The month of February has been designated annually (since 1976) as Black History Month in the United States. In his proclamation address announcing the designation, President Ronald Reagan noted: “understanding the history of Black Americans is a key to understanding the strength of our nation.” Indeed. In 2019, the Census Bureau estimated the Black population to be about 48 million individuals, approximately 15% of the entire US population. This year’s theme focuses on the Black family. It’s fitting to honor Black Americans whose presence has enriched our country.
As a child, reading was one of my favorite pastimes. I couldn’t have been very old – maybe ten or eleven – when my imagination began feasting on the classics. (If you’re familiar with any of my posts in 2013, it should be clear my reading tastes tend to be eclectic.) What I especially enjoyed were adventure tales where seemingly ordinary people performed heroic deeds.
During our childhood, my brothers and I often played Cowboys and Indians. (This was an era before political correctness.) One of our favorite heroes was The Lone Ranger, a fictional character who (with his Native American sidekick Tonto) fought against injustice. The Lone Ranger wore a mask. At the end of each episode, the Lone Ranger and Tonto rode off on their horses as another minor character would ask: Who was that masked man?
Back then, only criminals and thugs wore masks … for concealment. In stark contrast, the Lone Ranger’s mask represented good. When people needed his help, they’d initially greet the masked man with suspicion, believing his mask signified evil intent. Though the mask concealed his identity, it also served as a warning to bad guys. They recoiled in fear knowing this legendary masked man was determined to uncover their evil deeds and throw them in jail. Preferring anonymity to fight lawbreakers, the Lone Ranger embodied silver-bullet dedication by serving law-abiding individuals selflessly.
Our church today celebrated the second Sunday of Advent 2019 in a traditional way, lighting the Candle of Peace. Though there are different practices and traditions attached to celebrating Advent, this observation draws us to reflect on what’s truly important about Christmas (the birth of Christ).
Angels were the first heralds to announce “Peace on Earth, Good will to Men.” (Luke 2:14) But peace often seems out of our grasp. I’m reminded of Longfellow’s 1863 poem “Christmas Bells.” Each stanza echoes the words peace on earth, good will to men while the sixth stanza derisively proclaims “there is no peace on earth.“
Ninety-seven years ago today, my daddy entered this world. As one might expect, he had a significant impact on my life and I’ve posted about him numerous times in this space. With the recent commemorations of D-Day, I’ve been thinking often about Norman Arthur Stricker whose Army Serial Number was 37 404 688.
In an interesting turn of events, I’m spending this day some 14 miles from the Florida condo he and my mother shared in the years before his 1994 death. I thought this would be an appropriate time to debut a new subsection of my blog devoted to my Stricker roots. It’s located here and if you’re related to the Stricker family in any measure, I hope you’ll enjoy this tribute to my dad.
The recent commemorations of D-Day have sparked my reflections. With this final day of June 2019, my thoughts center on my father-in-law (FIL) whose birthday it is. He was born in 1921. I’ve mentioned him in several previous posts, most recently here.
Born in Kansas, the second child of Fred and Georgia, Max learned early the importance of hard work, a way of life embedded deep in their German heritage. He often reminded his sons how his own father tied a block of wood to the child’s foot so he could reach the tractor’s gas pedal. Able-bodied children learned the value of work to help families survive.
This work ethic propelled young Max into adulthood. Ambition and aptitude directed him to Kansas State College of Agriculture and Applied Science (now Kansas State University) where he prepared for his future career as an engineer. As sometimes happens, these plans were interrupted by the shadow of war. Like many of his peers, this engineering student enlisted in the US Army.
When Max reported for active duty, he served with the Signal Corps stationed in the Philippines. His eldest son (also named Max) was born during this overseas deployment.
Following World War II, Max pursued various engineering and corporate positions that brought him success. He was wise and expert, an admirable man. He and his wife raised four sons, each of whom exhibits distinct character qualities (even facial expressions) learned from their father.
Looking back though, I’ve come to realize … to my regret … I didn’t know my FIL well. He was an imposing figure to me, tall and commanding as one might expect of a former Army officer. As his daughter-in-law, I found myself unable to establish a comfortable level of familiarity where I could characterize him as my friend. Though he was kind and cordial, he seemed a generally quiet man, sometimes prone to share stories, but usually content to observe the interactions and conversations of those around him.
Mostly, what I know of the man is what I’ve seen reflected in my Beloved. The second child of a second child, my Beloved mirrors his father’s disposition as a generally quiet man. Observing my Beloved’s love for me and for his children and grandchildren, I’m grateful to his father for being a good dad and provider.
Perhaps more than anything else, I realize my FIL passed on to my Beloved a precious spirit of play. Pictured at right in the final years of his life, Max displays the winning hand in a monumental match of Texas Hold’em. To start, there may have been eight or ten competitors sitting at that roundtable contest. One by one, they went down in defeat to the most seasoned (and senior) card player at the table. Even as a man in his 80s, Max delighted in being champion of all.
We don’t have much occasion to break out the cards these days, but whenever my Beloved splashes his grand-twins in their mini-pool or welcomes the grandchildren to hop on top his truck for a raucous ride around the lawn, I’m gratified by his joyous spirit of playfulness … and how Scripture – once again – demonstrates its essential Truth to our everyday lives.
Memorial Day. A designated Federal holiday, the name signifies a specific day set aside annually to memorialize and honor those who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Earliest observances of the day pre-date the Civil War.
In my younger years, I recall hearing the day referred to as “Decoration Day.” That was understood to mean my relatives were headed to the cemetery to decorate graves with flowers and flags … and occasionally, a sprinkling of tears. I don’t recall the decorations being placed exclusively on graves of military deceased, though I admit, I probably wasn’t paying close attention.
The yearly observance of Father’s Day has become a curious phenomena of late. Verbiage including phrases like “toxic masculinity” and the dreaded “male privilege” are bandied about, calculated to make all of us squirm. The always-reliable satire of The Babylon Bee makes this point with its June 15th story: Father’s Day Updated To ‘Toxic Masculinity Awareness Day.’ While I appreciate their ironic take, I prefer the sentiment expressed on the chalkboard below.
A brain tumor took my daddy out of this world in 1994. He wasn’t perfect, but how I loved him! From a very early age, I learned from him what qualities to value most when choosing my future husband. I posted about my dad’s struggle and death several years back. Since his passing, not a day has gone by that I don’t think about him and the impact he had on me and so many others. Continue reading “Father’s Day Blessings”→
Most people understand – at least in a theoretical sense – how quickly life can change. In the two months since I last posted, the silence hasn’t come about due to a lack of blogging material. No, no, no. Furthermore, every single day without a post brought a deeper sense of unease … the pattern of my life seeming slightly upended!
But the respite from my daily pattern was necessary and welcome … necessary because life demanded I attend other matters and welcome because it freed me (somewhat) from my irrational obsession to slavishly maintain daily posts – no matter what! With each day that passed, my figurative pencil grew more insistent and red-faced. Much to my surprise, people continued to drop by and read previous posts. (I am gratefully humbled by your interest.) Continue reading “Random Vicissitudes”→