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Differences in Worship Between Britain and the U.S.

18 Feb

Differences in Worship Between Britain and the U.S.

A post I should have done and never did!

Good observations on the differences between Christian worship (and fellowship) in England and in the U.S.


The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show . . .

4 Feb

The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show . . .

Reblogging this as a “slice of life” in the 1960’s. It is hard to remember when there were only three stations on television and kids functioned as the remote control for their parents!!!

And then when the Beatles had the top five songs (and 12 overall on the top 100) . . . Who can totally fathom the effects of Beatlemania in the light of all of the choices kids have right now?


Poverty . . . Any Ideas?

31 Jan

Poverty . . . Any Ideas?

This piece, on worldwide poverty, brings to mind our microcosm in the U.S., as addressed by the President in the State of the Union address Tuesday night (January 28, 2014).

I had some thoughts on the wage inequality that the President raised. I don’t believe it will be touched by raising either the federal employees’ minimum wage to $10.40 an hour, nor the country’s minimum wage to $10.40 an hour.

First of all, most federal employees already make far more than $10.40 an hour, so that statement was just window dressing anyway.

Secondly, what can be done on $440 a week? Not much here. Even two married people, both making minimum wage, would be barely able to scrape by on $880 a week in coastal Virginia.

Should we federally control prices? In a free market? Never. That would be the worst of Soviet communism, come to fruition on our own soil.

So how do we equip people to live in this expensive economy?

Certainly not by preparing them to be minimum wage workers all life long.

Our newspaper, not a bastion of liberal nor of conservative thought, laid it all out again last week (these statistics are well known and have often been reported by bipartisan sources): point #1) there is a huge difference in wages between high school graduates (or dropouts) and college graduates, point #2) college graduates tend to marry each other and point #3) college graduates are the ones who still believe in the institution of marriage and embark on it, trying to make it last (high school graduates and dropouts tend to be the ones who believe that the entire institution of marriage is flawed so we should all just cohabitate whenever we wish).

I have had people who don’t believe in the institution of marriage try to give me anecdotal evidence that suggests the above points are not true. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. But the points are true.

So, given that, I was less than encouraged that neither the State of the Union nor its rebuttal led to a discussion of strengthening the family.

It seems that finishing college and embarking on long-lasting marriages is the way forward economically for Americans.

Yes, we used to be able to make it in single-earner households. Some, by drawing down their requirements, still do. But most of us do not. World War II changed that by putting women to work. The economy grew to the point that it costs the wages of a husband plus the wages of a wife to live.

Society shifted. Life is like that.

Any constructive ideas from others about the way forward?

Band of Brothers–History is Just Everyone’s Story Combined with Everyone Else’s

21 Jan

I finished the Band of Brothers series on video last night.  It was clearly HBO’s finest hour!

I love the personal touch.  Never have I seen so eloquently the fact that history is a very large river made up of the smaller trickles and streams of everyone’s personal story!

I love that the producers (Tom Hanks, whom I learned is a huge World War II buff, and Stephen Spielberg, who has produced some epics about World War II already in the past) took very little creative license with the stories of the individual men of Easy Company, 101st Airborne.  

If a man lost a leg in a specific battle in real life, that is how it happened in the film.

In fact, the most interesting part of the entire series was the documentary at the end in which the survivors were interviewed and gave more details of their individual stories.  

I wept as they introduced the real Major Winters, who remained lifelong best friends with Lieutenant Nixon, and even moved to New Jersey so he could work for Lieutenant Nixon in the factory he inherited from his father.  

The men of Easy Company have held annual reunions, along with their families, ever since the war ended.  Can we even fathom an annual reunion that has lasted for almost 70 years so far?

Since Easy Company was the assault company of their battalion, they saw some things they still cannot express, especially in the Battle of the Bulge, where they lived in foxholes in the Ardennes Forest for a winter.  Even a documentary cannot get some words past their lips.  And many wept as they spoke, even after almost 70 years.  These men, who refer to themselves as ordinary and to those who died as heroes, gave the best of their youth to their country.  Many entered the Army at age 17 or 18 and served for at least the next three years.   

Often life is so much fuller with warmth and love and heroism than fiction ever could be!

Band of Brothers and the Liberation of the Camps

16 Jan

Last night, I saw the penultimate episode of Band of Brothers (episode 9).  It affected me in a way I can almost not put into words.  

After Easy Company parachuted into France on D-Day, fought their way across France and the Netherlands into Belgium for the Battle of the Bulge, stood off with the Germans in the Ardennes Forest for a winter, protecting Bastogne while being encircled by enemy forces as the other U.S. forces withdrew from them (that was the gist of the Battle of the Bulge for them), and fought on into Germany, they encountered the worst thing of all . . .

On patrol, they accidentally stumbled on a Jewish work camp. This was while the Russians were in the process of discovering death camps like Auschwitz on the other side of the Reich. The footage in Band of Brothers is unreal. The work camp guards had fled that morning, in advance of the American arrival in the area. They had burned some huts, with the prisoners trapped in them. They had mowed down as many prisoners as they could before they ran out of ammunition. There were already corpses stacked in piles three feet deep that had been left in trains on the tracks in that camp. They looked to have been dead for days, if not week. There were dead bodies lying (and swelling up) everywhere. There were the walking dead, awaiting the American GI’s at the fence or lying in bunks, unable to get out of them.

The Americans broke down at this point. These brave 20 year old soldiers were openly weeping for the first time in the series. The segment is called, fittingly, “Why We Fight.”

The next thing we see, the American General Officer in that area has declared martial law and is sending the well-dressed “respectable” German townsfolk from the town right outside the camp into the camp to remove the bodies for a decent burial. One of these “decent” women catches the eye of a GI who had earlier gone into her house looking for supplies. He had thrown the photo of her German Army officer husband on the floor and broken it. And this was before he knew about the atrocities with the Jews. As he catches the eye of this lady, in an expensive dress, picking up rotting remains of humans that many Germans did not even acknowledge as human, he just stares, with the knowing look of a young man who realizes that she and her husband have knowingly profited from this misery. For many Germans may have been ignorant of the Final Solution, but if you were ignorant half a mile from a camp with the stench of death hanging over it 24/7, it was only because you didn’t want to ask questions!

I was so undone by this segment that, for one of the only times in the 23 years we have lived here, on half an acre with no curtains over our backdoor and the lower parts of our breakfast nook bay windows, I got up from the den chair, at 2 AM, with a feeling of panic because I did not have a working lightbulb in the light on our deck. I feared evil eyes looking in at me as I sat and watched the movie. And how silly was that, when we have lived this way every night for 23 years, in a fairly safe neighborhood, and rarely turn the decklights on, even when they are in working order?

Yes, this segment literally sent me into a panic attack. I suspect it does that for others, too. I understand from German friends who talked freely to me while we lived in Germany, that it was a complex time and many were afraid to speak up for persecuted people lest their own young families be ripped apart. But isn’t that how evil thrives–when everyone is too afraid to call it out as evil? Good lessons for us all in this segment, lessons from World War II and the generation of giants who fought it.

P.S. This segment probably singlehandedly gains an R rating for the series with a gratuitous sex scene in the first five minutes, as peace is breaking out. The woman never shows up further in the story and her tryst with an American GI has nothing to do with the plotline. She is just there so the producers could say, “See, even HBO can do R-rated material.” Which is kind of sad, because the violence would have gotten it an R-rating without that. And now I cannot unreservedly recommend the series to my Christian brothers without telling them to advance past the first five minutes of episode 9, to avoid the topless woman. Just saying.

Band of Brothers . . . Living History

15 Jan

For Christmas this year I treated myself to the six-DVD set of Band of Brothers, as originally seen on HBO.  I had long looked forward to seeing this series.

I have seen all but the last DVD (two episodes).  It is a fine, historical series.  No huge surprises, as most of us know the story of World War II.

What is awe-inspiring is the interviews at the beginning of each episode with Easy Company, 101st Airborne survivors.  I so hope at the end of the series they identify the survivors by name, as it is easy to fall in love with the amazing young men in the series, as portrayed by today’s young actors.  It would be wonderful to know which ones have survived to a ripe old age (many, many of them die in the series, as they did in real life). 

The series does not veer too far in either direction–it does not glamorize nor vilify war.  It shows that many bodies were (and are) shattered by it.  It is not for the faint of stomach, in fact.

But it allows us to form our own conclusions from history, as it should. It leads people to think.  

I did not realize that the 101st Airborne’s winter defending Bastogne was much like Washington’s winter at Valley Forge.  One survivor says he still tells his wife, when it gets cold and snowy outside their home, “At least I am not sleeping outside in the snow in Bastogne.”

Men are shown huddled under blankets in foxholes, sleeping like a heap of kittens with other men for warmth.  Amazing times.

It is totally understandable how the men of Easy Company have remained best friends and closest of brothers during the ensuing decades.  They say no one else could even understand what rigors and horrors they undertook that winter.  

In the battle for Bastogne and in their other battles, they had over 100% casualties (lots of replacements sent in were killed or injured, too).  

Amazing times.  Amazing men.  I am glad this series was made.

The Damage that can be done by People without Knowledge of History

14 Jan

This is going to be dangerous territory.

There are some ideas that you cannot call out in the U.S. without people who hold them realizing they are being called out for holding those ideas.  

You can call it a “conversation” if you wish, but if you have talked with said individuals numerous times and have found it to be like hitting your head against a brick wall, then you doubtless are aware that this is not really a conversation.  

Sometimes you just have to say things plainly and . . .if people hold other views and feel their views are being attacked, well, that is actually true.

You see, not all ideas are equally valid, no matter what we say about free speech.  You have a right to say it.  But just saying words does not gain you validity, nor followers.  You have to know what you are saying and be able to back it up.

People who have not studied history have the same right to free speech as the rest of us.  But they also have the right to listen to others laugh at them when they say silly things, due to not knowing history.  

In the marketplace of ideas, laughter is a valuable thing.  We don’t need to suppress speech.  But we do have to research what we are saying if we hope to have our speech be respected.  

I have a friend in my age group who has been a valuable person to help me understand how some folks in younger generations look at the military in the U.S.  She has helped me with that because she holds many of the same views as our younger generation generally does.   

The military is regarded, nowadays, as an unaffordable luxury.  What are we protecting, after all?

As a student of history, I see that mindset as myopic.  Tragically so.  

But it may take another world war to turn that mindset around.  

My friend has often made statements about the military not having a right to an opinion about what she calls “other entitlement programs.”  Yes, she will say, “You have your entitlements like the commissary and Tricare, so you have to keep quiet about the entitlements of the rest of us.”  

Really?  So when you serve 27 years for it, as I did, it is still regarded as an “entitlement”?  

So when the government signs your paycheck because you work for the government, it is the same as when the government signs a welfare check?  Have we told the President and the Congress that their paychecks are “entitlements”?

I totally get it about not treating welfare recipients as pariahs.  But that does not mean they earn their checks in the same way the military does.  You don’t turn it around and elevate the self respect of welfare recipients by lumping them in with the military, for whom we have traditionally held the highest respect of all.  

In an era of limited resources, it would go far toward healing some of the U.S.’s divides if people would at least act appreciative of the military while asking them to take 50% of the budget cuts (note:  the military is not 50% of the budget, but we are regarded as having more discretionary dollars than Medicaid, Medicare, social security or welfare).  

I totally get it that most of our Senators and Congresspeople have no military service, for the first time in history.  So they can’t really appreciate us unless they are students of history.  Sometimes they try to give us lip service.  Sometimes they don’t bother.  

I totally understand that most people sleep through high school history classes and some even do that in college.  But . . . I entered the military with a very sparse knowledge of history and just started reading . . . It is amazing what history books, even good historical fiction, can do for you!  I always loved history.  Now I have a pretty broad background in it.  

There is no excuse for not understanding the Cold War or what the U.S. did to preserve freedom in World Wars I and II.  There is no reason for anyone to not tell a Viet Nam vet “thank you for your service” with full understanding of why that phrase matters to him.  

And, more recently, our next “greatest generation” that gave the strength of its youth in Iraq and Afghanistan needs to be praised and encouraged, not lumped in with welfare recipients as “entitlement folks.”

It is important.  Very important.  


Manmade Stones . . .

10 Dec

Manmade Stones . . .

A tribute to building materials, since I have just finished four years of working with the Navy Seabees (CB’s or Construction Battalions). God bless ’em.

Remembering JFK . . .

21 Nov

My husband and I just had one of those talks that are so good that you always wonder why they occur during the busy morning, instead of at night when you have time to let them linger. And why is it that when you finally go out for that romantic meal, you can never remember those topics anyway?

Probably something to do with living in the moment . . .

We were remembering where we were when we heard that JFK had been shot, that the President was dead.

As I recall, the two announcements were almost simultaneous. But I have subsequently heard that there was a bit of controversy about when the death announcement should occur. And news media, back then, did not race to announce things, even if they ended up being wrong. They waited to confirm their information with the authorities. The White House press secretary wielded tons more power in those days . . . (see any article ever written about why JFK’s affairs were not made public till after his death, but I digress, and I truly want to honor the man, not soil his memory).

I was in kindergarten in the fall of 1963. I remember being sent home from school that day, November 22, 1963, at right around 2:00 in the afternoon. That would have been noon in Dallas.

I walked to school back then, a journey which still, in my mind, seems like it took forever. It actually was just about four blocks, two up my street, then two from Wendell Street, our dirt road with small but well-built starter homes, to busy thoroughfare Burton Street where I had to cross to get to my school.

There were three ways to get from Wendell Street to Burton Street, two of them paths and one of them alongside busy Cascade Road, which actually ran in front of our next door neighbors’ house. I usually avoided Cascade Road but, as I recall, I came back from school along Cascade Road that day. The paths seemed too tenuous, as though I could get lost there and never be found.

You see, my dad had built us a shelter in our basement during the Cuban Missile Crisis and so, when I heard that the President was dead, I thought doomsday had come and the world was ending. I didn’t cry. I have rarely cried in moments of great personal sorrow and confusion. I just got home as quickly as I could to await the end with my family.

Such is the mind of a five-year-old.

Noel, on the other hand, five time zones away from us and seven from Dallas, was watching television in the early hours of the evening when his dad told them all to hush and follow the news bulletins coming in from Dallas. This would have been huge for my (now late) father-in-law as he was Irish-Catholic, settled in Britain during World War II, and would have greatly identified with our first Catholic president and the controversy he had to overcome in order to occupy the office (people actually thought he might be beholden to the Pope as president. Some actively campaigned against him on those grounds!!!).

So our Irish-Catholic president stirred the heart and emotions of my Irish-Catholic father-in-law.

Noel just remembers thinking of our country as the vast empire across the sea, and feeling that this must be huge if the leader of such a great empire had been killed.

He was eleven and, like all city kids in Birmingham, England then and now, took the city bus to his school. Most European countries do things that way and have, since buses were invented.

This morning we marveled that the world seemed so much safer then. My mom, with two children younger than me, could send me out the door for afternoon kindergarten alone (I didn’t have any same-age friends in the neighborhood to walk with me to school–the two who were a year older would have already been at school when my afternoon session started and my other friend was still a year too young for kindergarten). I later on, when I reached full day status in first grade, had fears about some boys who sometimes chased me along one of those paths to school when I was alone, but bullying back then consisted only in making me afraid, not in actually attacking me. A more innocent age.

And Noel marveled this morning that he blithely took the city bus to school back then while, just this year on that same bus route, a schoolgirl of about age 10 was stabbed to death on the upper deck of the bus while on her way to school.

Yes, a more innocent age.

I do remember Camelot and I honor the man who believed he could build it.

The Day JFK, C.S. Lewis, and Aldous Huxley Died

21 Nov

I. Must. Read. This. Book.

Yes, the author presents C.S. Lewis’s theology and worldview more sympathetically than the others, but he took the time to digest them all. How many people actually take the time to do that with views with which they disagree?

Good scholarship and, I am sure, a brilliant read.

Asking Questions to Protect our Troops

11 Nov

This is strong language about “Breach of Trust,” a new book about the all-volunteer military service in the U.S. However the voice is an important one, helping us to grow a conscience as 1% of our population fights our wars for us (disclaimer: I was part of that 1% for 27 years).

Javert, Les Mis, and the Law vs. Grace

11 Nov

This is actually my favorite aria of “Les Miserables” because it shows how easily the human heart becomes enraptured by the law instead of grace.

Javert sounds so totally normal here until you remember he has spent over 20 years hunting someone down for stealing a loaf of bread.

Balance, people. Since we have to live together, there is a time for the law.

But we Christians should never define Christianity as being a list of laws to keep!!!


Lockerbie and Me!

21 Oct

On 21 December, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland due to a bomb placed onboard which turned out to be of Libyan origin.  The bomb had been placed in Frankfort, Germany, where the flight originated, but did not blow up until the plane had landed in London and then had departed for New York City.  Everyone on the plane and eleven additional people on the ground died.  

On 22 December, 1988, I flew from Stuttgart, Germany to Birmingham, England, to visit my (then) fiance and his parents for Christmas.  

As I departed that morning, investigators were still combing through wreckage in Lockerbie, trying to determine what had happened to that flight.  They suspected terrorism, but were not sure.   

I was pretty scared.  I self-talked into a state of relative calmness by saying that terrorists probably would not hit two Germany to England flights two days in a row.  Or would they?  It was all very confusing and frightening.

As I was in the air on my flight, a change came over me.  The more I heard about the carnage on the ground in Scotland, the sicker I felt.  There were no cell phones back then, so I had to await television and the newspapers on the ground, but it soon became apparent that body parts from people on that flight were spread over about a 20-mile square area in Scotland.  I think some parts were never found.

I got a huge lump in my throat that lasted six months.  I could not even think of eating meat without feeling a gag reflex start to happen.  And so . . . I gave up meat for almost a year (Noel and I got married the following May and I may have eaten a small bit of meat at our rehearsal dinner–I think I never got food at the wedding reception at all as we were too busy talking to friends I had not seen in years).  

That was my sole venture into vegetarianism and I would say I did not choose it, it chose me.

It worked pretty well, especially as I had hired a friend’s mom to cook for me in Germany those last few months that I was single.  She did some tremendous vegetarian dishes. 

Now, in my 50’s, I am toying with the idea of intentionally going vegetarian.  It will be interesting to see how different it is now.  I predict it will be much easier now to find fruits, veggies, and grains that work together well without meat.

Actually, it is kind of an exciting adventure now.

That was never the case when contemplating the immensity of the loss at Lockerbie.  God help us!  


Were There Golden Ages (and Dark Ages) of Christianity?

21 Oct

Were There Golden Ages (and Dark Ages) of Christianity?

Or did God merely have a faithful remnant in every generation, diverse though those generations could be???!!!

Oh, for Heaven’s Sake, Senator Cruz–If You’re Gonna Filibuster . . .

25 Sep

If you have hours to read on the Senate floor, read the Affordable Care Act.  Out loud.  As much of it as you can before your voice gives out.

Demonstrate to the American people that you can’t even read all of that monster in one filibuster!  This is what you are working to repeal, right?

Show us that it is so long that no one in your Senate, or the House of Representatives, has ever read it all the way through.  Show us that there can be language in it in which unintended consequences are lurking . . . 

Big consequences.  

Unfortunately, the Democrats have won the war of words on this one.  They have done that by framing the debate and grabbing the high moral ground.

They should not have been able to do that.

Lots of solidly middle class families are waking up to the reality that, though they thought they would be the recipients of government aid in buying their health care, due to the kind words that were said about helping middle class people, they actually are now regarded as upper middle class for the purposes of this legislation.  They will be paying more than before, as their plans are regarded as “Cadillac plans.”

Yup, apparently just owning a private plan of your own was regarded as a “Cadillac” kind of thing to do.  If you were struggling to pay for it before, just watch what is going to happen now.  

Read the Affordable Care Act, Senator Cruz!  Read it on the Senate floor.  Go boldly where never a senator has gone before . . .

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