Christmas 1914

“There is no limit to the measure of ruin and of slaughter;
day by day the earth is drenched with newly-shed blood,
and is covered with the bodies of the wounded and of the slain.
Who would imagine, as we see them thus filled with hatred of one another,
that they are all of one common stock, all of the same nature,
all members of the same human society?
Who would recognize brothers,
whose Father is in Heaven?”

Pope Benedict XV

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(an artist’s impression taken form The Illustrated London News, January 1915 of British and German soldiers during the Christmas truce of 1914)

War is a funny thing.
As in it is an age old oddity.
An ugly, devastating oddity.

Since his fall from grace,
man has been engaged in a constant state of struggle.
Battling and fighting a war within himself as he wages war against all others.
Living in a constant state of destruction…
Conquering, defending, killing, invading, taking…

And yet within man’s duality of his nature…that connection between light and dark…
of both right and wrong,
of both love and hate,
of give and take,
of fair and unfair
of peace and war…
all of which seems to leave him no choice but to create a balance within the chaos
of some sense of fairness or rightness…
as if war should be, could be, conducted fairly or even oddly, justly,
Man continues to yearn for the light, the upright, the hopeful…

As man feels his way through the never ending darkness, he has learned to set parameters.
He creates rules.
Rules of engagement.
Rules of war.
Rules set by the Geneva Convention.
Rules stating that nations are to fight fairly,
as if to say…fight by the rules.

Yet all of this seems to be grossly oxymoronic…
as if war, fighting, maiming and killing could ever be fair,
or just, or right, or proper….

Yet on Christmas Day 1914 man’s conflict and inner struggle with this duality
of his imperfect balance, oddly righted itself…

That in the midst of death and insanity, the arrival of Christmas,
the coming and eventual arrival of the child whose birth brings both the gift of
hope and peace to not merely a few but rather to all mankind,
brought balance, albeit briefly, to man’s seemingly unending inner conflict…

On December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary hiatus of the war for
the celebration of Christmas.
The warring countries refused to create any official cease-fire,
but on Christmas the soldiers in the trenches declared their own unofficial truce.

Starting on Christmas Eve, many German and British troops sang Christmas carols
to each other across the lines, and at certain points the Allied soldiers
even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing.

At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day,
some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the
Allied lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues.
At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick,
but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands
with the enemy soldiers.
The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs.
There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a
good-natured game of soccer.

Some soldiers used this short-lived ceasefire for a more somber task:
the retrieval of the bodies of fellow combatants who had fallen within the no-man’s
land between the lines.

The so-called Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war
in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of
chivalry between enemies in warfare.
It was never repeated—future attempts at holiday ceasefires were quashed by
officers’ threats of disciplinary action—but it served as heartening proof,
however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons,
the soldiers’ essential humanity endured.

During World War I, the soldiers on the Western Front did not expect to celebrate on the battlefield,
but even a world war could not destory the Christmas spirit.

History.com

“Hark the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born king.”
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!

Charles Wesley

Setting the example—Happy Father’s Day

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”
Umberto Eco

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(3 AM 26.5 years ago / Tanner Hospital / Julie Cook)

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(groom and best man/ Julie Cook / 2014)

Parenthood has never come with an instruction manual–
much to the frustration of many a first time parent.

On top of not having a step by step manual,
throw in having no clue as how to be a parent—
as your own background of dysfunctional raising,
by two individuals who truly had no business really being parents,
left only an example of what not to do.

Forget manuals, your parents didn’t even try to pretend they knew what they were doing.
Throw in moving 5 times before your were 8. . .throwing out all thoughts of stability.
Throw in alcohol.
Throw in abuse.
Throw in the fact that this was a time when no one talked about such. . .
There were no Betty Ford clinics, no fashionable rehabs, just the state mental hospital.
How were you to tell your friends that your dad’s on another binge and was taken away kicking and screaming?
Throw in the fact your coaches, teachers and friends all saw the bruises, but again, this was a time when such things weren’t discussed out in the open, only in secretive hushed tones.

Mix all of that and the fact that you hadn’t really known what it was to be a husband and now you waited until you were 40 to start a family. . .
You had only one clue as to where you should start. . . you simply knew what NOT to do. . .
And so you ran with it. . .

Add in being. . .
Scared
Frightened
Anxious
Determined to be different
Never to repeat the same offenses you yourself endured.

And so you began your own journey into parenthood, with great trepidation, almost 27 years ago.

It wasn’t easy.
You immediately gave up smoking
You named him yourself
You worked long hours
You changed diapers
You made him laugh for the very first time
You gave him your full attention, each evening you were home, despite having worked 14 hour days
You fed him in the middle of the night allowing your wife some precious sleep
You never wanted to exclude him
You held him tight before his surgery
You cried when he was hurt
You offered him the gift of Nature.
You took him fishing, camping, hunting, hiking
You took him to the ocean’s shore for his very first time
You taught him how to swim
You bought him a boogie board and later a surf board.
You disciplined him when you absolutely had to, and it about killed you
You didn’t care when he couldn’t follow in your same athletic agilities and accomplishments.
You worried
You fretted
You cried
You obsessed
You gave him your old truck
You reluctantly bought him a new truck when he wrecked your old one
You afforded him college, to the place of his dreams, that turned out not to be a dream.
You later helped him settle into a place more suited for him.
Always teaching him how to begin again.
You offered comfort and only the positive when he fell, when he failed, when he lost.

You showed him what it means to be a man.
To be responsible.
To get up and try again when things look hopeless.
You taught him how to run forward. . .running toward the trouble, rather then running from the trouble.
You demonstrated that a man never hides from his troubles or mistakes.
You showed him what unconditional love is all about with your own attention to the father who never deserved your concern or care.
You demonstrated how to be a husband during both the good and the bad life has to offer.
You showed him how to give abundantly when it was little he would receive in return.
You demonstrated how to be honest in a dishonest world.
You taught him to be just, forgiving, strong, determined while keeping a gentle touch.
Reminding him to always walk with integrity while holding his head high. . .

You did this on your own. . .
With no direction
No manual
No help from your own father. . .
You demonstrated to your son, what being a real father is all about. . .
By giving him the greatest gift possible. . .
yourself. . .

Happy Father’s Day my love. . . .