Know When To Hold

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 Scriptureonce again – demonstrates its essential Truth to our everyday lives.

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Survivors All

Our culture reveres survivors … and rightly so! The stories of concentration camp and holocaust survivors so stir our emotions, we often see these stories turned into movies. The Diary of Anne Frank was produced multiple times. I’m surprised The Hiding Place (from 1975) hasn’t been remade. In 2014, Unbroken was produced and directed by actress Angelina Jolie who deemed the survivor story of Louis Zamperini compelling.

Cancer survivors have their unique stories. Sexual assault survivors reveal horrific tales of abuse and torture. Given the admiration we accord survivors today, marketers exploit our curiosity by producing numerous movies, games and television series with a survival theme. (I must confess my fascination with Alone, now in its third season on the History Channel.) Continue reading “Survivors All”

Endowed By Our Creator

Today, we celebrate Independence Day, the official 239th birthday of our country, memorialized at the top of our Declaration of Independence.

In our family, we also commemorate this day as the 73rd wedding anniversary of my Beloved’s parents. With grateful hearts and thankfulness to God, we salute both my in-laws’ union and the historic beginnings of our United States.OneNationUnderGod

Naming the Name of Jesus

A little boy needs his daddy. When birthdays roll around, he feeds on his daddy’s presence … the grown man modeling for the young one how to navigate through the normal events of life. For a boy in primary school whose daddy is half a world away, an extended absence of more than thirty months represents a significant chunk of the child’s life. Knowing daddy is wrongly imprisoned causes a level of anxiety a little boy should never have to endure.abedini-pastor-saeed-abedini-and-their-two-young-children-in-this-undated-family-photoThe boy is Jacob Abedini whose father Pastor Saeed Abedini has been detained in an Iranian prison since 2012. Back in January, President Obama met with Abedini’s wife and two children; he assured them Saeed’s release was a “top priority” for him and his administration. Continue reading “Naming the Name of Jesus”

Birthday of A King

When our children were small, we usually tried to set aside time on Christmas Eve to read and briefly discuss the “real meaning” of Christmas. We understood how difficult it is for children to think of anything else on Christmas morning except for their intense excitement … and the presents!

christmas_angelNo question, childlike exuberance is a sight to behold. Their wonder and unabashed enthusiasm is a gift all by itself. My Beloved and I never wanted to diminish that.

We chose Christmas Eve as a more focused family time during which we’d quietly read the biblical narrative. Our book choice varied. The version might be from a children’s Bible or a modern translation. (Occasionally, we’d choose the King James version which is so lyrically beautiful.) Afterwards, they were permitted to choose one wrapped present from under the tree to open before bedtime. Continue reading “Birthday of A King”

Every Day More Real

The familiar Christmas carol, O, Little Town of Bethlehem, was written by Episcopal bishop and poet Phillips Brooks (1835-1893, whose birthday was this week). In the first verse of this poem, Brooks wrote:

http://tiny.cc/jq6rqx
http://tiny.cc/jq6rqx

This carol is a familiar one. Phillips Brooks is probably less familiar to most people. He was born to a Boston family in 1835, graduated Harvard twenty years later, attended seminary, received honorary degrees from Harvard, Columbia and Oxford, and eventually became Bishop of Massachusetts. A large man at six-foot-four, he became a large presence in the Episcopal church but he was also highly regarded by the leaders of other denominations. This man of great moral stature delivered an eloquent and memorable sermon following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Continue reading “Every Day More Real”

American Raphael

People who have read this blog over the last couple years will be aware of my love for genealogy. For one sample, I posted here about my Philadelphia forebears, a family with the surname West. The West Family is my 88-year-old mother’s line and she is the last known person from her clan. With the common name of West, doing research to locate other family members who might be distantly related to her has always been a challenge.John West Sign

The last time I was in Philadelphia (doing family history research), I snapped the above picture. My mom and I had driven out to Newtown where she’d lived during her years in boarding school. There’s a historic marker on one of the main roads through town drawing attention to this historic site. An innkeeper named John West owned a tavern there in 1742.

John West was the father of painter Benjamin West who was born on this day in 1738. Little Benjamin would have been about four years old when his father owned this tavern … in the same town where my mother, almost two hundred years later, began her education not a mile from this landmark.

What could be simpler, right? Continue reading “American Raphael”

A Journey Together

Serving as a communal storage locker, our barn has been the keeping place for items of all kinds for several members of our family. Since moving out of their home months ago, our son and DIL have stored quite a bit of their furniture and household belongings in this space. It’s large enough for about six full-size cars and has been packed to the gills with a variety of … STUFF … literally, stuffed with STUFFstorage-unit

Yesterday, in the midst of gathering boxes to pile into the back of his vehicle, my son came across a box that looked like it held miscellaneous, unimportant papers, things which (in the hurried pace of packing and moving) one might conclude could be safely tossed into the trash. Fortunately, my son took a moment for a more extensive examination. He dug into the papers and found this.2014-10-03 12.42.56

Except for the tassels and quality of the parchment paper, there are no clues to reveal what’s held inside. I’m so thankful my son has a curious mind!

Continue reading “A Journey Together”

Life Is A Gift

On Wiseblooding, I post periodically about abortion. It’s an issue about which I feel strongly. I am unwaveringly pro-life. Back in the late 70s, I composed a simple poem that summed up the debate of that time. Those were the days when discussion seemed more focused on the specious question:  When does life really begin?

Over time, this question was shoved aside, because for many supporters of abortion, it didn’t really matter. Whether life was judged to begin at conception or later (as late as the child celebrating his/her second or third birthday), these individuals supported abortion without regulation or reservations.

As you read the poem below, please imagine in your mind’s eye the intertwined strands of cascading human DNA. The short lines and sustained simple rhymes are meant to evoke that image.

Epitaph, abortion, down-syndrome, termination, infanticide, poem, poetry, verse
Poem: Epitaph

Guitar Man

Norman_with_guitarToday is my dad’s 92nd birthday. He has been gone from this world for twenty years, but as one might suspect, his influence continues. I’ve posted about him here (2010) and here (2014).

To the best of my knowledge, the picture at left was snapped while he was stationed in France with the Army during World War II. It’s an unusual picture to me, because I don’t remember having seen my dad play a guitar, ever. I do recall he once owned a mandolin (and memory suggests it may have been his mother’s) but I think if I witnessed him playing that instrument, it may have been a single occasion.

Dad loved music, but he mostly used his voice as his instrument. Later in life, he purchased an organ (mentioned in the second post linked above).

After coming home from work in the evenings and eating dinner with the family, my dad would retire to a comfortable chair in the living room where he’d read the evening newspaper for a bit, and eventually sit down at the organ to play … sometimes for an hour or more. He was a man who worked hard everyday (whether at his job or around the house) and he treasured this contemplative opportunity.

Oftentimes as a youngster, I’d fall asleep to the sounds of his organ music. (He learned to play well, though not fancifully.) In my experience, his nightly practice became a rhythm of life (a concept I referred to yesterday) that helped to sweep away (in a sense) the day’s chaos and to usher me into a peaceful night’s sleep.

This ongoing inculcation of music appreciation wasn’t the single influence that encouraged my love of music, but it was a powerful one. When I was in my teens, I recall following my dad’s example:  as the evening progressed into night, I’d retreat to the organ and enjoy my own contemplative recess.

Growing up in the transitional 50s and free-wheeling 60s, I think I probably gave my dad his share of gray hairs because he was a perpetual worrier. Today, I realize it wasn’t so much that he thought I’d crash and burn, but it was because in his teen years, he’d come close to doing so himself. (He and his brothers were something of a wild bunch apparently.) Three of the four brothers went to war … and came back men. The eldest stayed home, caring for their mom, and that responsibility matured him as well.

Dr. Howard G. Hendricks (one of my Beloved’s long-ago professors) frequently told his students:  One of the best things you can do for your children is to love their mother.

My daddy modeled that guideline throughout his life. I know he and my mother must have had numerous disagreements, but I only remember one instance where their conflict was so severe my dad walked out the door and took a drive. When he returned an hour or two later, they spoke privately and the quarrel was over. This was a terrific example for me to see how much my daddy loved and honored my mother.

My dad wrote the poem below in 1983. As a love poem to his bride of 37 years, he was striving for a simple poem to express his strong love; in other words, his ambition was focused on love, not timeless original literature. If the poem seems trite, that’s irrelevant because the poem was meaningful to the one person who mattered … my mother.

Poem by Norman A Stricker
Poem by Norman A Stricker