Father’s Day 2015

There is no greater gift from God than that of a child.  And so, there is no better job to be blessed to fulfill than to be “Dad.”

So, do it.

In this complex and conflict-filled world we live in, the role and example of the engaged and loving father has no adequate substitute.  One doesn’t have to look far to see what happens to many of our youth when the father disregards his calling – just follow the trail of violence, recklessness, crime, addiction, homelessness, and pain.

To be a father is to be promoted by God himself – perhaps a senior officer among the ranks of mankind.  Those who do it best are the truest stewards of His most precious gift.

I was so promoted just over 13 years ago.  It is truly THE rank and privilege of a lifetime.

To each of you “Dad” types out there…if your children honor you this Father’s Day, it is because you honor them each day – by your actions, words, hugs, love, and demonstration of their priority in your life.  Good for you; best for them.

And so, inasmuch as they celebrate us today, let us celebrate them.  Give thanks and praise to God for the gift of our children and the blessing of being their provider, protector, and prophet.

Do not make time for being “Dad”, rather, make time for all other things.  Make time for work, for hobbies, for other interests – but first, be “Dad” – in all you do, in how you lead and carry yourself, and in what you represent.  YOU are their living example.

To be remembered as a great “Dad” is far better than ANYTHING that can ever appear on one’s business card or resume.

Most any of us are capable of fulfilling the biological role of “Father.”  But the best of us earn the title of “Dad.”

Thanks be to God for our children.

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Messages from One of the Millions Remembered

Following my recent post “Millions Remembered”, I heard from one of the gentlemen of the email chain I am privileged to have become part of – one of the group of ol’ high school chums who include a number of men of valor and true patriots.  Randall Wisdom is a special yet unmet friend and his emails are always sure to provoke my thoughts and bring a smile.  It seems only appropriate on this Flag Day 2015 – and it is with his permission – that I share some of his writing here.  The beauty of these writings is that they are so personal and so vivid in sharing how both sides of a family have been touched so deeply and eternally by the service, valor, and generosity of its sons.  And so, with gratitude for his insights and his friendship, I give you the heartfelt and patriotic messages of my buddy “Wiz”.  Fly those flags up high, Y’all.

Gonna Lay Down My Burden

You must have noticed them. True, their numbers dwindle by the day; but, if you’ll look beyond your mundane doings, you can yet spot a few in public places.

They are our country’s rapidly vanishing WWII veterans. They are the same young lads who in their early, carefree years went off to a distant hell. Those remaining are apt to be frail, and likely they will be a little deaf. I often find myself drawn to them in restaurants and in grocery stores; and, I am always tempted to invite a brief conversation.

I have grown quite astute in recognizing the subtle clues that identify them. A baseball cap which boasts, “United States Marines,” or, “USS Lexington” is a door into the past, left ajar. The old gentlemen never fail to welcome my intrusion, never minding their equally elderly spouses, or their somewhat younger daughters who are, no doubt, more anxious to leave.

The simple question, “Sir, are you a WWII veteran” … washes pride over their weathered faces. They are apt to quickly and efficiently brief as to their outfit and the theaters of operation in which they served.

They may gaze off into the distance, momentarily, as though trying to focus on the blurred images of some distant place. Sometimes, I imagine that I can see melancholy dew glistening from the corners of their eyes. Never do they speak of pain or horrors suffered … except, perhaps, to lament, “We lost an awful lot of good boys.”

When the war broke out, the Wisdom boys signed up, and each went his separate way; they would not to be reunited until the angry war beast had had its fill. Providence mercifully allowed all of them to return, and without any visible scars.

It is Dad’s younger brother, Forrest, who has been causing me a mental itch, and who has, posthumously, prompted this penning.

Forrest Wisdom was a kind and gentle man, and a man who personified dignity and manly meekness. He was a quiet man, given to old fashion ideas of chivalry and decency. He was from that generation of men who stood when a lady entered the room, and removed his hat to be introduced. Nothing in his being bespoke roughness or callousness.

For many years, he was the administrator of a large nursing home; and, God have mercy on the family … or the nurse …or the doctor that treated one of his clients unkindly. That he was a man of few words seemed not to take advantage of his rich, baritone voice.

My Uncle Forrest returned home after the war, and he never spoke of it … never … not to his brothers, not to his friends … not even to his wife. Never.

When I was a young boy, one day he showed me a German luger that he’d brought home as a “souvenir.” No story accompanied the showing. It was just a gun.

Just a few years ago, Forrest gave up the fight. The small church in Beebe, Arkansas was overflowed with folks who understood that his life was worthy of celebration. But the happenings which followed were both revealing and sobering. The pastor took his place at the lectern, and his remarks were. indeed, remarkable.

The minister began by addressing the family, customary, but not with such raw words as were these. He opened by asserting that he knew much about Forrest that was unknown to others. The room filled with a mournful befuddlement.

The preacher had spent many private hours with my uncle during his final days … hours of ministry … and of prayer … and, so it seemed, of a long-delayed unburdening of the spirit.

Forrest had confided with his pastor the unspeakable horror of Omaha Beach, and having survived that, the nightmare that was the push through France … and across Germany … all the way to Berlin, where he had collected that luger. He spoke of friends who had been turned to crimson vapor beside him … and of the brutality of Europe’s coldest winter of the twentieth century.

He had witnessed terrible happenings, and he needed reassurance that he himself had not done terrible things, as well. Over the span of hours, my uncle expressed an agony that was greater even than that of his terminal cancer. He put down a horrendous burden that he’d carried buried deep within his core of kindness and decency for more than sixty years. He had, at last, laid down his burden, never to, “study war, no more,”

If we could know what burdens these men often take with them to their graves, I suppose we would bring more … and stronger pall bearers.

RTWiz

And, For Jan…

Ted, I enjoyed your writing of, “Millions Remembered.” For my bride of 54 years, Memorial Day is both a proud and a morose time.

My wife’s dad died six weeks before her birth. He had forgone his scholarship in engineering at Miss. State, convinced that a coming war was inevitable. My wife’s teen-aged mom pinned on his flight wings just days after Pearl Harbor. On that same day, Germany declared war on the United States.

Jan’s dad was a P-40 fighter pilot. He flew off into eternity in an air battle with the Luftwaffe on April 18, 1943.

That day has been remembered as the, “Palm Sunday Massacre.
Germany’s ground forces were being compressed in north Africa by the Brits moving westward out of Egypt … and the newly arrived Americans advancing from Africa’s west.

The Germans undertook a massive egress, hoping to reorganize in Sicily. American and British fighters interdicted that tactical retreat.

On that day 58 JU-52 carriers, and 16 Messerschmitt escort fighters were destroyed. The allies lost only six fighter aircraft … a commendable ratio as judged by the economics of war. But, one of those lost was the father of my yet unborn wife.

For families, the concept of, “acceptable losses” is meaningless … cold, and inane.

In war, the losses are reckoned ultimately, not by the hundreds, or the thousands … but, by the ones. Every combatant downed is the most important person to someone.

Thanks for remembering the many who have secured the country that we now tend to take for granted.

Wiz

 

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Millions Remembered

For Chet, Russ, Wiz, Dickie, and the guys of 5E…family and friends – some met, some unmet, yet all so very important.

I spent much of Memorial Day contemplating its true meaning – not just that it’s the day when we pause to remember our fallen, rather, the depth of loss that pause really represents.

We seem to anesthetize the pain it represents for our country by masking it in the celebrations of cookouts, swimming pools, and other outdoor celebratory gatherings – including at least 1,100 miles of auto racing between Indianapolis and Charlotte.  On the one hand, these are our demonstrated celebrations of our freedom.  But we cannot allow those celebrations – that day, or every day – to overlook that the counterbalance to our own celebrations are the remembered losses of others for whom a loved one never returned.

Memorial Day is intended to be the day when we remember our greatest heroes – our fallen.  And yet my hope would be that the other 364 days of the year are not without the same remembrance, respect, and reverance somewhere within our consciousness.  If it were so true, I believe our nation’s fabric would be exponentially stronger.

A quick bit of surfing on-line reveals that our nation’s past includes over 1,354,664 lost in the line of service, 1,498,237 and counting wounded, and 40,917 missing (predominantly from World War II and Vietnam).  To abbreviate those numbers as “1.4M…” would be disrespectful, as each counted soul was lost, wounded, or remains missing on our collective behalf.  Each of them has their own family and story – and so, each one counts immensely and is his or her own personal tragedy with rippling repurcussions for so many others, as a rock that disturbs calm waters ripples out far from its initial point of impact.

I mentioned to a friend recently that I have been privileged and blessed over the past year to have the benefit of visibility into a group of ol’ Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen who were once high school chums and have since remained close for some 50+ years.  One of them generously added me to their email string sometime back, so now I’m on their nearly daily email exchanges.  I’m typically most content to just sit back and listen to their banter as I read their exchanges.  You see, they represent an apprecation for their history in a way that is a lost opportunity among today’s generation, which is too fixated on the “now” and not enough on “back when…”   We can learn from them.

Within this group, there are a number of true heroes.  For each of them, there are losses not discussed – whether stories left on the battlefield, or names etched in Panel 5E of that reflective wall.

There is the preacher who promised his life’s work to Him while pinned down in the battle at Lang Vei.  There is the physician who writes of his longing for America’s morality and future, pining for its healing far beyond what he is able to do as he touches one patient at a time.  And there is the ol’ Colonel who also suffered loss as a young Lieutenant back in ’66 – he would go on to rise through the ranks of the Army, retire as a senior Officer, enjoy a fabulous run in private industry, and yet, a part of him has always remained that young Lieutenant as he has looked for and invested in the lives of others around him.  Each of them has remembered and mourned each day, as should we.  Indeed, we can learn from them.

And so, as we think about our respective roles in making our small part of this country and this world just a bit better, please remember.  Find the opportunities for those Memorial celebrations well before next May.  In the moments with family and co-workers…where the conversations and activities provoke your thoughts a bit…call it out and give thanks.  When you see the  young soldiers in the airport, say thank you.  When you see them with family or friends in the restaurant, quietly pay their bill anonymously.  When you’re setting the table for a special family gathering, set one extra spot at an empty seat.  When you’re at Home Depot, pick up a new flag and display it year-round – and display it appropriately.

This is your opportunity to be in service to them.

We’re fortunate to be in this part of a complex and often unkind world.  And we have millions to thank for it.  But beyond just thanking them, we can honor them each day.  And so we must.

Keep it lit, y’all…

T.

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A King’s Legacy

America (and the world) has lost one of the greatest…if not the greatest…blues musicians of all time.  But she hasn’t lost his soul.

I had the privilege of seeing BB King at the former Deer Creek Pavilion in Indianapolis just about 15 years ago.  As I recall, it was 10 days before he was to play at Madison Square Garden for his 75th birthday.  We were in the third row center initially, then at the edge of the stage very early in the show.

BB was joined by the greats of Susan Tedeschi and Buddy Guy – an incomparable trio that far exceeded the value of whatever the ticket price back then.

Susan Tedeschi was amazing that night, as she almost seemed to channel Joplin as she wailed on “Rock Me Right”.  And it goes without saying that Buddy Guy was phenominal in everything he did.  But, in all they did and despite their excellence – including Buddy’s five to six minute solo down in the aisle just feet from us – they were secondary to the King and his Lucille.

By that time, BB was sitting in a chair for most of his performances.  And yet, he didn’t have to stand in order to own the pavilion.

Every note imparted emotion.  Every lyric reflected a mood, a memory, or a message.  Watching and listening as he played was a spiritual experience.

If you haven’t read BB’s book, you should.  It’s the story of the true American dream – moving from the deepest depths of poverty as a peasant farmer making $2.50 per month to a decades-long reign as King of the Blues the world over.  His success was a product of a commitment to his message, his pursuit of his passion and God-given talent, and his relentless unwillingness to quit.  We should all be so determined.

To have risen from the beginnings he endured and achieved all that he achieved…at that time in our nation’s history…is truly remarkable.

And yet, the beauty of his legacy is that the thrill of his human manifestation may be gone, but the thrill of his spirit endures in his music forever – and comes to life with a fervent vengeance each time we press “play”.

I hope you’ll take a moment to press “play” and enjoy this link – one of many performances representative of his broad influence.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnlwxS-36AU

Keep it lit, y’all…

T.

 

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Extreme Humanity

My good friend Pastor Paul sent this YouTube link to me.  He posted it with the permission of Cree to tell his story.  I hope you’ll invest the time to watch it in its entirety, as it’s filled with remarkable lessons for us all.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Dd04ytTzhE

Cree has lived this way for 41+ years.  Note that I didn’t say that he has “existed” this way – no, he has LIVED.  Despite his numerous and formidable challenges, he is squarely focused on his many blessings and seizes every opportunity to try to help others find the many blessings among their own challenges.

Imagine if we all had Cree’s determination to find the good in every moment.

Peace, Y’all.  Be like Cree.

T.

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anything BUT grey

One of the interesting and valuable aspects of serving the homeless is that, unlike a variety of other episodic mission opportunities, the firewood ministry affords the development of more personal relationships with people that arise out of repeated encounters with them over time.  And so was the case with Lloyd.

Lloyd lived in a tent on a hill above a modest and redeveloping neighborhood in Nashville.  He was one of the many overlooked.  And he was one of the first of Nashville’s 4,000+ homeless I was privileged to meet, as his campsite was the first that my bride and I delivered firewood to when we were first called to serve our neighbors in the cold.

Lloyd died last night. 

He was alone in his tent on that same hill above that same neighborhood. 

In the cold.

I hit the streets this afternoon with a group of friends from church.  We loaded up two truckloads of wood and set out to honor Lloyd by making sure that some of his comrades of the concrete world have firewood tonight.  We visited six sites in and around the city – the smallest campsite is home to two delicate souls, while the largest is a well-developed village of tents inhabited by 32.

I thought of Lloyd all afternoon as we snaked our way through the back streets, alleys, and narrow trails of the woods our clients call “home.”  Perhaps I wasn’t quite as engaged with my team today, as I was deeply pre-occupied by the thought of our friend who has passed.

It occurred to me today that perhaps it is so easy for people to disregard the homeless or misjudge them because “homeless” is an inaccurate label for their circumstance.  To me, their lack of a traditional residence of four walls and a shingled roof is the least of the issues.  In fact, they are not simply homeless – rather, they are overlooked as they live in the woods and under bridges surrounded by elegant prosperity.  They are underfed – sometimes going days without nourishment you or I would deem to qualify as a real meal.  They are underhugged and underloved – often challenged to recall a recent act of personal kindness and interaction in their life.  Perhaps they are not simply “homeless” but would be more accurately described as “neglected and disregarded.”  But then that might give us pause and distract us from our societal self-focus and absorption.  It’s much easier to just think of them as “homeless.”

Our most neglected and disregarded all have stories.  I’ve met some who I’m certain are running from something – yet it’s not my place or my role to  judge them; my purpose is to help them.  I’ve met others who will readily share that they are convicts – and, while they have paid their debt to society and are trying to re-establish themselves, they continue to be judged according to biases and risk management protocols that make it nearly impossible for them to gain productive employment or sign a real estate lease.  And I’ve met Veterans of military service on behalf of you and I – they’ve stood on a line for us…fought for us…in some cases, they’ve taken shrapnel for us…and, upon returning to these United States, they’ve been ridiculed, spit upon, and left to struggle through their physical and emotional remnants of war as residents of the street. 

And so, tonight I remember Lloyd. 

If you’ve read much of my blog in the past, you know that I typically change the names of the people I encounter as a matter of protecting their privacy.  Not today.  Our friend’s name was Lloyd.

I was curious to learn the meaning of the name “Lloyd” so I did a bit of research on-line.  Turns out, “Lloyd” has Welsh roots – it was derived from “llwyd” which translates to “grey.” 

Grey. 

Grey?  I think not.

We often think of grey as being almost a non-color of sorts – a representation of something of little interest or character…an absence of pigmentation in an otherwise technicolor world.  That wasn’t Lloyd.

Lloyd mattered.  He was a friend of those he shared his campsite with.  He was a living manifestation of the purpose many at the food pantry work to serve with fervor.  He was a gentle soul in an ungentle world.  I am better for having crossed paths with him, if only briefly.

And so, Lloyd did not live in the grey.  Even he – one of the overlooked, underfed, underhugged, underloved, neglected and discarded – cast his own light and own mark upon this human world that he has departed.  He touched our hearts and marked our memories.  And he has helped to keep our purpose and passion for service so ignited.

I am reassured that Lloyd no longer knows pain, cold, or hunger, as I’m confident that he is in heaven with Jesus.  I am certain that he knew that he was loved by those who reached out to him – and that, through that love, he knew the love of Christ.  And so, I know that he has been welcomed by all who were expecting him and he is delighting in all that is beautiful of his new surroundings as he finally fulfills his intended and divine purpose.

Tonight, I am reminded that the Apostle Paul taught us to grieve, but not as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).  Indeed, there is hope for all of us.

As you head into the busy-ness of the week ahead, find true meaning.  Look for the overlooked.  Love the underloved.  Hug the underhugged.  Feed the hungry.  Warm the cold.  And in doing so, add your own color to those who struggle to survive in the overlooked grey.

To Lloyd.  God bless you, Friend.  May you be forever at peace.  You shall not be forgotten.

Keep it Lit, Y’all.  Peace.

T.

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Stout Character

When was the last time you had a good Guinness?  You know…the Irish stout that’s best served via a “double pour” with a dome of foam cresting the upper boundary of that familiar and uniquely formed glass?  Yes…THAT Guinness.

I suspect that you’ve had Guinness recently if you’ve seen their latest tv commercial.  If you haven’t seen it, I’ll give you an opportunity to view it for yourself in just a moment. 

The latest Guinness ad honors our Men and Women of military service.  It’s simple, yet powerful.

We are reminded of the importance of duty and commitment – by the faithful daily preparation of the young lady and most certainly by the image of the Soldier.

We are reminded of the importance of honor – anything less than the first table would be unsuitable for such high purpose.  Likewise, anything less than the young man standing to greet the Soldier would be inadequate and disrespectful.

We are reminded of the importance of community.  Thankfully, we welcome today’s warriors home with collective cheers and hugs – as they always should be, but sadly have not always been treated. 

And so, I hope you’ll take about 90 more seconds or so to
watch the latest Guinness commercial here

Thirsty yet?  Take 119.5 seconds to get that perfect pour and raise a glass of that thick, nitrogen-charged, deep ruby, barley-laden stout to toast our greatest heroes. 

Even better, set an extra place at the table at your next holiday meal – an empty seat and a pint of Guinness as an important reminder.  Likewise, perhaps we should all remember to stop and offer to treat a Soldier to a Guinness the next time we see them in an airport or restaurant.  After all, “the choices we make reveal the true nature of our character.”  So true.

Here’s to Chet, Russ, Kevin, JB, and Ken…and many more.

Cheers, y’all.

T.

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