Sunday, May 24, 2015

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Chutzpah or Disregard

That wonderful old Yiddish word- Chutzpah- came to mind as I walked into a coffee shop with outdoor seating recently.

On the wall every few feet are signs that state:

No Smoking!
Right in front of one of the signs sat a man smoking a cigarette. I thought of taking out my iPhone and snapping a picture but thought that might be a little obvious.

Following the 10th Armored (30): Feeling Better At Home

This is part of a series following my father's 10th Armored Division in World War II seventy years ago. He was a medic with the 80th Medical Battalion assigned to the 10th Armored, part of Patton’s Third Army.

May 23, 1945
The Entry in My Grandmother's Diary for the Day

Got a letter from Buddy that he wrote on VE Day.
So now I feel better.

Take this comment as a follow up to the one she wrote on VE Day:
O God just think of the mothers that their boys won’t be coming home
and realize that for the previous 15 days, over two weeks, she had no doubt been holding her thoughts, prayers and fears deep inside. She never commented on it in the diary. The dread and anxiety must have been overwhelming. Or perhaps in the past nearly nine months she had found a way to live without thinking about it. Perhaps that is why the daily entries in the diary are often just the mundane.

Today, she could feel better. What a relief!

But with all the elation and relief, the dread must have remained. The war was not over. Germany had surrendered; Japan fought on. Did they know that a massive invasion, far greater than D-Day was being planned? Were they all just living in the uncertainty of what  troops would be transported to the Pacific for an invasion of Japan?

What we do know is that for the next several months the Tigers would remain in Austria, relaxing, waiting, wondering, and being an occupation force, albeit a friendly one.

Obviously I am not sure this was in the letter, but it, along with the other two I posted on VE Day could very well have been there.

Toward Pentecost (49): From on High

Friday, May 22, 2015


Late night TV was emptier than it has been in years last night. Dave Letterman has retired. As I look forward to tonight, day 2 without Dave, I realized how empty it really is.

That's the whole thing.

Toward Pentecost (48): Creator

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Calendar of Saints: Copernicus and Kepler (2)

Twice a week I post a quote from saints from the Episcopal Calendar of Saints that week. They are to be meditative and mindful, playful and thought inducing. I hope they are helpful in your spiritual journeys.

Nicolaus Copernicus and Johannes Kepler
May 23

Johannes Kepler (December 27, 1571 – November 15, 1630) was a German mathematician, astronomer and astrologer, and key figure in the 17th century scientific revolution.

Johannes Kepler's first major astronomical work, Mysterium Cosmographicum (The Cosmographic Mystery, 1596), was the first published defense of the Copernican system. As he indicated in the title, Kepler thought he had revealed God’s geometrical plan for the universe. Much of Kepler’s enthusiasm for the Copernican system stemmed from his theological convictions about the connection between the physical and the spiritual; the universe itself was an image of God, with the Sun corresponding to the Father, the stellar sphere to the Son, and the intervening space between to the Holy Spirit.


Toward Pentecost (47): Power

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Seen in Passing

Stopped at a gas/convenience store on our travels. I was standing at the register to pay and I saw a name from the 60s with the well-known corporate logo. It was the brand name "Zig Zag", famous for rolling papers to well, roll your own cigarettes. I knew they were still around, of course. But this particular sight surprised me. The logo and name was not on rolling papers.

Captain Zig-Zag was on liquid for e-cigarettes!

I remember hearing that some corporations have been ready to capitalize on legalizing marijuana for years. I don't know whether that is true or not, but at least this company jumped right in with a familiar name and logo when things began to change.

Toward Pentecost (46): Mission

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Calendar of Saints: Copernicus and Kepler (1)

Twice a week I post a quote from saints from the Episcopal Calendar of Saints that week. They are to be meditative and mindful, playful and thought inducing. I hope they are helpful in your spiritual journeys.

Nicolaus Copernicus and Johannes Kepler
May 23

Nicolaus Copernicus (19 February 1473 – 24 May 1543) was the first astronomer to formulate a comprehensive heliocentric cosmology, which displaced the Earth from the center of the universe.

Copernicus' epochal book, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres), published just before his death in 1543, is often regarded as the starting point of modern astronomy and the defining epiphany that began the scientific revolution. His heliocentric model, with the Sun at the center of the universe, demonstrated that the observed motions of celestial objects can be explained without putting Earth at rest in the center of the universe. His work stimulated further scientific investigations, becoming a landmark in the history of science that is often referred to as the Copernican Revolution.

Toward Pentecost (45): Witness

Monday, May 18, 2015

It's Not Supposed to Change

I drove through my hometown today. It's been about six years since I last was there and this was just a passing through. We didn't have time this trip to stop and visit like we prefer doing. Over the past year or so I have been working on a memoir that, naturally, features my hometown. That means that I have spent a lot of time there - in my head and memory.

Imagine my shock today when the real town was there. The town that does not look like it did in 1965 (and earlier); the town that has been through changes and disasters as well as boom and bust. I drove down the street beside my childhood home. It's not the same. It was, as I remember it, a tree-lined street all the way down the next two blocks. Today there are none of those trees. All gone. "My" backyard is now not visible from the street as tall, narrow trees block the view and it looks like a fence was there. The building that was once a high school and then my junior high, looks a little worse for wear although it is now a shopping center.

The streets seemed smaller. The yards more compact. The neighborhoods closer together. There were newer homes next to older ones. There were falling down older homes and others that were well-kept. New businesses exist and some of the older ones are still there. What had been my Dad's store is gone, replaced in town by the big chain store.

No, it is not the place that was my hometown. That place was left behind a long, long time ago. At first I felt sad. But then I realized that even more recent places and memories exist only in the past. We can learn from them, build on them, but we cannot live there.

The town that was my hometown is now someone else's hometown. Over 45 years of high school students have gone through, including the children of family and friends. I am not part of that town and have not been for over 30 years.

That's okay! It was what it was, and for that I am grateful.

Toward Pentecost (44): Patience

Sunday, May 17, 2015

It Takes You

Anyone who has ever been on a spiritual journey- or sees their life as one- will be able to recount times when wherever we are becomes a place of enlightenment. Of course, any time and any place can be a place of enlightenment, we just have to be open at every given moment to hear or see it happening.

That happened to me again today. We were talking with a person who will be helping a relative out with some chores and the like. The person was giving us a brief Twitter-length account of their life. They referred to their life-journey as a "vision quest"-type of thing. [Yep- I can go with that one!]

They then talked about a simple prayer that they say daily- and as often as possible each day. It was what is referred to as either the Prayer of the Heart or the Jesus Prayer. Here is what you can find in Wikipedia:

The prayer has been widely taught and discussed throughout the history of the Church. It is often repeated continually as a part of personal ascetic practice, its use being an integral part of the eremitic [desert Fathers and Mothers] tradition  of prayer. The prayer is particularly esteemed by the spiritual fathers of this tradition as a method of opening up the heart and bringing about the Prayer of the Heart [which] is considered to be the Unceasing Prayer that the apostle Paul advocates in the New Testament.
I knew this person was a pilgrim. It wasn't what he said as much as how he put it into the context of daily living. Basically, he implied, you just do the prayer. You do it all day. You do it as you get up and as you go to bed. You live the prayer.

But, no that is not quite true, this pilgrim of the soul added. After you start praying it, I was told...
the prayer takes you!
Oh how true. Unceasing prayer does that. The pilgrim I met today is on the right path. For Christians the Jesus Prayer or Prayer of the Heart is a living mantra that allows the work of the soul to be enriched and enlightened. It is the prayer that will move us beyond words to the depths of our hearts.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
As the pilgrim described it to me the words flowed slowly and with clarity. No word was missed, no word was seen as too little or unimportant. The slow, breathing way the words were said was a witness to their depth. This was not rote prayer. This was prayer that asked for nothing but grace.

Living and breathing prayer can make all the difference.

I have heard this many times in the past since first being introduced to this marvelous prayer of simplicity over 30 years ago. But as I listened today to a practical explanation of it's importance, it was as if I was hearing it for the first time again. It was always new and always fresh. I think of this for my own spiritual practice and tradition when I hear the 11th step of Alcoholics Anonymous:
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry it out.
It's amazing- but you never know when God is about to teach you a new old lesson. Let the prayer live and take you where you need to go.

Toward Pentecost (43): Prayer

Saturday, May 16, 2015

As Low As They Count

In 1948, the year I was born, my name was 74th most popular.

(Note that in 1960, it was the 44th most popular 
name in Pennsylvania where I was born 
and lived at the time.)

In 2004, it was 963rd. (That was only 173 babies.)

I guess I'm going extinct.

Or extremely rare and special!

  • In 2014, the 74th most popular boy's name was Jason. Good luck over the next 60 years.
  • In 2014, the most popular boy's name was Noah. I guess people are getting ready for global climate change with ice caps melting. That way, if every Noah could take two of every animal on their Arks, we could save a whole lot more  and maybe people as well.


Toward Pentecost (42): Wait

Friday, May 15, 2015

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Feelings and Transitions and What's Important

It has been a tough week or so. I have found myself in a kind of non-specific cloud of sadness and disquiet. I know exactly what is going on- it is life that is hitting me. It is life and transition and uncertainty and trying to stay focused on the important things.

It starts with making a sudden trip to support my wife's 95-year old aunt who needed surgery and a move to a rehab care facility. The questions of "What next?" and self-care and support are rattling around as I look at this very determined little old woman who has been independent and self-caring her entire life. She hasn't lived with anyone else since her father died over 40 years ago. There is a helplessness as I think about what my wife and I can do to help or support her- from 1,200 miles away.

Then there is knowing that while I am out east I can visit my old and most important friend who is facing significant health issues. We have talked and I know what's going on there. To go visit him is essential and heart-wrenching!

The third thing has been hitting a wall in my writing. There is obviously something I am digging toward in the work and I am hesitating in some ways about finding it.

On the lesser side of the issues, yet surprisingly emotional for me, is the series of TV shows as David Letterman ends his incredible career. I have been watching wistfully each night watching him move toward retirement. Having been in the midst of that myself this past year I have a strong sense of what he is going through. Since he is in my age-cohort, I am also watching the end of my generation's work on late-night TV. That, for me, requires a post all its own. Letterman has been a TV guide/guru/friend for well over 30 years and I am saddened as I am reminded of the incredible passage of time.

Perhaps it is not the "lesser side." It touches on my own journey. Like the other three it is what I have often called "intimations of mortality." Change sucks- even planned change- because it means we are getting older. We may not notice that until we do begin to notice that we ARE older. No, I don't believe we Baby-Boomers have invented aging. It may be, though, that we are the first generation to be able to truly experience aging into old age- and experience it with better health than ever before. When people say that 60 is the new 40 it is both a denial of aging as well as a statement about how aging has changed in the past 40 years.

But then the final blow came when I learned of the serious auto accident and eventual death of the 18-year old son of a friend. The young man was about to graduate from high school. He lost control of his car on Sunday and crashed. He was in an induced coma for several days, but was unable to recover. I fond myself prayerfully focused on the family over several days, even coming to tears for them and their personal tragedy.

The helplessness of life is what we most fear. My 95-year old aunt, my friend's health, my own inability to move forward with a personal project. These of mine are brought up short when I ponder the death of an 18-year old who will never get the opportunity to find out the ups and downs of life. I am humbled in pain as I think of parents losing their child so violently and in such a purposeless way.

So I have to put life into perspective. Mine, my friend's, my aunt's. I am sure that Letterman would be the first to agree that his retirement- even his achievements- are nothing- he was only a TV entertainer. To come to grips with loss and change and finally death is the reality of life.

I pray that in the end the quality of life- short or long- may not be dimmed by the pain of losing it. I pray that each day of life may be filled with an awareness of how important each day is and how important it is to live a life that touches others in their hurts as well as our own. To live otherwise is to truly lose sight of the great daily gift we have had.

No, this does not get rid of pain. But perhaps it can give us a perspective that helps us walk through it and be there with others when they need that companionship.

For me to live otherwise would deny everything I profess to believe. It isn't easy- and it is at those moments I can repeat the old but eternally true word: I believe; help my unbelief.

Listen and meditate.
May the soul be cleansed and
held close to the Creator.

Calendar of Saints: Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf (2)

Twice a week I post a quote from a saint from the Episcopal Calendar of Saints that week. They are to be meditative and mindful, playful and thought inducing. I hope they are helpful in your spiritual journeys.

Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf
Prophetic Witness

May 10

Zinzendorf took the deepest interest in mission. He travelled widely, visiting America in 1741-42 and spending a long time in London in 1750. Missionary colonies had by this time been settled in the West Indies (1732), in Greenland (1733), amongst the North American Indians (1735); and before Zinzendorf's death the Brethren had sent from Herrnhut missionary colonies to many other places throughout the known world. -Link

Toward Pentecost (40): Heaven (Ascension Day)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Bringing Back a Memory

Reading the news this morning about the Amtrak crash yesterday brought back a memory of my own. It was spring 1987. The youth of our church had just completed our first ever mission trip. We had gone from Wisconsin to New York City to do some work with the homeless at our denomination's ministry in midtown Manhattan. At the time the best way to make the trip for our group of 15 was Amtrak.

It was a wonderful week. We had done something new and exciting not just for our church, but for our denomination as well. It was among the first of this type of mission trip and we all had had a remarkable experience. As we were heading north on Amtrak heading home we were all just sitting enjoying the warmth of having done something new and different.

When in an instant the air brakes slammed closed and we went screeching and bumping for what seemed like forever. It was around dusk, as I remember it, and all I could see out the left windows of the coach was water- the Hudson River. I had no idea how close we were to the water, what was going on or if we were about to jump the tracks.

My favorite four-letter word came out.


Thankfully we came to a stop without derailing. The bump I felt and heard was a 4WD truck that had gotten stuck on the tracks- where there wasn't a crossing. No one was in the truck and no one on the train was hurt. We eventually (hours later) began to move on toward Albany where they gave us a new head-end but many of the cars, our included, had little idiosyncrasies as a result.

We were late to make connections and late to get home, but we were safe and sound.

The news from Philly today gave me pause at our not being hurt and that no one our train was killed.

Life can change in an instant- and it usually isn't something we expect at a time we want.

One of the reasons I have since learned the importance of letting people know how much I care about them and how important they are to me. Life is fragile. Keep the important things first.

Toward Pentecost (39): Peace

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Calendar of Saints: Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1)

Twice a week I post a quote from a saint from the Episcopal Calendar of Saints that week. They are to be meditative and mindful, playful and thought inducing. I hope they are helpful in your spiritual journeys.

Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf
Prophetic Witness
May 10

I was pleasantly surprised the other year when I first saw the contemporary Episcopal Church Calendar of Saints. There, on May 10 was our Moravian "patron saint." Zinzendorf was a prophetic witness to the power of the Spirit working in renewal and in trying to work across denominations.

Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf und Pottendorf, Imperial Count of Zinzendorf and Pottendorf, (May 26, 1700 – May 9, 1760), German religious and social reformer and bishop of the Moravian Church, was born at Dresden. His intention was to carry out into practice the Pietist ideals. He did not mean to found a new church or religious organization distinct from the Lutheranism of the land, but to create a Christian association the members of which by preaching, by tract and book distribution and by practical benevolence might awaken the somewhat torpid religion of the Lutheran Church of his day.

He is celebrated as a hymn writer and witness to ecumenism. -Link

Toward Pentecost (38): Service

Monday, May 11, 2015

Not Logical

I saw a couple of stories online about a DA's young adult child being arrested for some issue or another. The general thrust of the articles was basically like

Isn't that awful? A DA can't control their own child? Their child is just a criminal!"

At best!

As the parent of a PK (Preacher's Kid) we were aware of the possibilities of that kind of judging going on.

Just as illogical to expect that a plumber's kid isn't going to clog up a toilet or a teacher's kid to get bad grades.

Toward Pentecost (37): Fellowship

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Friday, May 08, 2015

Following the 10th Armored (29): VE Day

This is part of a series following my father's 10th Armored Division in World War II seventy years ago. He was a medic with the 80th Medical Battalion assigned to the 10th Armored, part of Patton’s Third Army.

May 8, 1945
The entry in my grandmother's diary for the day:
Tuesday- This is V.E. Day. The war is over and O God just think of the mothers that their boys won’t be coming home.
From Nichols:
General Paul Newgarden's careful pre-battle training paid huge dividends and General Morris' leadership propelled the Division through every battle with distinction. The price paid for victory was dear. Tigers' losses were heavy, Almost 5,000 were killed or wounded. The Tigers' combat achievements are a matter of record. More that 56,000 enemy were taken prisoner and 650 towns and cities were captured. More important, the Tigers played a key role in many of the war's greatest battles. The epic stand at Bastogne [note: only recently receiving the credit] will never be forgotten nor will the spectacular successes in the Saar-Moselle Triangle be overlooked by military historians. The capture of Trier was most important in the U. S. Third Army's effort to pierce the vaunted West Wall. And finally, every step of the way from Cherbourg to the Brenner Pass, a distance of 600 miles, was made possible by the Tigers' courage, initiative, and persistence. They has met and defeated the enemy's best. Hitler's earlier boast that American soldiers would never stand and fight must have provided slim comfort to the Nazi commanders who, one by one, capitulated in late April of 1945.

Two postcards sent by my father to his family back in Pennsylvania of the Garmisch-Partenkirche area where they ended the war.

A 70- Year Memory:

Toward Pentecost (34): Eternal Life

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Calendar of Saints: Julian of Norwich (2)

Twice a week I post a quote from a saint from the Episcopal Calendar of Saints that week. They are to be meditative and mindful, playful and thought inducing. I hope they are helpful in your spiritual journeys.

Julian of Norwich
May 8
A matter that greatly troubled [Julian] was the fate of those who through no fault of their own had never heard the Gospel. She never received a direct answer to her questions about them, except to be told that whatever God does is done in Love, and therefore "that all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well."

A 100-Year Memory: War Deaths

On the afternoon of 7 May 1915, the British luxury liner, Lusitania was torpedoed by a German U-Boat, 11 mi off the southern coast of Ireland and inside the declared "zone of war". A second internal explosion sent her to the bottom in 18 minutes. Nearly 1,200 people died. Of these, 128 were Americans. There were just over 760 survivors.

She was a beauty of a ship. Nicknamed "The Greyhound of the Sea" she was most likely the fastest ship of her day.

But the times were difficult. The War in Europe, World War I, was well underway and the German Navy was becoming expert at using submarines, U-Boats. They were patrolling the waters around Great Britain looking for targets.

Erik Larson, a wonderful non-fiction author of a number of excellent histories, has given us a new look at the sinking of the Lusitania. His current best-seller, Dead Wake, recounts in great detail the people involved in this tragedy.

The Germans made no attempt at hiding what they were up to. Their U-Boats were known to be patrolling the waters. They were clearly prowling for opportunities and let the world know.

As the Lusitania was preparing to leave New York on May 1, 1915, the Imperial German Embassy placed a notice in the ocean sailings section of the news. Right under the Lusitania's announcement was a clear warning- any ship, ANY ship flying a British flag is at risk.

 No one believed it possible that the Lusitania, or any other passenger ship, would be attacked. Civilians were aboard.

The British Admiralty, which had a captured German code book, knew of the presence of the U-Boats and even of the general location of U-20. But they did not understand the unfolding horror of total warfare. They were, in some ways, like the American consul in Ireland who knew of the particulars, but later recalled
it never entered my mind for a moment that the Germans would actually perpetrate an attack upon her. The culpability of such an act seemed too blatant and raw for an intelligent people to take upon themselves. (Dead Wake, p. 156)
When the Germans attacked an American tanker at the time the Lusitania was at sea, any warnings were discounted. On U-20 was a cold, calculating hunter- Capt. Schweiger. Larson does a very good job describing life on U-Boats, the work of U-20 and Capt. Schweiger. He was on the prowl and, up to the point of May 7, this trip had been an embarrassment to him.

On board the Lusitania, the passengers and crew all believed that the British Navy would accompany and protect the ship when it neared the British Isles. The Admiralty, some think, would have loved to see an American ship or American lives lost in order to bring the United States into the war to support Britain.

It was a quick death for the Lusitania.

It took two more years before the United States did enter the war.

There's far more to the story, of course, and Larson's narrative is his usual quality. An intriguing read.

It may be too much to say that the sinking of the Lusitania marked the beginning of a new way of doing warfare. Civilians have always been collateral damage [isn't that an awful phrase??!!]. World War I was already so awful in 1915 with the trench warfare and incredible amount of death and carnage that it was becoming the "war to end all wars." Little did anyone realize that it was but a relatively small example of what would happen over the next 30 years.

Then, as perhaps now to some extent, the flesh and blood reality of war was not generally reported. Larson tells us that even aboard the Lusitania, the Daily Bulletin kept the passengers abreast of the war. But, he writes
like its counterparts on land, [the Bulletin] reported only broad movements of forces, as if war were a game played with tiles and dice, not flesh-and-blood men. These reports did not begin to capture the reality of the fighting then unfolding on the ground...
It is quite a story and worth the read. The horrors of war are all too real.

Stock footage of the Lusitania leaving the New York dock.

Toward Pentecost (33): Unity

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Overheard- and not Liked!

Sitting minding my own business and overheard a conversation at the next table- said more loudly than the rest of the conversation so I couldn't miss it.

She's 62 but she's young at heart.
WTH- young punk.

Hasn't he heard that 60 is the new 40?

Next time I will turn off my hearing aids so I don't hear such prejudiced comments.

Toward Pentecost (32): Discipline

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Calendar of Saints: Julian of Norwich (1)

Twice a week I post a quote from a saint from the Episcopal Calendar of Saints that week. They are to be meditative and mindful, playful and thought inducing. I hope they are helpful in your spiritual journeys.

Julian of Norwich
May 8

The Lady Juliana was born about 1342, and when she was thirty years old, she became gravely ill and was expected to die. Then, on the seventh day, the medical crisis passed, and she had a series of fifteen visions, or "showings," in which she was led to contemplate the Passion of Christ. These brought her great peace and joy. She became an anchoress, living in a small hut near to the church in Norwich, where she devoted the rest of her life to prayer and contemplation of the meaning of her visions. The results of her meditations she wrote in a book called Revelations of Divine Love. During her lifetime, she became known as a counselor, whose advice combined spiritual insight with common sense, and many persons came to speak with her. Since her death, many more have found help in her writings. Link

Toward Pentecost (31): Growth