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Archive for the ‘WWII’ Category

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Scars are funny things. Do you see the one in this picture? I’ve been up and down this street a number of times in recent years, but it was not until I went last night into the center structure with the gray plaster facade and saw the courtyard behind it that things didn’t match up for me. I then stepped across the narrow street to try and gather a better perspective.

All of the neighboring buildings, save this one, are the same architecture: tiled tilt roofs, architectural detail on the windows, classic off white plaster, etc. And the building in the center? It screams 1960’s non-descript Eastern European, almost Soviet era styling. When you go inside, the structure is more modern and new, but is absent the classic styling details of 17th or 18th century Europe. The style is so different, the large oil on canvas portraits of the former Cardinals of Vienna stand stark and out of place on the cold white walls lining the long straight hallways.

So, what happened?

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Well, this is largely conjecture on my part, but I’ll work from what I know. This courtyard/compound houses the Archdiocese of Vienna, the home of the Catholic church establishment for the region. Behind the compound lies Stephansdom, the large Catholic cathedral for the city. Sometime around 1944, Allied bombs shattered the classic roofline of the Dom and set a subsequent fire to the structure. I can only assume that one of the bombs from that same raid took out this section of the neighboring compound.

While Stephansdom has been rebuilt and restored to a level indistinguishable from the original to most persons from the current era, the office building cannot make that claim. In an era of shortages, limited resources, and subsequent priorities, the lot occupied by the building likely sat vacant for many years, and then was rebuilt in the most pragmatic way possible during an era when “style points” didn’t matter. Hence, a scar remains on the landscape, and yet, most don’t even give it much thought or attention.

So, what’s the point? I would suggest people are the same way. Scar tissue, by it’s very nature, grows quickly and fills the void left by an earlier injury. And, with scar tissue, style points don’t matter. Much like our plain gray building, the strength and function of the scar is often stronger than what it replaced. Given time, those who see the scars may even forget they are there.

And yet, the scars remain. Had I been speaking with a native of an era gone by in Vienna last night, they likely would have had stories to tell. For those of us walking up and down the proverbial side streets of life with those we know, we should be mindful of the scars, and the experiences that they reflect. We should also respect the strength that comes with them.

Story is when a character wants something, and overcomes conflict to get it. I witnessed and pondered just such a story this time by, and I feel better attuned because of it.

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“God is subtle, but He is not malicious. I cannot believe that God plays dice with the world.” – Albert Einstein.

I’ve long thought that to be true, but now wonder if He is not often times speaking to us more directly. Take a random walk with me, and see if you agree.

Many of us recall the “Rocky” movie franchise. He started his saga in the slums of Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. The movie details him out running past a group of likely unemployed young men standing on a street corner singing “Take it Back”. Four movies later, some good, some less than good, and Rocky is back in the same neighborhood, a rags to riches to rags scenario, but he is still “Rocky Balboa” at the core, albeit changed by time, experience, and the impact of money.

I have experienced in the past 24 hours what I’ll dub “the day of diatribes”, polite though they may have been. This may or may not be considered just one more of the same by the time you finish this reading.

The first diatribe was by a Facebook friend protesting the use of the American flag as a form of forced advertising by a local realtor who placed them in every yard as far as the eye can see.

The second diatribe hit a little closer to home. It was written by a youth minister in Texas about the problem of increasing costs in higher education, specifically private faith based education, and the amount of debt it takes for many to get an undergraduate degree. The university for which I work’s mission statement is “Transforming Lives for faith, scholarship, and service.” Trust me when I say we do not intend for that to be “debt service”, and are listening and seeking solutions to the broad based problem of the higher education industry making our experience affordable and relevant. Pardon my digression from the topic at hand.

The third diatribe dealt with the problem of sensationalism and desensitizing in our mass media, all to get attention and “viewership”. It is a well written piece about things that are good and true, and you can read it at http://www.reddirtchronicles.com/2011/06/rdc-editorial-whatever-is-good-true-beautiful/

The fourth piece, more a reflection than a diatribe, was a personal look at living a purposeful life, and not a life of “Shadow Purposes” as we are so prone to do in this rich society. It can be read at http://www.reddirtchronicles.com/2011/06/chasing-my-shadow-purpose/

The final referenced piece in the “24 hours of diatribes” was my own, preceding this one, mind you. I read an article this morning about the NBA lockout and some of the quotes in a war of mega millionaires fighting mega millionaires over who gets the bigger share of the billions being offered by the masses at the alter of modern day entertainment. I love the NBA, but this article made me mad, and I suspect it will do the same for many fans as what promises to be a protracted labor negotiation fight plays out.

To paraphrase author Donald Miller, I think we all have forgotten that we are just trees in a story about a forest. The forest may be on fire all around us, but we are too focused on the near surroundings and our own concerns to notice.

The global economy appears to be badly broken. We have “stored up treasures on earth, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matt. 6:19) and need to be prepared for a different day and age, even within the lifespan of some current generations. The economic storm is raging as we speak in benefit rich European society, and the tsunami is racing toward us across the Atlantic even now. Societies are in debt up to their eyeballs; we are soft; we are spoiled. And fundamental societal things are changing. We are aging. The balance of trade and who makes and who buys is evolving. Health care is a concern. The U.S. Government won’t be able to pay for it all or fix all that ailes us. All the while, I fear we are standing on the beach arguing over who gets the bigger share of sandbags while we should be moving to higher ground to stay safely out of the coming wake.

Our societies often have found themselves in these moments in history, and it seems they are often ultimately resolved by fighting a war. The U.S. War for Independence; the French Revolution; the U.S. Civil War; WWI; WWII; the Middle East conflicts. Its about a groundswell of the masses when they can’t get what they want and need, and when the establishment is out of touch. We may be entering another “let them eat cake” moment, I fear. Get the picture?

I think the establishment may be catching on. One of the more telling advertisements running on TV today is “More Saving: More Doing; That’s the power of the Home Depot”. We need to realize that David Stanley (OKC auto dealer) does not really lead the way. The Mathes Brothers may have “our style at our price”, but they will never know us by name.

As I began to pour these random reflections down and try to tie them together cohesively, I looked through the “categories and tags” section of my blog site, and a huge percentage of those previously used seemed strikingly relevent. Take a look at all those listed at the end of this and see if you agree.

After an early morning of pondering these thoughts, I got into the car to come to the office and was immediately presented with “Awakening” by Switchfoot playing on my car radio. God is subtle, indeed, and He was speaking right to me.

Face down with the L.A. curbside endings
In ones and zeros
Downtown was the perfect place to hide

The first star that I saw last night
Was a headlight of a man-made sky
But man-made never made our dreams collide, collide

Here we are now with the falling sky and the rain
We’re awakening
Here we are now with the desperate youth and pain
We’re awakening

Maybe it’s called ambition
You’ve been talking in your sleep about a dream
We’re awakening

Last week saw me living for nothing but deadlines
With my dead beat sky
But this town doesn’t look the same tonight

These dreams started singing to me out of nowhere
And all my life I don’t know
That I’ve ever felt so alive, alive

Here we are now with the falling sky and the rain
We’re awakening
Here we are now with the desperate youth and pain
We’re awakening

Maybe it’s called ambition
You’ve been talking in your sleep about a dream
We’re awakening

I wanna wake up kicking and screaming
I wanna wake up kicking and screaming
I wanna know that my heart’s still beating
It’s beating, I’m bleeding

I wanna wake up kicking and screaming
I wanna live like I know what I’m leaving
I wanna know that my heart’s still beating
It’s beating, it’s beating, it’s beating, I’m bleeding

Here we are now with the falling sky and the rain
We’re awakening
Here we are now with the desperate youth and pain
We’re awakening

Maybe it’s called ambition
But you’ve been talk, talking in your sleep about a dream
We’re awakening
Dream, we’re awakening

So, where do we go from here, in this digital community, and in each of our own “cities of brotherly love”? Maybe we are a little like that prizefighter who has gone one or two rounds too far, and needs to reset. What is our task? More saving, more doing? Maybe. Less spending, more doing? Likely. More sharing, more caring? Absolutely. Heightened attention spans are in order. We’re awakening. The bar is raised. A groundswell is happening all around us, and a tsunami may (or may not) be headed are way. Let’s move to higher ground and be ready.

Take me back.

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The Midshipman Prayer (Traditional version)

Almighty Father, whose way is in the sea, whose paths are in the great waters, whose command is over all and whose love never faileth; let me be aware of Thy presence and obedient to Thy will. Keep me true to my best self, guarding me against dishonesty in purpose and in deed, and helping me so to live that I can stand unashamed and unafraid before my shipmates, my loved ones, and thee. Protect those in whose love I live. Give me the will to do my best and to accept my share of responsibilities with a strong heart and a cheerful mind. Make me considerate of those entrusted to my leadership and faithful to the duties my country has entrusted in me. Let my uniform remind me daily of the traditions of the service of which I am a part. If I am inclined to doubt, steady my faith; if I am tempted, make me strong to resist; if I should miss the mark, give me courage to try again. Guide me with the light of truth and keep before me the life of Him by whose example and help I trust to obtain the answer to my prayer, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

My grandfather was in the U.S. Navy during WWII.    The pictures above are of he and my grandmother, my mother and uncle, and their dog, before he left for his tour of duty.    I recently received his copy of the U.S. Navy issued sailor’s New Testament, and as shown in the picture above, it contains this prayer.

I am not sure of his rank, but he served as a postmaster in the South Pacific.    Pressed into service by the draft, he was called away from family and into harms way for several years.   While not a combat soldier, he told me stories of near misses from Kamikaze attacks on ships adjacent to his.

I also heard stories of how he sent every dime he earned home, just so my grandmother would not have to work and could stay home with their two kids.   In turn, she saved enough to buy a house for the family before he returned home from the war.   Talk about a great generation.

So how did they do it?   How did he survive the war, when so many, including his own brother, did not?     How did they stay close, raise a family, and serve the Lord faithfully for years?    Even today, their influence has a family of almost 60 children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren and spouses raising Christian families and serving the Lord.

They did it with prayer.    And so should we.

We are all midshipmen, pressed into service by the war for the world and the hearts of our kids and others we love.    The words of the midshipman’s prayer can still serve us all well today:

Almighty Father, whose way is in the sea, whose paths are in the great waters, whose command is over all and whose love never faileth; let me be aware of Thy presence and obedient to Thy will. Keep me true to my best self, guarding me against dishonesty in purpose and in deed, and helping me so to live that I can stand unashamed and unafraid before my shipmates, my loved ones, and thee. Protect those in whose love I live. Give me the will to do my best and to accept my share of responsibilities with a strong heart and a cheerful mind. Make me considerate of those entrusted to my leadership and faithful to the duties my country has entrusted in me. Let my uniform remind me daily of the traditions of the service of which I am a part. If I am inclined to doubt, steady my faith; if I am tempted, make me strong to resist; if I should miss the mark, give me courage to try again. Guide me with the light of truth and keep before me the life of Him by whose example and help I trust to obtain the answer to my prayer, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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