Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Beginning or the End?

I've always loved this picture. It causes me to reflect on the negatives and positives of life. When was it taken? Where was it taken? Is it sunrise? Or is it sunset? Is there a message in it?

It could be sunset. It could be the downer side of life. It could be the darkness that is in the future - the darkness of tough decisions or of discouragement and maybe even fear of what tomorrow might bring. That's common in life today - questions of security, or health, or simply the unknown. Or maybe the possible ending of a lifestyle or of life itself. I've had my moments when I was bogged down with depression and maybe most of us have moments like that.

It could be sunrise - the dawn of a new day filled with new choices and new opportunities. The darkness is behind and we have the brilliance of the new day ahead. It brings light to the decisions we have to make, or opens doors to new opportunities - new hope from the darkness of indecision, hurt, fear, or frustration.

There have been so many times we've faced those moments. I prefer to look at life as a series of doors opening. Not closing. In all the church appointments I've ever served, I have never focused on what has been left behind. I'd rather look at changes like these as opportunities to do new things, meet new people, experience something exciting ahead, Yes, I have always regretted leaving people behind. Some people are always hard to leave. Some ministries were just beginning to be productive when we had to move somewhere else. And I've never forgotten those people or ministries. But like the person looking out from the beach at the sun low on the horizon I like to look to the possibilities ahead and the brightness of the new day.
If it's a sunset, let it be the opportunity to reflect on what is behind - and to
let the frustrations, fears and hurts of the past be absorbed in darkness. If it's a sunrise it is the dawn of fresh new life, new possibilities, and hope for the future.

This may all sound naive - simplistic. But I can say from experience that being bogged down in anger and fear and frustration isn't the solution. Like the lady looking out over the Gulf of Mexico from Bradenton Beach - there's something good out there just waiting to be found. Maybe a door opening to something new and positive just waiting to lift up your heart with hope and inner peace.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thanksgiving? Not quite!

Yes, it is a seafood dinner. But the picture was taken in Florida in January. Or was it February? It is a perfect example of gluttony - and I'm the guilty one. But how I love seafood - and yes, I ate the whole assortment of crab, and oysters, and clams, and who knows what else.

But I think back to some thanksgivings as well. Like the time we were stationed briefly at Niagara Falls AFB. We lived in a motel - one room with a kitchenette.
No oven - just a cooktop. So what do you do when a friend brings you a pheasant for Thanksgiving? You pluck it and clean it - and then fry the pheasant. Sacrilege, you say? I can think of people who didn't even have that kind of opportunity.

Like us a couple or three years later. We were at a base in Illinois and it was the end of the month. We'd run out of money and I took my precious bowling ball to the local pawn shop. If memory serves correctly, I got five dollars, enough for franks and beans --- our thanksgiving feast for the year.

Then there was the time I drove to Detroit Thanksgiving weekend not long before we were married. I knew that Joyce's fmily was large but I never thought they would have to eat in shifts. First shift was the younger children (and me); second shift was mainly for people when they got home from work. It was wonderful and even more amazing that a family that large could truly celebrate Thanksgiving - so many people then could not - and do not even today.

Another thanksgiving was when I was overseas in Italy. The food in Italy was truly wonderful but we had to teach the cooks in our hotel how to cook American style. What a wonderful sharing experience we had with laughter, and fellowship, and joy
together, even with our differences in language and customs.

There was another time of separation - a time of great tension - over Thanksgiving.
Joyce and the children were at home feeling a sense of fear and I was on an aircraft carrier patrolling the seas south of Cuba during the Cuban Blockade. We are well fed aboard ship - Navy food is good, especially at Thanksgiving. But it was also a time when our hearts turned homeward, thinking of family, and wondering how they were faring with such separation and concern about the days ahead.

I think of Thanksgiving for our service personnel overseas - so many in harms way.
I think of our Army grandson who is looking toward shipment overseas sometime in the future. A second overseas assignment for him; he spent some time in Iraq and gained a purple heart award in the process. And I think of other families whose sons or daughters serve our country - especially families who have lost loved ones in their service. And I look back at the picture above and think how lucky I am - how thankful I am that we have soldiers, and Marines, and sailors, and airmen who care enough about their country that they give of themselves for you and me.

Let this be not just a time to eat - but a time to reflect on the blessings we have
and to share our wealth and health with others.

Just like the friend who brought a pheasant to our motel room so we would have a Thanksgiving meal - even when it ended up being fried.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A week of celebrating

I should have called this Veterans Day -Part Two.

It seems as if I've been involved in something special most every day. And it hasn't stopped yet.

A while back our youngest - Lisa - said she had called to set up a free bed and breakfast stay on Veteran's Day Eve. It was to be at a Bed and Breakfast in Muncie, some fifty miles north of here. I thought at first that she was kidding but then I looked the B & B up on the internet and sure enough, it was listed and looked really nice. So, we called them and confirmed that we did, indeed, have a welcome opportunity and the offer to Veterans was real. The inkeeper, Jane McDowell, assured me that it was and I said we really appreciated the offer and we would welcome the opportunity.

It's been a long time since we were in Muncie (we went to a Gaither concert at Ball State University in the '70's) and it was great to get back. But the B & B was the best part of all. We found that B and B's all over the country were offering this to veterans as a recognition of their service. Arriving in Muncie, we had a great seafood dinner, and found a Books a Million - which we love and haven't been to in a long time. Lisa said to us - "Have a good honeymoon" It was a few years late for that but hey, it could have been.

Anyway, Jane's Bed and Breakfast is shown in the picture above. It was the house she had grown up in and has been upgraded into a beautiful place to stay. There were two other couples that stayed that night and they were a joy to meet. And breakfast -
I'm ready to come up with a grin like Rachel Rae in her TV show about Jane's breakfast. Nothing commercial about it - it was wonderful. I have a hunch we might go back there someday and I can't say enough about how enjoyable the stay was.

But the day wasn't over. When we left the B & B, we went to a museum of model aircraft. I didn't know how it would settle with Joyce since I overdo airplane museums - but this was something she really enjoyed. While there we saw a good friends name on a plaque there, a long-time friend from Florida who we knew in Florida and was a model aircraft enthusiast.

But the day wasn't over. We took back roads back home and managed to get lost a couple of times in areas we thought we knew about. Then it was to the supermarket
to get a good-size turkey for thanksgiving. And, because Some of the major restaurants were offering free meals to veterans, we went out to dinner. I don't think Joyce was real happy about that since she was still full from breakfast (it had been a long time since breakfast - but men get hungry sooner than the ladies - at least I think it's that way.).

But it's not over - tonight Lisa and Dan want to take us out to dinner. Diet is not a word I have been able to focus on this week. But if I go, I'm going to go happy.
And look at a few more free meals for veterans.

Meanwhile, our deep appreciation to all those who made this year's Veteran's Day and my birthday very special. Thanks - and God bless!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Time Long Ago

I have an unusual service background.

Two years of National Guard service Company I (Infantry, 104th Battalion, 26th (Yankee) Division. I was in the National Guard when the Korean Conflict began and almost immediately we were alerted that we stood likelihood of being sent to Korea in June or July 1950. It didn't happen that way and when I moved to Florida I became
vulnerable to the draft. Rather than that, I chose to enlist in the Air Force where I served from October 1951 to May of 1961. The picture with this blog reflect some events during that time.

I went to work for McDonnell Aircraft in 1961 and in August was assigned to the Navy
at NAS Oceana Virgina as an advisor to Squadron VF-102 as they received their brand new F-4 Phantoms. While at Oceana I rode both the USS Independence and brand new CVAN-65 USS Enterprise. We deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and to the Mediteranean
Sea. The biggest surprise was a deployment off Cuba during the Cuban Blockade. As a civilian.

Again as a civilian advisor, I was transferred in January 1963 to the Marines at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina. I deployed with a Marine Squadron a couple of times to Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico and was on orders in 1967 to go with the squadron to DaNang, South Vietnam. At the last minute I was sent back to St. Louis
instead, and that ended my military/naval active duty.

That makes me a veteran of duty with the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines. The reason I never went to the Coast Guard was that they never bought any McDonnell fighter aircraft. I presume I can be listed accurately as a veteran.

So, I think back over the years with a sense of pride. I hope my contributions to military and naval/Marines contributed to our United States well being. I am proud of all those years of service, whether active military or as a technical advisor

However, I cannot reflect those years without deep love and appreciation to my wife for the months she spent raising the children and keeping things going. We can recognize our veterans - but at the same time, we should recognize the commitment and concessions made by wives and children who serve in their own ways behind the scenes. In many ways they are heros/heroine in their own ways. Thank YOU on Veterans Day - your contributions are more than we ever give adequate recognition.