the take away of hope and hopefulness

“Hate corrodes the container its carried in”
Senator Alan Simpson during his eulogy of President G.H.W Bush


(image of Senator Simpson offering a eulogy during the funeral of G.H.W. Bush)

One thing I learned as an educator is that we are always learning.

When we are a part of or exposed to various learning moments, those moments
which are both known, and even most often unknown,–moments throughout our
lives, we inevitably are given gifts of the ‘take aways’…

Those nuggets and morsels of wisdom that we glean…
glimpses of that which speaks deeply to our souls.

They are the things we ruminate over…chewing on and pondering over.
They are the small gifts we receive from both moments and individuals…

If you’ve read any of my posts this week, you know I’ve been trying to take
in what I can from the life, death, mourning and now funeral of our 41st President
George H. W. Bush.

I’ve been watching the state funerals of our presidents since John F. Kennedy’s funeral
as my parents instilled that sense of duty and respect in me…
a respect extended to our presidents for their service to us, the people.
It mattered not the party, we gathered for each one—that is until I was on my own,
And I still watched…just as I did today for our 41st President.

It was never about party or politics…but it was about respect and service.

President Bush 41 was just finishing the first year of his presidency when my son
was born.
It’s one of those things written down in a baby book…” who was the president
the year you were born”…with his being Bush, mine being Eisenhower.

Most who know me, know that I was a huge fan of President Reagan.

And if you’ve read many of my posts over the years, you’d then know that the tandem
working relationships between President Ronald Reagan,
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and
Pope John Paul II all played a significant role
in my life at a time when I was just coming into my own…
coming into my own thoughts and conviction about the world around us.

They fed my keen interest and love for our democracy, freedom as well as the importance of
having a working Christian faith within that very democracy and freedom—
as the cost for each comes at a very high price.

They taught me that hope remains even when things appear hopeless…that
a Cold War could be broken, a wall could be torn down and people could taste freedom
after living a lifetime under tyranny.

The presidency of George H.W. Bush seemed to serve as an asterisk to those
four world giants and the ture gifts they offered our world.

So it comes as no surprise that I’ve been quite taken with much of what I’ve learned
throughout the course of this week regarding the life of our 41st president.

Some things that I had known and some things that I had never known.
Some things about The President, some things about his cabinet and some things
about his lifelong friends.

It has been, however, from his death that I have actually found a surprising sense
of hope—hope for this oh so divided Nation of ours.
A deep-ceded, hate-filled division that I have anguished over now for
oh so many months.

Look at these two images.

The first image of this group of American movers and shakers is at the
beginning of the President’s funeral.
It is an image of past and present.

And within that past and present is a great deal of visible stain.

This was a gathering of people who we all know don’t exactly care much for one another.
Some in the group are better at hiding their real feelings in public than
some of the others.

This historic picture shows four presidents, along with one hopeful want to be,
along with spouses gathered together, seated side by side,
in order to pay homage to one of their own.
The mood is somber yet the tension on this front row is palpable.

The second image appears to show that humor can be unifying emotion.

Humor seems to be one of the small final gifts given by the 41st President to
this group who have followed his footsteps.

And it was Al Simpson, the former senator from Wyoming and lifelong friend of
President George H. W. Bush who, in his eulogy of his dear old friend,
offered many of those stories which provided a thankful amount of humor.
A gift freely offered to all those gathered and particularly needed by those gathered on
that front row.

But it was what Senator Simpson said toward the end of his eulogy that
I found most telling of which I could only pray that those seated on that
first row would each digest in his or her own private way.

Senator Simpson noted that President Bush never “hated” anyone…

Meaning this age-old friend never heard his very important friend ever
express vehemence or disdain…for anyone…not publicly nor privately.

Not even after a difficult and challenging campaign and defeat.
Not even after the dealings with aggressive and difficult world situations.
Not even after a life spent in the often ugly and petty business of politics.
Not even despite the trials of living life after losing a young child.
As this approach to life and living was something instilled in him at a young age.

For the Senator noted that both he and Bush had learned this particular lesson
early on in their young lives as each of their mothers carried what they
called velvet hammers.

These men learned hard lessons at the knees of their mothers with one of the most important
lessons being that “hate corrodes the container it is carried in”

That container being one’s heart.

So I was now curious for a little more background behind Al Simpson…
curious because he was much funnier delivering this eulogy than I had remembered
him to be during his days in the Senate.
So I found this little bit of his background story…

Another offering of hope found in a now elderly man’s earlier life…

The story is about a one-time youthful holy terror,
who almost, and most certainly would have in today’s time, served jail time for his
life of running wild, yet who, with time and redemption, actually grew up to become
a leader, a senator and dear friend to a president.

So the first of the takeaways that I want to share from a seemingly sorrowful event is
that of hope and hopefulness.
Other takeaways will be shared later.

I want to offer Alan Simpson’s backstory regarding how this now 87-year-old survived
to come out on the upside of what was nothing more than a selfish reckless youth…

The story is a reminder that if there is hope for a youthful hellion who
no doubt seemed to be a hopeless cause, so then surely there is hope for
a group of politicians who find great disdain for one another…
The same Hope that remains available for a deeply divided Nation.

A lasting gift offered even in death by a President to his grateful yet divided Nation.
A gift that our 41st President always knew came from his faith…
that being the faith and Hope found in and freely given by Jesus Christ.

There has been a great deal of this notion of hope that I have found in these
rapidly disappearing members of this Greatest Generation…

I even read of it coming from Barbara Bush.

Just a few months ago she herself was now dying,
her son Jeb asked her if she was afraid to leave their dad behind.
Barbara unequivocably told Jeb that she will miss her husband and his father
but that she believes in Jesus Christ.
She knew that George would be okay without her as she would be home with her
Savior—all the while waiting on George to follow.

Bereft as he was when his wife of 73 years died, George senior, knew where Barbara was,
that she’d be waiting on him as his hope also rested in his faith—
faith in a Savior who would also bring him home when the time was ready.

So I offer the back story to a once difficult young man who put his trust in
the notion of hope and hopefulness as he grew to be a man who also chose
to serve others over serving self.

According to Wikipedia:
In Simpson’s words to this Court, “I was a monster.”

In that brief, in support of the claimant in the Supreme Court case,
Simpson admitted that, as a juvenile, he had been on federal probation for shooting mailboxes
and punching a cop and that he “was a monster”.

One day in Cody, Wyoming, when Simpson was in high school,
he and some friends “went out to do damage.”
They went to an abandoned war relocation structure and decided to “torch” it.
They committed arson on federal property,
a crime now punishable by up to twenty years in prison if no one is hurt,
and punishable by up to life in prison if the arson causes a person’s death.
Luckily for Simpson, no one was injured in the blaze.

Simpson not only played with fire, but also with guns.
He played a game with his friends in which they shot at rocks close to one another,
at times using bullets they stole from the local hardware store.
The goal of the game was to come as close as possible to striking someone without
actually doing so.
Again, Simpson was lucky:
no one was killed or seriously injured, or caught by their parents.

Simpson and his friends went shooting throughout their community.
They fired their rifles at mailboxes, blowing holes in several and killing a cow.
They fired their weapons at a road grader.
“We just raised hell,” Simpson says.
Federal authorities charged Simpson with destroying government property and
Simpson pleaded guilty.
He received two years of probation and was required to make restitution from his own funds –
funds that he was supposed to obtain by holding down a job.

As he [Simpson] has described it, “The older you get, the more you realize . . .
your own attitude is stupefying, and arrogant, and cocky, and a miserable way to live.”

Simpson stated “I was just dumb and rebellious and stupid.
And a different person.” and then added,
“You’re not who are when you’re 16 or 18.
You’re dumb, and you don’t care and you think you are eternal.”

And so the state where this young hellion would cause so much trouble would eventually
vote him in as their United States Senator.
Setting his life on a path to becoming dear friends with the 41st President of the United States.
A man who remembered yesterday in the Nation’s National Cathedral.

There is always hope…

average troubles and updates

“I am not more gifted than the average human being.
If you know anything about history, you would know that is so–
what hard times I had in studying and the fact that I do not have a memory like some other
people do…
I am just more curious than the average person and I will not give up on a problem
until I have found the proper solution.
This is one of my greatest satisfactions in life–
solving problems–and the harder they are, the more satisfaction do I get out of them.
Maybe you could consider me a bit more patient in continuing with my problem than is
the average human being.
Now, if you understand what I have just told you, you see that it is not a matter
of being more gifted but a matter of being more curious and maybe more patient
until you solve a problem.”

Albert Einstein


(Autumn is feeling better / Moppie Cook / 2018)

I’ve always thought my life was pretty much average.
I grew up average.
I lived in an average house.
I had an average family.
I went to an average school.
Average was good.
Average seemed safe…

Some folks think average equates to boring…

I rather like average.

Yet our life these days has been anything but average…

Things have been less than ideal for a couple of months now.
Less than average.

There have been high adulations and low dark shadows.

It started really last year with what I called the season of loss…
that was followed by the news of new life and hope.

But then our son had a massive job change the week before his first child was born.
Things were uncertain.

Next, this first child came into this world with tremendous concern and trepidation.
Yet joy pushed the worry aside.

Then it was a here there sort of life.

I was staying there, they were staying here…
As the new mom struggled through a couple of infections.

And so now we all stay here…

The two of us and the two cats have grown to three more plus a black lab.
The 3 four-legged siblings are not too keen on their new “sister”

Yet that’s all about to change again come tomorrow when our son goes back to Atlanta
to a position with new company—of which he is very excited….yet the excitement
comes with a somewhat heavy heart because his wife and young daughter will continue staying
here as mom finishes out the school year.

Blessedly there will not be the hair-raising commuting, but this new small family is now separated
while these imperfect grandparents try to make things as smooth as possible for all concerned.

Throughout all of our small world ordeal, I’ve thought a great deal about our deployed troops—
who are separated from their families for months at a time.
Worlds apart from all that is important and dear.
Our temporary imperfection pales to their sacrifices…

Which reminds me that nothing in life is ideal, is it?

To add insult to injury, during all of our transitions, our daughter-n-law had her
identity stolen.

We worry that it was actually while she was in the hospital.
It’s a top-notch hospital but if you’ve ever listened to Clark Howard,
he’ll tell you the medical field is the primary culprit when it comes
to identity theft…
and her troubles didn’t start until a day after her discharge….
when 4 iPhone 10s were bought on a plan in her name using her SS number
clear across the country in Seattle, Washington.

There were several other phone purchases and phone plan purchased in the same area.
She contacted all of the credit bureaus and had to file police reports in order to
have all the credit applications and purchases taken off of her reports.

The police explained that the phones are bought then shipped and sold overseas.

It’s been a very long story of sorting but hopefully, we’ve nipped it all in the
bud in the nick of time before too much damage has been done.

Next, adding insult to injury, the Social Security office sent out our
new granddaughter’s SS card, but it never arrived.
The SS office then told us they couldn’t track where the card went.
They sent it, that’s all they could determine.

Great.

We now have a new card…but wonder where the other one went…???
And what of a two-month-old’s identity now being compromised???

Next, our daughter-n-law got salmonella right before she was to return to work
from maternity leave.
We’d gone out to a rather nice seafood restaurant in Atlanta to celebrate birth,
life and to see if a new baby could handle public life.

After a night of being deathly sick…
she spent a day in urgent care followed by a day in the ER
The CDC even called…
This while a newborn was at home with an inept grandmother.

It wasn’t lettuce and it wasn’t E-coli…it was salmonella and it was at the restaurant.
I called the manager…he was apologetic.

Three weeks later, as you know, Autumn became deathly ill.
She spent hours in one ER only to be sent to Scottish Rite’s ER in Atlanta.
She too tested posted for salmonella.

But the jury is still out as to the source.
The doctors think the window between her mom’s outbreak and her onset had
actually been too long.
They questioned two new trial formulas.

Her fever was high.
The diarrhea was more blood than not.
As this tiny precious little one was weak and pallid.

She was hooked up to machines and had been stuck in both arms…while nurses searched
for tiny veins.
A difficult thing to bear when such small wee one is suffering.

She had a spinal tap.

The fluids were thankfully clear.

She received a powerful injection in the ER then another one the following day at her
pediatrician’s office.

We were then told we’d switch to an oral antibiotic while waiting to see what
the final cultures revealed.

As of Thursday, the hospital called and told us that nothing had grown from the cultures
and that they felt confident that the salmonella had not spread to the brain.

I spoke with my own gastroenterologist this week and he explained that salmonella
is a gravely troubling illness as it can spread rapidly throughout the body affecting
much more than just the guts…it can lead to a myriad of ailments including arthritis.

Autumn is so much better but not totally 100%.
We had been diligently working on getting her on a schedule and regime of both
eating and sleeping but this latest hurdle threw a massive curveball at all
of our best efforts.

Add to all of this my husband working toward retiring…bringing a 50-year career
in a small family business to a close…
which is an entirely different post unto itself…

Topsy turvy and far from average…a roller coaster of emotions…

So…
average is sounding pretty darn nice, doesn’t it?

We thank each of you for your prayers, thoughts and good wishes…
We couldn’t do any of this without your prayerful support…

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer,
believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Mark 11:24

Can a human being really remain neutral?

“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who,
in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”

Dante Alighieri


(photograph of Carl Lutz, Swiss Ambassador to Hungry, as seen from the cellar
where he and those he protected waited out the battle of the Soviets over the Nazi occupation)

I promise, really I do…..
I’ll get back to my focus on what I took away this week when watching our friend the
Wee Flea but first—- I have to share this story.

It’s a story I saw day before yesterday and it begged me to stop and
read further.

I did and I was glad that I did.

The story is a story with a back story….
and I believe it will be beneficial for us to first read the
back story in order to fully understand the front story….
of which is an end story…. which is really just a story about humankind.

How’s that for a story about a story??!!

I would think that most of us who know any little something about nations,
countries, Europe wars, etc, knows that that tiny land locked country of Switzerland
is and has always been known for being fiercely neutral.

It has watches and clocks.
It has the Alps and skiing.
It has snow and the Matterhorn.
It has Heidi and cows.
It has chocolate.
It also has neutrality.

As in it maintains a fierce state of neutrality.

The words ‘fiercely neutral’ almost rings of an oxymoron…..
because when one thinks of the word and notion of being neutral and of neutrality,
one would naturally think nonchalant, laid back or indifferent…
not seemingly to care one way or another as to what’s going on around
say, in the neighboring countries.

Think of it like “we’re neutral, we’re not getting involved with that…”
sort of mindset.

Switzerland is globally recognized as a Neutral Nation.

Meaning Switzerland doed not engage in wars nor will it get involved.
Despite having a military requirement that all young Swiss males serve two years in
the Swiss Army.

My husband has a life long Swiss friend who has shared his tales of committal to a
military inscription as a young man. He marvels that I would love to have had his
Government issued Swiss army blanket as those original blankets now command a
pretty penny.

According to a story on the BBC Travel section, the Swiss have not always been
a neutral nation. I found this to be quite interesting.

Their past, it turns out, might actually appear to be a bit more unsavory than
gallant as they started out not so much as indifferent as they did fortuitous mercenaries.

According to Merriam Webster a mercenary is of a person,
or the behavior of said person, which is primarily concerned with making money
at the expense of ethics.

That doesn’t sound too much like someone interested in being a
humanitarian or neutral now does it??

And even currently found on the Swiss government’s website it states that not only is
the nation to focus on the country’s humanitarian bent
(think Red Cross on flag for a reason)
it lists some of the rules: The country must refrain from engaging in war,
not allow belligerent states to use its territory and not supply mercenary troops to belligerent states….

Hummmmm…..

According to Billie Cohen the author of the article,
even the way the country is set up seems like the epitome of peaceful
coexistence. Politically it’s a direct democracy;
culturally it recognises four language groups;
and as you crisscross the cantons, you feel like you’re visiting four countries:
Italy (in Ticino), Germany (in Zurich), France (in Geneva)
and a unique descendant of the Roman Empire (in Grisons).

I’ll let you click on the link below for the full story of Switzerland’s neutrality
as it is rather interesting but suffice it to say that being a mercenary nation
became no longer advantageous nor profitable as the Swiss were militarily routed
by both the French and Venetian forces in 1515.

Selling out then to France, as acting bodyguards to the King, became the path of least resistance and least painful….that was until a certain French Revolution
rolled around, as heads were also rolling, so thus a rethinking,
or more like a redo or makeover, was in the works.

Neutrality it would be.

But then the World Wars happened, and that reputation was sorely tested,
especially during WWII when Switzerland controversially bought Jewish gold from Nazi Germany and refused Jewish refugees.
“From a Swiss perspective, [neutrality] was successful in so far as Switzerland
wasn’t involved in fighting,” Goestchel explained.
“There have been many debates if Switzerland was really neutral,
especially in WWII, but it wasn’t involved in fighting activities.”

( http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20170717-the-country-that-cant-choose-a-side)

And so it helps for us to understand Switzerland as a whole before we can fully
appreciate the story a certain Swiss diplomat…..

All of this—this particular story, makes me wonder….
It makes me wonder as to how is it that I can still be amazed??
How can there continue being tales of such goodness and quiet heroism that just
seem to keep popping up out of the blue during a time of such horrendous darkness?

Just when you’re pretty certain you’ve read or heard all there is in the way of
the positives during the World’s greatest time of negative…
something else is uncovered, unearthed and brought to light…

One of those still hidden, yet rare tiny gems.

And so is the story of Carl Lutz.

Mr Lutz was a Swiss diplomat who had served his diplomatic time in the 1930s
in Palestine.
(Remember Israel was not yet a nation…that was after the war in 1948)
He was up and transferred to Budapest in 1942—a rather precarious time
for a transfer during what was shaping up to be a full blown European war.

Upon Lutz’s arrival it became most apparent quite quickly that Hungary’s Jews were in
grave peril and Mr. Lutz realized that in his position,
that of a lone diplomat in a country that no longer had an American or British embassy,
it rested upon him and a handful of others to do something drastic.

Dubbed Switzerland’s Schindler, Lutz got to work.

As one of a few remaining diplomates Lutz was to act as “diplomat” for those
countries no longer represented in Hungry. He was to represent the interests of those countries who had removed their staffs due to the war.
So Lutz went about the task to create a slew of protective passports under the guise of various countries….and not for just individuals, as he had lead German authorities
to believe, but rather passports to entire families.

He also fudged his number counting hoping that the Germans would not notice.

For those Jewish families and individuals who he could not spirit out of the country,
he found and created 76 safe houses and places that he could hide them away—
away from the Nazis seeking to deport all of Hungry’s Jews to the Death Camps.

It is estimated that Lutz saved the lives of 62,000 people.

“It is the largest civilian rescue operation of the Second World War,” says Charlotte Schallié.

Other diplomates still living in Budapest did the same. Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish envoy did his share to assist the Jews. But it was Lutz who made the decision to use
his own Embassy as a safe house.

After the war, when he finally returned home to Switzerland, it was not to a
hero’s welcome as one would imagine. Instead Lutz returned across the border alone.
There was no congratulations from his colleagues or Government but rather a
stinging rap on the knuckles, a reprimand for overstepping his boundaries and
for being what was thought to be careless and foolhardy.

Yet Lutz’s selflessness and humanitarian bravery has not gone totally unnoticed.

Over the years Lutz was awarded honors from Israel, Hungry, The UK, The United States
and slowly even Switzerland has made a few memorials to one of their own who
when push came to shove chose to take a stand rather than to stand by in neutral
watching thousands of men, woman and children being sent to certain death.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-42400765

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.
Would that you were either cold or hot!
So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold,
I will spit you out of my mouth.”

Revelation 3:15-16

when righteousness perseveres

“Man approaches God most nearly when he is in one sense least like God.
For what can be more unlike than fullness and need, sovereignty and humility,
righteousness and penitence, limitless power and a cry for help?”

C.S. Lewis

“Righteousness acts never in its own interest,
but in the interest of fellow men.”

Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

_93137447_58e1e3fe-46b3-4be9-8d86-0c9b82c5045f
(The Rev. Samuel Leighton Green)

Say what you will about battles, conflicts and wars…
…such that there is no such thing as a just war.

And that may very well be true…

For historians still question the necessity of such wars as WWI
yet concede to the fundamental importance and necessity of WWII.

Yet both wars were some of humankind’s bloodiest conflicts…
with each resulting in a catastrophically global loss of life.

While at the same time each war has helped to shape the world, for both good and bad,
as you and I know it today.

And as is the case with history…
importance becomes more real, more relevant and more personal when it is
picked apart and examined individually…
by each single person after person, after person…
for it is in the details of each participant that we begin to see things
more narrowly verses that of a generic and sweeping panoramic view of
the statistical and numerical.

The following link is to a story found on the BBC regarding
the Reverend Samuel Leighton Green.
Green was one of a special group of men who served during the brutal
trench warfare of WWI.

As a member of the clergy, he was exempt from the mandatory draft,
yet volunteered anyway as he knew someone would have to tend to those
“fighting lads” spiritual needs.

Green also felt a moralistic sense of justification to the war’s necessity.

He served with the “blasphemous and foul-mouthed” 1/4th (City of London)
Battalion–the Royal Fusiliers.

Green served alongside this brave group of men throughout the duration of the war.

Green was awarded the Military Cross not once but twice for his bravery under fire.

It would behoove us to uncover more of these stories of such selfless souls…
those brave men and women who remain a part of the “Constant” to which mankind so
clings during the chaotic…

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-norfolk-37377025

a day lived in infamy to our endless gratitude

“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy —
the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces
of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and,
at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government
and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific….”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Addresses the Nation following the attack at Pearl Harbor

71381-004-534732c4
(image of the USS Arizona after it was bombed)

75 years later…we still carry a heaviness on this December day.

During the course of World War II, there were many atrocities, unspeakable brutalities
and a loss of life that is nearly impossible to wrap one’s head around.

Pearl Harbor was but one horrific moment in a long line or horrific moments during the
duration a war steeped in the abominable.

For whatever reason, I do not feel as if this generation grasps the full significance of the
tremendous impact WWII has played in the history of mankind…
nor do I feel that they particularly seem to care.

The loss of life was staggering.
It is estimated that 80 million people lost their lives during the course of the war,
between 3% and 4% of the world’s population at the time…

Add to that those lives of the many more who were dramatically wounded or whose
family’s survived loss and destruction…those who were affected and are considered to be secondary casualties…
Those such numbers are simply left to our fading memories.

The USS Arizona, one of the 8 battleships bombed that fateful December day,
lies as a silent haunting specter on the floor of Pearl Harbor
as she is the lasting tomb of 1,548 servicemen…those whose bodies were never recovered.
A visual tomb which rests just below the surface of the sea.

But my thoughts however today are not merely with those individuals who lost their
lives that fateful December day 75 years ago, but rather my thoughts
gravitate to the collective family of all Servicemen and woman
who have continued putting themselves in harm’s way for those of us who
simply go about living our lives, day to day, as if nothing has ever been different.

I think of a young entitled football player who opts out of sharing in his country’s
national anthem prior to his taking the field of play…
to participate in a game in which he earns millions of dollars.
A game he can play in safety because there are Service men and woman
making certain that he is free to opt out of his country’s national
anthem and to simply play a game.

Lives put on the line every day, as well as countless lives lost,
all for a young man to be able to
make millions of dollars while playing a footbal game…

The balance of those two thoughts will never equal one another.

And it was just yesterday that I finally sent an item home
to it’s rightful serviceman’s family…
45 years after the fact.

A single stainless steel bracelet worn by a young Georgia elementary school girl…
worn as a reminder and a tiny link to a man who was living, and had lived,
for 7 years in captivity, held by the North Vietnamese in a land that
seemed to be lifetime away.

Three years ago, as a Fourth of July tribute, I wrote a post about the POW bracelet that
I wore so very long ago.

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/an-overdue-thank-pow-lt-col-james-young/

It is a post that I still occasionally receive comments on to this day…
by those individuals who also wore Lt. Col. James Young’s POW bracelet

Lt.Col Young was taken prisoner in 1966.
At the time his daughter Denise was just an infant.
For almost 8 years her father was simply a name and a face in family photographs…
because she had no recollection of the man who was currently in a prison camp
thousands of miles away in a remote Asian country.

Not until 1973, when most of our prisoners were released with the signing of the
agreement to end the war, would Denise be formally introduced to her father.

Denise met her dad for the very first time when she was 8.
Eight birthdays and eight Christmases came and went before Denise was to meet her dad.
A man who was not the same man who left his infant daughter in the arms of his wife
as he went to fight a strange war on a foreign land.

Those of you who know me know that I do not participate in social media.
It has always been my thought that if God wanted someone to see or read my blog,
He would bring that person my way….

He did just that this past summer.

Out of the blue in June, on Father’s day actually, I received a comment on the post
I’d written about Lt Col. James Young…
the comment however was not by someone, who like me had worn his bracelet during those dark days of the war, but rather the comment came from his youngest daughter, Denise.

There was even a comment that I had made to others who had reached out to me
about wearing the bracelet that I had hoped that one day one of his daughters
would see the post and then I could actually send them the bracelet.

And on Father’s day of 2016, almost 45 years after the day I took off that bracelet,
a now grown daughter received word that piece of her dad,
who had passed away years earlier,
was still very much in the minds and hearts of many other individuals across this nation.

As life has a way of getting in the way, it wasn’t until this past weekend that I finally
retrieved the bracelet out of the safety deposit box,
packed it up and sent it across the country to an anxious daughter.

dscn4694
(a collection surrounding the bracelet, photos of the family upon his return as I had written to the family when I learned of his return and the letter I was to send but never did with the bracelet, until finally this past week)

I could never give back to Denise those nearly 8 years she lived without her dad.
Nor could I have offered her help during those unimaginable days of adjustment that a
family endured at the return of a long lost member…
a time of reacquaintance and simply getting to know one another again…
or in the case of Denise, getting to know for the first time…

Nobody can give any of that back to a family of a Service member.

But we can however unite as a Nation..
uniting when it comes to respecting our flag,
uniting when it comes to our National Anthem
and uniting as show of solidarity for our collective Service members and their families…
as they give,
have given
and continue to give more than any of us can ever repay….

And so I thank Denise, her family, and her father, Lt Col. James Young,
for the sacrifices they made for not only this Nation as a whole,
but to me and all the other individuals out there who make this county who and what she is…
even to those young entitled individuals who simply don’t get this whole mindset of sacrifice….

Love each other as I have loved you.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

John 15:12-13

An unlikely tale of unity

“We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business;
we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”

― Gwendolyn Brooks

DSC02690
(American Beautyberry bush / Julie Cook / 2015)

Crown Him with many crowns. . .a much beloved and joyful hymn sung in any number of Catholic, Anglican and Protestant churches. How many of us, who have sung this hymn during any given Sunday service, have known that this hymn is as much about Biblical scripture as it is about Christian unity?

Catholics and Protestants have long suffered through a strained relationship of both love and hate–a tenuous relationship that has existed ever since Martin Luther set loose a reformation with all that nailing to a door business.
It’s been a tug of war between acceptance and rejection ever since 1517.

There has been blood shed, heads chopped off, houses of worship destroyed, statues crushed, books burned, the faithful tortured, confessions coerced, beliefs recanted, prayers cursed. . .
all in the name of the proper observance for the Christian faith.

During one such tumultuous time period in this long suffering relationship, a hymn was composed by two vastly different men—Matthew Bridges a Catholic convert and Godfrey Thring an Anglican clergyman. The composition however was not originally intended as a joint effort in unity but rather, in actuality, was a conglomeration of equal time for each opposing team.

In the 1800s there was great tension between the Catholic and Anglican churches. Crown Him with Many Crowns is a wonderful example of how God takes the troubles of man and turns them around for good (Romans 8:28).The song was originally penned in 1851 by Matthew Bridges (1800-1894), who once wrote a book condemning Roman Catholic theology, and then later converted to Catholicism. Bridges wrote six stanzas, based upon Revelations 19:12, “…and on His head were many crowns.”

Godfrey Thring (1823-1903) was a devout Anglican clergyman who was concerned that this popular hymn was allowing Catholic theology to be sung by protestant congregations. And so he wrote six new verses.

The 12 stanzas have been mixed and matched down through the years.
(excerpt taken from Sharefaith.com)

So as we stand in our collective churches this Sunday morning, lifting our voices skyward, may we all be mindful that our faith in the resurrected Son of the Most High God, is the tie that binds us as brothers and sisters–bound by the blood of Christ—one belief, one faith, one Savior, one voice lifting to Heaven. . .

How will we answer today’s Call

As today marks the solemn occasion in which the Catholic faithful of the world, as well as many in the World wide Christian community, join the vigil waiting on the governing body of the Catholic Church to decide and vote upon a new Pope, I am reminded once again of the Call to service that is issued to us all. I have learned first hand about this “call” foremost as I have read and studied the teachings of Agnes Gonxha Bojazhiu, better known as Mother Teresa of Calcutta. As many of you know it is her story of a “call within a call” that lead her to feed and care for the poorest of the poor. Dedicating her life to service.

As many wait for word of who will be the new leader of the world’s Catholic Church, the call to serve is foremost on my mind. I have often struggled with my own call to service—often wondering if perhaps I have not heard God’s word to me correctly (more on this subject at a later post). It is the knowledge of Mother Teresa’s own struggle hearing God’s voice throughout most of her life, which constantly gives me a bit of comfort. If she struggled hearing, than my struggles in hearing are no different. We must move forward, often in the blind darkness, only with Faith as our compass.

As I read in my devotional Sunday, I found the daily reading most timely. One of the daily readings I am currently using is Henri J. M. Nouwen’s Bread for the Journey.
Father Nouwen was a Dutch born catholic priest and writer. He is best known as a theologian with a deep interest in human psychology. The daily reading for March 10:

So many terrible things happen every day that we start wondering whether the few things we do ourselves make any sense. When people are starving only a few thousand miles away, when wars are raging close to our borders, when countless people in our cities have no homes to live in, our own activities look futile. Such considerations, however, can paralyze and depress us.
Here the word “call” becomes important. We are not called to save the world, solve all problems, and help all people. But each of us has our own unique call, in our families, in our work, in our world, we have to keep asking God to help us see clearly what our call is and to give us the strength to live out that call with trust. Then we will discover that our faithfulness to a small task is the most healing response to the illnesses of our time.

May God guide the Catholic Church in this time of great discord and brokenness, just as He may do the same for all of us, His Children—Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Jewish, Muslin, Hindu, etc. May we all recognize His CALL to the service to each of us and to carry out that service to those most in need—to either those near or far…