Andover, Minnesota…it was in a Backyard 1new addition that was being built on what used to be a farm field…there were no trees and the ground between houses was still rutted with rows that used to be planted with crops…our builder bought this acreage between two county roads for the purpose of dividing the land into half acre lots…enough room for a house and septic system, the allotted land needed at the time to do that…so between our house and the next was plenty of room and behind our house was  adjacent land still used for pasture, where horses grazed…yup, we were out in the country at that time, though things changed rapidly…many houses were built around us…and we planted trees…just “sticks” really…Green Ash, Maple, flowering Crab apple and a number of evergreens…balsam, Colorado blue spruce…Oh, maybe 20 plus trees in all…no shade for a long time with those trees…but we had hope…

Backyard 2All this to tell a story…something that I had never seen before, nor since…but let me fill you in a bit about how this came about…the pasture behind our house was all grass with horses grazing…the kids played in that pasture over the years as it changed…even back then I remembered what I learned in 10th grade Biology class…I remember the topic, the book, the pictures on the page…the lesson was about “ecological succession”…and how a bare field would change…and over the 36 years we spent in that house, not only our kids grew up, but our lot and the field behind the house changed too…simply, the idea of ecologic succession is that if you have a  bare field of land it will change…first grass, then small woody plants, then bushes, then trees, etc…coming to what they called a climax or what it was before it was a field…animals change as well as vegetation…mites and ants, bugs and spiders, snakes and worms, mice and voles, squirrels and fox, deer and raccoon, etc….that is as quick a biology lesson as I can come up with…it is more complex than that…but that will do…

The story, okay the story…I’ll get to that…just hang on a bit…I remember all the MeadowMeadowlark Larks that we had in that field behind the house…our kids would love its “call”, that is “before” the ecological succession I talked about…the kids used to find their nests in the grass…and see them fly right to it…sit on a fence post and sing their hearts out, its a beautiful song…thinking of that always makes me think of Willa Cather’s book “O Pioneers”, about first and second generation life on the prairie, and relates to what I write about here…a quote from the book I love:

“Yes, sometimes, when I think about father and mother and those who are gone; so many of our old neighbors.” Alexandra paused and looked up thoughtfully at the stars. “We can remember the graveyard when it was wild prairie, Carl, and now–“

“And now the old story has begun to write itself over there,” said Carl softly. “Isn’t it queer: there are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this country, that have been singing the same five notes over for thousands of years.”

Each generation is so certain they are the first…like the larks…same five notes over for thousands of years…oh, listen, he’s so sure he’s the first…

But when the changes happened over the 36 years we lived there…the Meadowlarks disappeared…they need open land, grass and few trees to live as they have for thousands Backyard 3of years…so the last 20 years…no Meadowlarks…we think things are going to remain the same…but they never do…life is moving, we need to get on board…there may be only two or three human stories, repeating themselves like the lark but they are our stories…

And so things changed, the Meadowlarks were gone but the trees grew…the field behind our house changed too…Cedar trees began to grow there as well as the ones in our yard…we put up bird feeders…it was one of Jeremy’s hobbies…we had feeders for hummingbirds and every other kind too…it was fun to see how many we had coming to the feeders…but like all other things in life, one moveMinnesota backyard 7 seems to make other things happen…one move causes another…(just a little Sir Isaac Newton there)…

When we put up the bird feeders, and like expected, the birds came…in droves, then we added more feeders…during migration we had visitors on their way to many places…birds of all colors and kinds…some bold and bossy…some big, some small…just all kinds…Jeremy bought birdseed by the fifty pound bag…we had a feed mill in town that we bought it from…and the birds loved it…but with birds come problems, that’s where my story comes into play…birds attract predators…and with backyard feeders come hawks…the kind of hawk most attracted is the Cooper’s Hawk…it is a smaller hawk…the Red-tail Hawk picks on bigger meals, like rabbits and the Bald Eagle goes after bigger prey…but for the Cooper’s hawk songbirds are a perfect sized meal and if you have a hawk at your feeder, it Hawk, Cooper'sis most likely a Cooper’s Hawk…they are a beautiful bird even though they can cause problems at the feeders…

Now my story has nothing to do with a hawk and songbirds…even though I could tell you about the many times we saw a Cooper’s Hawk perching on the deck railing eating a Bluejay or some other bird…or on the logs around the fire ring…and we would see the feathers that it left after eating the bird…but birds are not stupid…they warn each other if a hawk is in the area…which is what happened the day my story happened…I was on the deck looking out at the backyard…it was all the sudden very quiet…no birds at the feeders and we knew when that happened there is a hawk in the area…the warning had gone out…but out on the ground under one of the feeders was a squirrel…just eating away…he evidently didn’t “get the word”…I looked around and didn’t see any birds or hawks in my view…now, for backyard bird feeder enthusiasts, squirrels are a pain…and unlike me, Cooper’s Hawks love squirrels…so I just sat and waited…

Minnesota Backyard 5It only took a few seconds of waiting…I don’t know if you have ever seen a hawk in motion or going in for the kill…but it is a natural and beautiful thing to behold…they are quick and lethal in their movements…this Cooper’s Hawk came gliding in completely silent…a couple of flaps and a long glide…it flew through trees and bushes gliding around all the trees we had planted so long ago…the squirrel all the sudden saw him out of the corner of his eye…and though he had ignored the earlier warning and had made himself a lonely and very obvious target, he ran for his life…the closest thing to him was one of our Colorado Blue Spruce…it was about 25 feet tall and about 20 feet from where he was…the hawk was right on him but missed him as he scampered into the tree…the hawk was now on the ground having missed him…but if you know about the Cooper’s Hawk, they will fly into Squirrel, Greyheavy brush or even run on the ground in pursuit…

The hawk did just that…this is what I had never seen before or since…the hawk ran into the blue spruce and climbed right after the squirrel, using his wings like we would our arms and hands…and he was quick about it…the squirrel went up, so did the hawk…the squirrel changed positions, so did the hawk…finally the squirrel must have realized as I did that he was “toast” if he kept on moving around…he found a place up high and hunkered down…so did the hawk…no one moved for a few seconds…then the squirrel tried to break down the tree, so did the Minnesota Backyardhawk…the squirrel decided that his best bet was to stay quiet…he was right, I don’t know if he even breathed…after a few more seconds…finally the hawk must have thought this was taking too much energy and time…he came out of the tree…probably said “Harrumph” a couple of times…and flew away…the squirrel after a minute or two came down and left for home and a nap…the birds???…they came back as if nothing had happened…me??? I sat there amazed…a once in a lifetime experience…

Okay, catch your breath…okay maybe not “that” good…but an okay story right???…and best of all it was all true…nature is wonderful…get out and enjoy it…plus we had a little lesson on life…a Biology lesson…and no one died…I’m giving myself some kudos for that…

 

 

 

 

I thought you might like to read this on Memorial Day 2014…I get Fox News First everyday…and it is mostly political in nature…but not today…it is just, very good writing…and touches the heart, which is what good writing does…it’s all good, but two of his comments are also poignant comments about our culture…
 
Americans don’t much do cemetery trips these days – or cemeteries, for that matter. If Marine on the St. Croix cemeteryyou don’t believe in those words “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting,” then a cemetery wouldn’t be of much use to you. But more than that, we have a culture now based on “closure,” in which we learn to seal off the hurts of our hearts and bury them deeper than the deepest grave. Remembrance is of no virtue to people who believe that their purpose is the pursuit and maintenance of their own happiness.

What an impoverishment of spirit that is. I once had an editor who believed that the best way for foreigners to understand Americans was to read our obituaries – to meet these gentle, kind, faithful, loved and loving people who passed their lives unknown to all but those whom they touched directly. I increasingly believe she was right

Livingston Cemetery, Clark County, IllinoisI found myself, as I read this, in southern Illinois, near Marshall…near “The Farm”…everyone in the extended Yeley family knows what that means…strolling through the Livingston Cemetery…but also I found myself looking through the Marine on the St. Croix Cemetery, in Minnesota, high on the bluff above the St. Croix River…searching to find the Elmquist family graves…and of course Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis, where my Mom and Dad are buried…thoughts and feelings explode into memories, as I move through those relativelyFort Snelling 1 small plots of land…all within my own mind…
So enjoy this the way I did…slowly read and let your experience, your history, waft through your mind…remembering those who’s legacy you carry…Jim E

 

Fox News First: May 26
By Chris Stirewalt

On Memorial Day, Some Portals to the Past

My recollections of Memorial Day are dusty and filled with the creaking sound of the springs on my cousin’s Buick Roadmaster as it forded dry streambeds and trundled along rutted country roads in southern Illinois – and then the thwack of fat June bugs popping on the windshield as she picked up speed on the blacktop down towards the Harmony Grove church.

To the eyes of a suburban boy, the places she took my father and me were just empty prairie. To my father’s eyes, they were filled with the faint lines of places and people he had known as a boy. That caved-in pile of sheet metal and rotten boards was Wick Cage’s general store where his father carried eggs to sell. That empty corner was where his grandfather’s little house had stood in the dirt yard where the old man, standing in his best starched overalls at the head of a long table carried outside for the occasion, had poured dippers of iced tea out of a galvanized bucket. Where the hens watched nervously as one of their own made for Sunday dinner.

Just as my old man would start waxing nostalgic, our tour guide moved us along. We were not there to remember life. We were there to visit the dead. My cousin had been retired from the Air Force longer than I had been alive, and she took seriously her job not just as family historian, but as one who would see that our family would do its part for Memorial Day – for Decoration Day as it was once properly known.

GravestonesAnd on to another cemetery we would go, this one clutched by slender locust trees and set back from the road on a rise above Hurricane Creek. Who came to this ancient place keep it up? Who oiled and painted that wrought-iron gate? Who trimmed back the grass from the tiny headstone of an unnamed stillborn child dead for 120 years? Why? No time for questions. Cousin mustered us out and deployed the flag markers for the military men and flowers for the civilians. Back in the Roadmaster and back on the road. A whole day went by that way, graves of my ancestors and graves of those unknown to us. The Black Hawk War, the Civil War, World War I, and on and on.

You can stand at the Dodge Grove Cemetery up the highway in Mattoon, where my Flags on graves, Memorial Daygrandmother’s people were well-off enough to be laid to rest beneath monuments amid mausoleums. From there you see the rise of the earth reveal the graves of hundreds of Civil War dead, including three generals, as the locals will tell you. And any of them, officers or enlisted, who had no one to decorate their graves that day, got a flag, courtesy of our little honor guard.

Americans don’t much do cemetery trips these days – or cemeteries, for that matter. If you don’t believe in those words “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting,” then a cemetery wouldn’t be of much use to you. But more than that, we have a culture now based on “closure,” in which we learn to seal off the hurts of our hearts and bury them deeper than the deepest grave. Remembrance is of no virtue to people who believe that their purpose is the pursuit and maintenance of their own happiness.

What an impoverishment of spirit that is. I once had an editor who believed that the best way for foreigners to understand Americans was to read our obituaries – to meet these gentle, kind, faithful, loved and loving people who passed their lives unknown to all but those whom they touched directly. I increasingly believe she was right.

Marine on the St. Croix houseBut I have a corollary to add: The best way for Americans to know themselves and their history is to walk among the quiet headstones of our graveyards. See the dates and realize how young they were. Read the inscriptions. Feel the cool marble. Imagine. You can know your family that way, but you can know what America is by placing yourself among the remains of the men and now women who died to make her and to defend her.

No politics today. Instead, we offer you a few of the portals from which to begin that journey – places to let that knowledge start to wash over you. Places where you can leave a flag and offer up a little word of thanks.

– The inscription at the Daughters of the American Revolution Memorial Marker in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania reads  “Near this spot, lies Lieutenant John Waterman, died April 23, 1778, whose grave alone of all his comrades was marked.” Some 2,000 Continental soldiers died at Valley Forge or in distant hospitals. Most expired not in the dead cold of winter, but in the spring, when influenza, typhus, typhoid and dysentery more than decimated the camp. Waterman died during this time. His lonely gravestone on the grand parade ground was marked simply, “JW 1778.” He was later identified by his initials as aAmerican flag Rhode Island officer.

– In Grafton National Cemetery, Grafton, West Virginia rests Private Thornesberry Bailey Brown, believed to be the first Union casualty of the Civil War.  Brown mustered into service in Company B, 2nd Virginia Infantry, and served under Captain George R. Latham as part of the “Grafton Guards.”  On May 22, 1861, near present-day Grafton, a Confederate sentry ordered Brown to halt.  Brown refused and shot the sentry in the ear.  The sentry returned fire, shooting Brown in the heart.

– At Cypress Hills National Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York lies Sgt. Wilbur E. Colyer. Served in the U.S. Army in World War I and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery near Verdun, France, on October 9, 1918. His citation reads “Volunteering with 2 other soldiers to locate machinegun nests, Sgt. Colyer advanced on the hostile positions to a point where he was half surrounded by the nests, which were in ambush. He killed the gunner of one gun with a captured German grenade and then turned this gun on the other nests silencing all of them before he returned to his platoon. He was later killed in action.”

– Mount Olivet Cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee is the final resting place of Cornelia Fort. Nashville’s first woman flight instructor,  she was giving a flying lesson as a civilian instructor over Honolulu, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941 and witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. Fort was the second woman to join the Woman’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, which ferried planes to free up male pilots for combat assignments. She was the first WAFS pilot to die in the line of duty. Cornelia Fort was killed while ferrying a BT-13 Valiant trainer when it collided with another plane over Texas on March Flags Memorial Day21, 1943.

–On April 5 1951, Naval Hospitalman Richard D. Wert was serving with the Marines as they cleared North Korean guerrillas from rural areas of South Korea and as they aided in driving the enemy beyond the Thirty-Eighth Parallel. While with the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines during an attack on Chinese Communist forces, De Wert continually rejected medical treatment for his wounds to provide first aid to fallen marines. Under intense fire he provided treatment to four marines, De Wert was killed in action while tending to an injured comrade. The Medal of Honor and Purple Heart recipient was originally buried in Korea, re-interred at the Woodlawn National Cemetery, Elmira, N.Y, but in 1987 upon request from his family, was laid to rest in his home where his grave can be found in section 5 at the Massachusetts’s National Cemetery in Bourne.

– At Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Oakville, Missouri you can find Air Force Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, who served in the 8th Special Operations Squadron. He was shot down and killed while piloting his A-37B Dragonfly aircraft in the vicinity of An Loc, in South Vietnam. His remains were buried in Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of The Unknowns as an unidentified soldier from the Vietnam War. After petitioning the United States Government for permission, his family had his body exhumed. DNA tests confirmed that the previously unknown soldier was, in fact, Michael Blassie.

– Staff Sgt. James M. Christen of Loomis, California died in Kunar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the Army’s 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, on his third deployment overseas. Sgt. Christen previously served two tours in Iraq. His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. Staff Sgt. James Christen now rests with many of his comrades from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan in Section 60, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.


 

Worth the trip don’t you think???…hope you enjoyed reading this trip into all our Fort Snelling 2past…and then I will leave you with another picture where my folks are buried…Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis…its a cemetery for all who served in the armed forces…my Dad served in WWII, in the Navy…they both wanted to be buried there…my Dad kept reminding us that they were to be buried there…he was proud of his service and wanted to be buried with those whom he related to best…I think all who served never lost that bond…the war changed my Dad in profound ways, too many to talk about here…but his relationship to other veterans never changed with all that he experienced since WWII…may they all rest in peace…with our thanks for all they gave…

Posted by: Jim E | May 24, 2014

Memorial Day, I Remember…

 

Memorial Day, I Remember…

(This is something I wrote in 2010,  for Memorial Day…thought I would post it again…enjoy and if you can,  fly the flag…and remember how fragile our freedom is…how precious our liberty…and though it seems impossible, how easy it would be to lose it…we have come close in our history a number of times, who knows we could be close to it now…so this is not the time to forget that or to lose hope in this special and exceptional country…)

Another Memorial Day…and I don’t mean, “just another Memorial Day”…I do mean, “It IS another Memorial Day”…I am humbled by the day itself…this is not, as even some presidents mistakenly view it, a day to honor all our men and women in the armed forces…(though we do honor them)…there are other days set aside for that…Veterans Day, Armed Forces Day, days to honor the different services…this day is for the fallen…those who have given their lives for this great country of ours…

On the way to church this morning we went by a sign in front of Parkway Automotive, an auto repair shop, it said…”Closed Memorial Day…to honor those who have fallen”…that pretty much says it all…across our country there are ceremonies to remember what it takes to be free…it takes men and woman who are willing to give their lives to make sure we stay free…I have our flag flying outside our house all year…but as you can see, I add a few others to honor Memorial Day…

Arlington National Cemetery, just outside Washington D. C., is very well known…it was the family home of Robert E. Lee before the Civil War…but it was basically “taken” because of he fought on the side of the South during the war…(there is more to that story if you would like to Google it)…and it was turned into a cemetery during the Civil War…and after…many famous Americans are buried there…this song by Trace Adkins may make the story a little more personal…

But Arlington National Cemetery is not the only place our fallen are buried…my Dad, who served in WWII, is buried in Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis, MN…and because of his service, my Mom was is buried right beside him…this picture of Fort Snelling is so beautiful…I remember very well the day we buried my Dad and then the day we buried my Mom…and I remember exactly where it is…I think I could drive right to it…but all those markers sure tell a story…they all served, many of them died far before their “time” in wars that keep us free even today…and many others were able to live full lives because others gave theirs…and my Dad knew the difference…he often told us that the real heroes never made it back…

He served in the south Pacific in the Navy…saw more than he ever wanted to…didn’t talk much about it…but was so proud that he served…and he wanted us to know, when he and Mom died, they wanted to be buried at Fort Snelling…along with all those who went before…he lived to be almost 83…and he along with so many that I knew, were forever changed by The War…and much like that war, men and women who serve today are changed in ways the rest of us cannot know…

One more picture of Fort Snelling…my Mom and Dad are there…I honor them today…but not only them…all of those who served and died to keep us Free…We honor them today…

Posted by: Jim E | May 7, 2014

Jeremy’s 44th Birthday…A Rehash…

Birthday rehash…so Jeremy went to work this morning…could have had the day off…but wanted the hours (no doubt wants to buy his wonderful Dad something special)…so I asked him last night and this morning too…”So did you have a good day for your birthday?”…he said yes, he enjoyed the day…let me tell you my interpretation of his goodJeremy's 44th birthday day…as he related it to me…
 
He got up and I fixed him the breakfast he wanted…sausage and eggs…course the eggs weren’t done to his “high standards”…but the Jimmy Dean sausage was fine (Jimmy Dean would be happy to know that)…we told him, “Heavens, for someone who wasn’t suppose to make it to four and now you’re forty four, you’re doing quite well.”…then lunch at “Senor Te…”…Oh, never mind, he always calls it “The Mexican Place” (too difficult to say it’s name, I guess)…I wait in the car, he and Mom take in “The Mexican Place”…he can eat 6 or 8 times a day, I can’t…well, I could but I don’t…then “His Birthday Meal”…for those who were there, by watching the “Ever Effervescent Jeremy”, you might not believe he enjoyed the meal or the company…but you would be mistaken…he is thinking more than he says or tells…Mom Jeremy's 44th birthday 4and I can “read” him after all these years…
 
While the rest of us are “Chopped Liver”…when Jared Jr. came in…that was one of the high points of his evening, he knows Jared has other things to do…like work and so on…but he asked Jared to come, but didn’t think he could make it…and was satisfied that he would have to work late…Jeremy wanted Jared to have some of his birthday cake…Creme de Menthe cake (white cake with creme de menthe in it…frosted with chocolate frosting…then frosted with Kool Whip/with creme de menthe in it, over the top the chocolate frosting)…now this cake recipe was from one of his favorite cooks at St. Francis High School, with whom Jeremy worked in the kitchen in high school…this cake is his favorite and one that Jared Jr. likes too…so Jeremy asked Jared to come…somehow, though some might not understand, those things are important to Jeremy…therefore, when Jared came in, lights went on for Jeremy…
 
And his FBI hat…Jeremy makes friends easily…they may not always understand Jeremy's 44th birthday 2him…verbal skills being what they are…but somehow they are enamored with him…I don’t know if they even know why…but I have seen it over the years…when he was very young…3-4-5 years of age, what he has now, he had then…I would notice as (something we say in Minnesota) “we had people in”…they may or may not have met Jeremy before…but all the sudden he was up in their lap…talking away (a bit of his Mom in him, dontcha know)…they being so interested in what he had to say…I sat and watched that happen over and over…”How did he do that? He just slipped up in their lap without them even understanding what happened and seemed to have no problem with it.”…he still has that ability today…maybe not “up in their lap” but finds himself within their personal space that they would not give up to most anyone else…but to Jeremy, it seems somehow okay…how he does it I don’t know…and those that know him, “in family” for example…find it hard to understand…
 
So the FBI hat…Gary and Sharon are neighbors here in Montagne Court have “taken to Jeremy”…now first, that makes them a special pair…no one has to do what they do with Jeremy…so kudos to them…but when Gary came before his birthday party started, and Jeremy's 44th birthday 3came in and gave Jeremy a card…(which of course, will be read later) but also gave him one of his FBI hats (Gary is recently retired from the FBI)…now that was a big deal…Jeremy wore that around all night long, including during the meal…and when Gary was here, Jeremy talked to him about his birthday meal…”Mom’s meat loaf”, mashed potatoes, green beans, El Grande salad (lettuce, pepperoni, black olives, red onion, grated Monterey Jack Cheese, topped with Green Goddess dressing/thinned with a splash of vinegar…voila…delicious)…every year it’s the same, along with his cake…
 
Ah, the cake…Jeremy told Gary about the cake…and told him he would bring him a piece if there was any left…Gary told Jeremy that it sounded good but that he should enjoy it and there probably would not be any left…of course, for anyone that knows Jeremy “real well” would know…that would be on Jeremy’s mind the rest of the night…and at the table and opening the gifts, he was his normal “pain in the backside Jeremy”…but on his mind during that and the “eating of the cake”…more than one piece for some…and if those who were there noticed…when all the cake was served…Jeremy disappeared…he had cut a couple of pieces and put in a container…and he was gone…Gary and Sharon were going to get the cake he promised “if there was any left”…a promise is a promise…there may be some missing links in Jeremy, as in all of us, but though he isn’t the size of an elephant…he, as the proverbial elephant, never forgets…(flavored honey at the Jeremy's 44th birthday 5Minnesota State Fair or anything else, that reference is for Jessica)…
 
So, did Jeremy have a good day…”Ya”, he said…and he meant it…he had his favorite meal…his favorite cake…Jared Jr. came directly from work…when he didn’t have to…he enjoyed the cake…received a “dancing pickle” card from Don and Carol…a card and hat from Gary and Sharon…and of course, the rest of us, yup, “Chopped Liver”…but all put together, makes a perfect birthday for someone who has a special gift to give…we, like so many over the years just have to “pick over the life” we know so well and find those special things…we, Mom and I, have decided long ago to give ourselves to that quest and to “see” the gift that we know to be Jeremy…
 
Posted by: Jim E | May 6, 2014

I Took My Mom To Lunch…

I Took My Mom To Lunch…

Mother’s Day is this weekend…I will post this as I did last year, in honor of my Mom…I wrote this years ago…April 2006, it was over a year after Mom died, but I had to “get it down” so I wouldn’t forget it…enjoy and if possible call your Mom…it will make her day…as my Mom did mine, on the day I describe below:

                                           

“Something reminded me this morning about taking my Mom to lunch…who knows how memories are jarred loose in our minds…but this morning this memory randomly arrived…

It has been only a little over a year since Mom passed away…but most of the memories of those days are still fresh…I know they won’t always be, so I decided this one I would write down before it becomes irretrievable…that happens to all of us as time goes by and other experiences take img070over…this lunch happened a few years ago…after Mom’s stroke and after Dad died, but before Mom slipped away from all of us…she was handicapped by some of the remnants of her stroke but still lucid enough to remember things of the past…she still knew everyone, though sometimes she called me “George” (her husband, my Dad)…and though she knew that wasn’t quite right, we both just let it go…it really didn’t matter to me and it was okay with her to let it go…just seemed like too much work for her to change it after it came out…if you don’t know what I mean, you will soon enough…

That day Mom had a doctor’s appointment…and so I picked her up…and off we went…first to her appointment, then to lunch…I really hadn’t planned to go to lunch but Mom was so “with it” that day…we talked and laughed as we drove along…she was so enjoying the ride, she commented how she would just like to keep driving…so I drove passed things that she would remember, pointed out things that were changing…she was so interested…she was always interested in what her boys thought and were interested in…that had not changed…I often wondered if that was real…was she as interested as she seemed???…I never could see anything to make me feel otherwise…and that day it was more than usual…it was a high point in these last years of her life…

I asked her if she wanted something to eat, “My treat”, I said…she laughed and said let’s go somewhere easy…I knew what she meant, she had lots of trouble getting in and out of the car…”Where do you want to go?”, I asked her…she didn’t know…so I made some suggestions…and she picked the one with the golden arches, she wanted some French fries…andPond with willows and cattails 3 of course, a drive-thru…I knew one not far away and we drove slowly to get there, talking along the way…we got our meal and parked behind the McDonald’s…so let me paint the picture…behind us was one of the busiest roads in the north suburbs of Minneapolis…but in front of us was a large swamp (called a wetlands today) and we were parked on some of the fill that had been put there to build the McDonald’s and paved…there were still piles of fill beyond where we parked…it was a warm sunny day…cattails waved far into the distance…birds flew here and there…the small willow trees along the bank moved to the motion of the wind…and here I was with my Mom…just talking, eating…sharing French fries…me watching to see if she needed help…it was perfect…Elmquist family WW II 1944

We talked of things she remembered, of things she wanted to talk about…I told her how much she meant to me…she waved it off as she often did…and talked of times past…her folks, my grandparents…she loved them…and now in her 80′s, she still honored them…they, like the rest of us were not perfect, but to her and to me…that didn’t matter, both of us agreed how wonderful they were…she remembered the days of her youth, before all this…and all that was before her…we laughed and some tears were shed…but overall it was a wonderful time…right there overlooking that beautiful swamp…

It’s a picture I will always remember (now bear with me)…from 50 or 100 feet above…do you see it???…looking down you see a McDonald’s, next to a busy highway…and behind a large swamp…and there behind the McDonald’s…right there in the parking lot…an old white Buick and inside…can you see them???…a son and his Mom, he in his 60′s, her in her 80′s…eating, talking, crying and laughing…but enjoying for one of the very last times, each other…

She was and is in my memory…loved and honored…”

Last Sunday, April 27, 2014 was like many Spring Sundays in Little Rock…it was cloudy, and warm, with warnings of possible storms…and in Arkansas this time of year, that means the threat of tornadoes…being from Minnesota and living there for most of our Clouds storm coming June 11, 2011lives, we had tornadoes…but here, when they say a threat of tornadoes, we have learned, you have to take it seriously…but other than watching the weather, the day started like most early Spring days here…we went to church and came home, spent some time reading and watching the weather on TV once in a while…Jeremy worked until 5:00, and that was when they said things might start “popping”…for as long as we have been married and had kids, I always felt better “when everyone was home”, safe…I know that maybe a bit weird but I always have felt that way..so getting Jeremy home was a good feeling…

We “tucked in”, as I told Jeremy we would do when we got home…I turned on the TV and watched what was happening…there really wasn’t much going on…Oh, there were thunderstorms on the radar but nothing as of yet ominous…that would all change at about 7:00 pm…I mentioned that things were a bit different in Arkansas in how they follow weather, especially tornadoes, they are good at it…they follow them very closely and can “see” the “signature” of the tornado…

In fact they follow it along town by town, street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood…and that is exactly what happened on Sunday, the names of the town, street, neighborhood are on the screen…as long as we have power and the TV is working or have a smart phone working you can get that kind of warning…it is a bit frightening but at the same time wonderful to have that kind of specific warning…we watched the tornado on Sunday, its whole way until it lifted up…they pointed out that “it was on the ground”…I wondered the first years down here, “How do they know”…it’s hard to understand but they do know…

Tornado April 2014We saw on radar, the “debris ball”, as they called it, on the screen, so we knew there were trees, houses and possibly people being effected by the storm…and it was wide and we watched it as it moved along…and as we watched we thought “out loud” who we knew that were in the path of the storm…so as I told Judie that night…”It’s right out where the ‘strawberry lady’ parks her van.”…and it was just West of there, about a half mile away…we followed it town by town, road by road…we knew right where it was all along…even down to “that’s just East of Will’s folks”…”it just missed Roland (a small town North of us) by a football field”…and so on…so we never know if it will happen…but when it does we will know just when it will hit…I’m still amazed by the technology…letting us know down to a half mile, maybe less…

I have kept a page from “Our Daily Bread”, a devotion I use everyday to start my day, I Our Daily Breadnever know why I save them, maybe it was for today…(called “Her Worst Day Ever”)…I will include a small portion of it here…“In May 2011, a young woman took cover in a bathtub during a tornado that devastated her city of Joplin, Missouri. Her husband covered her body with his and took the blows from flying debris. He died, and she survived because of his heroism. She naturally wrestles with the question, ‘Why?’ But a year after the tornado, she said that she finds comfort because even on her worst day ever, she was loved.”

“When I think about ‘worst days ever’, I think of Job right away. A man who loved God, he lost his animals, his servants, and his 10 children in one day! (Job 1:13-19). Job mourned deeply, and he also asked the ‘Why?’ questions…God did not give him the reasons for his suffering, but he listened to Job and did not fault him for his questions. God assured him of His control over everything, and Job trusted Him (42:1-6). The Lord may not give us the reasons for our trials. But, thankfully, even on our worst day ever, we can know for sure we are loved by Him (Romans 8:35-39)”…

And so on that Spring day in Arkansas…and in Little Rock…a small city really…we know or know of, many people here…it is a beautiful time of the year…everything is “new green”, if you know what I mean…the trees are fully leafed out…the azaleas are blooming, dogwoods, flowers of all kinds…it is just beautiful…but even on that kind of day storms can take the heart out of you…when you see the how many people are effected by it…there were 15 people who died in that storm around Little Rock…and hundreds of others with stories from that day…most of them trying to put their lives back together… Tornado, Tittle family

Let me tell you about two stories we know because they work at Family Life…the Tittle family’s home was one of the first ones hit in the storm…as the storm came Rob and his wife, Kerry, were shepherding their kids under the stairway…when the storm hit…he and two of their daughters were killed…his wife and 7 other children were safe…their house disintegrated and only the slab was left…and another large family a few miles away took refuge in their storm shelter just before the tornado hit…they all were safe, their house totally gone…a car was up against the door of the shelter so they couldn’t get out…they called 9-1-1 and they got them out a half hour later…but with all this devastation, things Tornado, April 2014, Tittle homecould certainly have been worse…and those around those who survived are giving thanks for their safety…

I am old enough to not ask the “Why?” question anymore…I really don’t know why these things happen, don’t pretend to know…but I do know this, we can ask “Why?”…it’s okay…and maybe because I am “older”…and have seen so much over the years…I know God is in control…and as I have told so many people over the years, “He knows the answers but He’s not telling”, just as with Job…and though it is a hard world sometime…it is good…I will trust the One Who created it and runs it…because there are no other answers that make much sense…So in the end I have found, “God’s love does not keep us from trials, but sees us through them.”…I am fine with that…

And this same God will see these families through this hard time…His love and care will be there for them…as these two fathers showed us their love and care for their families…know this, these and others will find comfort because even on their worst day…they were loved… 

A little over a month ago…I got up early as is my wont to do…did a few things I usually do…open the blinds, clean out the dishwasher…heavens I always run it as I go to bed…sit on the couch for a few minutes as I think through the day…then go in and turn on the computer…look at the news, read a few blogs and websites, so I will be up to date on theCandlelight vigil for murdered 10 yr old overnight news and views…then move on to other things…but that morning when I read the home page news…and as I read the story about a 10 year old girl who was abducted in broad daylight…found murdered in the basement of a neighbor…in trash bags and storage containers…and a picture of a candlelight vigil in Springfield, Missouri, where hundreds came out…that put me over the edge…as my Mom used to say, “that’ s the last straw”…I knew I had to write something, though I didn’t know then and even now, as I write, what it would be…even though it was as the proverb said, “…the last straw that breaks the camel’s back.”…

You probably know the scene in the Christmas movie, “The Christmas Story”…called the Scut Farkus affairScut Farkus affair, where Ralphie loses it after months of being picked on by Scut Farkus and his toady, Grover Dill…standing there after being irritated by a number of problems that stretched Ralphie’s endurance beyond his limit…”the last straw” happened, Scut Farkus hit him in the face with a snowball…and that was “it”..the fight was on and Ralphie “lost it”…it is kind of the way I felt that day…after seeing all the negatives on the news…where almost all of the things I believe in are being attacked almost everyday…where even at the highest levels of society, government, entertainment and culture…seem to be turning away from what I believe has made our country great…and how I saw this little girl being killed as part and parcel of that downward slide we are on in this culture…

And I see things on a fast trip into the abyss…I remember so well, in my former life, B.R. (before retirement)…I was  a principal of a large high school…one of my axioms was, “it takes a week to lose it and a year to get it back”…I saw it happen many times…at the high school level, if you change something, like a rule, and it is less controlling than the former, it is easy to change the rule…but almost impossible to change it back…it can be done but it takes a lot of time and a lot of work…I’ve been there, I know…I remember when I became the principal of our school…there were many things I felt I had to “clean up” to return the school to do what we were charged to do…educate…to be a place where teachers can teach and kids can learn…that seems simple but there are many things which work to stop that from happening…look around you, at schools that work and those that don’t…it doesn’t take much time to see why…but getting the right person or group of persons on board and willing to do the hard work to make it happen is the difficult task…but I digress…it is also true in our culture..as we give up mores and cultural principles that we have live with “forever”…easy to change, difficult to return to them again…

I have a poem written in the front of my Bible…it goes like this:Alexander Pope

Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.

Written by Alexander Pope, 1688-1744, from his epic poem, “An Essay on Man”…published in 1733-34…vice meaning sin…mien meaning conduct…so if I have written this way in the front of my Bible…”Beware of this human weakness: first we abhor…then we pity…finally, we embrace“…put another way: ”sin first unthinkable, is grudgingly tolerated, then condoned, then endorsed, then openly promoted as acceptable in God’s eyes”…we see it all the time…things thought unimaginable are being endorsed…

So when I see people being mislead by whomever they are listening to or watching, I know how the process works…it is a breakdown of morals and values, that have been taught by parents, schools, churches, synagogues, culture in general for generations…then I read about Miley Cyrus…a young girl, maybe over 18, but young…and her move from being Hannah Montana to what she is today…how did that happen…drugs, sex, and all the rest…I look to her parents, her “handlers”…they have talked her into this kind of life…if this continues, it will not go well with her…those of us who are older have seen this many times…and her parents think this is a great thing for her…I see it as tragic…I feel badly for her…but she has been “groomed” by those around her…though she would not see it that way now, I’m sure…we desperately need to return to the morals and values that many in this country still hold dear… 

I read a memoir recently by Jeannette Walls, “The Glass Castle”…it is a good read…almost unbelievable but a good read..without going into the book itself…one of the last lines in the book goes like this:Glass Castle

[“A wind picked up, rattling the windows and the candle flames suddenly shifted, dancing along the border between turbulence and order.” -Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle]

It’s where I see us as a culture…dancing along the border between turbulence and order…there still are those who want us to stand against the onslaught of turbulence but even in the highest places in government, in churches, in entertainment…no one seems too interested in providing the role models to follow…and seem to attack those of us who still want high standards…let me pick on churches for a moment…like Calvin Miller wrote in “Letter to a Young Pastor”…“Confess what the centuries have labeled the historical faith, or, well…follow the crowd of those “new kind of Christians” who arrive at the old kind of nothing yet still believe themselves faithful…”…I know, I am only hitting the high ground, ignoring the valleys, gulleys and draws…but you get my drift…Where are we going?…What shall we be if we continue down this path?…I say put on the brakes before we can’t stop at all…this will end badly if we don’t…that 10 year old girl and all the 10 year olds around us deserve a better world to live in…the one we are headed for is not so good…

I just finished “Goodbye, Darkness”, a memoir of the Pacific War by William Manchester…a story of his time in WWII…at the end of his book he tries to put it all in focus…to answer why they served…it is a bit more than I will share here…but this is some Goodbye, Darknesss by William Manchesterof it…“It was an act of love. Those men on the line were my family, my home. They were closer to me than I can say, closer than any friends had been or ever would be…Actually love was only part of it…we had to be tough too. To fight WWII you had to have been tempered and strengthened in the 1930’s depression by a struggle for survival…devotion overarched all this. It was a bond woven of many strands…You also needed nationalism, the absolute conviction that the United States was the envy of all other nations…Wickedness was attributed to flaws in individual characters, not to society’s shortcomings…to accept unemployment compensation, had it existed, would have been considered humiliating…Debt was ignoble. Courage was a virtue. Mothers were beloved, Fathers obeyed. Marriage was a sacrament. Divorce was disgraceful. Pregnancy meant expulsion from school or dismissal from a job. The boys responsible for the crimes of impregnation had to marry the girls. Couples did not keep house before they were married and there could be no wedding until the girl’s father had approved. You assumed that gentlemen always stood and removed their hats when a woman entered a room. The suggestion that some of them might resent being called “ladies” would have confounded you…All these and “God Bless America” and Christmas or Hanukkah and the certitude that victory in the war would assure their continuance into perpetuity…”

But it is not so…every generation must fight the battle for the survival of this great country…so far this generation has not done well…I still have great faith in America…there are still millions of Americans who believe in values that have made us great…that includes American’s in every walk of life, every background…churches, families, individuals need to stand…we may be the last one standing but we must stand…it will be a struggle but one we must win…God help us…Jesus said in Matthew 12:25…Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.

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