Memorial Day Thoughts

It’s Memorial Day. Memorial Day is supposed to signal the beginning of summer in my part of the world! This year we’re reduced to hoping it signals the approaching end of winter!

Anyhow, it’s a day to remember those who have served and sacrificed in the many wars of our lifetime. I suppose there are just wars and unjust wars. I know there are popular wars and unpopular wars. My war, the war in Vietnam, was an unpopular war.

When I came home after serving my tour of duty in Vietnam in 1967, only my family welcomed me home. I know there wasn’t any public welcome. I know my church didn’t make a big deal of welcoming me home.

Through the years, the memories of Vietnam kind of faded. I never talked about it. No one asked so I didn’t tell. In fact, it wasn’t until I returned back to the US in 1999 after nearly two decades of another kind of overseas service as a missionary that I remember anyone actually asking about where I served in Vietnam (Cu Chi), what branch of service (Army), what it was like (Life one day at a time).

It was at Westside Church that it happened. After I had preached one weekend at Westside and had made some reference to my Vietnam service, a man about my age approached me after the meeting, stuck out his hand, and said, “Welcome Home! Thanks for serving!”

Now it’s different. We’re two or three more popular wars along and the attitudes have changed. It’s now an honorable thing to have served in Vietnam. I’m glad.

Today I’m thinking about my cousin, James A. Stephens, who died in battle in WWII, the year I was born, and after whom I’m named. I’m thinking about the guys I knew in Cu Chi, Vietnam in 1967. I’m thinking how thankful I am for the 44 years of life and love I’ve enjoyed since I came home from Vietnam.

Today I’m so thankful!

Here’s the best Vietnam War song ever written or sung. Don McLean’s “1967”  And the best answer to the question, “Why did you go?” “Because they sent me!”

Who We Really Are

Princess Eve, the King’s oldest daughter, was kidnapped from the palace by an evil witch. The Kingdom was in an uproar as a fruitless search was made of every town and village, every farm, every forest camp. The princess was gone.

Nearly ten years later, Andrew, the King’s most trusted aide, was passing through a dismal town near the southern border of the Kingdom. As he watered his horse at the well in the town square, a raggedly-dressed girl came to the well for water. She was dirty and bruised and walked with her shoulders slumped and her head down, yet there was something, just a hint of dignity in her walk and her manner.

Andrew called her to him and asked her name and where she lived. She shyly replied, in the local accent, “My name is Sadie. I’m an orphan. I belong to the wealthy man who owns the bank in this town.” “Give me your hand, Sadie,” Andrew said. He took her hand and pushed back her sleeve and there on her forearm was the heart-shaped birthmark that confirmed to him she was really Princess Eve!

Andrew took her from the town and within two days she was back in the palace. It took weeks for Princess Eve to become healthy again. It took even longer for her to learn to trust, to smile, to realize she was safe now from the abuse she had suffered. But what a glorious day it was, when the King called a national holiday, a day of rejoicing, and brought Princess Eve out on the palace balcony for all the people to see! Then, at last, the story could be told, that Sadie the slave was really Eve the Princess and that she was home, safe at last!

18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. (Romans 8:18-19 NLT)

Biscuit Bank and The Nice Lady

The Nice Lady at the Biscuit Bank or How my faith in US Bank and the banking system was restored.

Driving from Bend, OR to Tacoma, WA we usually stop at Safeway in Gresham, OR.  It’s about half way, there’s food and restrooms at McDonalds or Safeway, and Jean has usually managed to get the Safeway gasoline discount up to 10 cents per gallon.

Recently we stopped and filled up at Safeway, then drove over to the Safeway store to get some lunch from the deli and use the restrooms.  On the way through the parking lot, Jean suggested we stop at the US Bank branch there and use the drive-up window to make a deposit she had ready.

As we drove up to the cashier’s window, Buddy stuck his head between the back of the driver’s seat and the door, as he does, and looked intently at the cashier through the window.  She remarked on his single-minded intensity and apologized that they were out of dog-treats.  The lady went away with our deposit and in a couple of minutes another cashier came to the window with our receipt, saw Buddy still hopefully looking out the window, and said, “Sorry, we’re all out of dog treats!”

We drove over and parked at the Safeway store and Jean went inside to get our lunch while I walked Buddy in the open field just behind the store.  As we finished our walk, Buddy having finished his important business, we were walking back toward the car across the parking lot.  I heard someone call out, “Oh, there you are!  You’re such a cutie!”  I was going to just keep walking, I get that all the time, you know, but the caller would not be ignored.

We got almost to the car and she came almost running up to us and said (to Buddy) “You looked so disappointed I just had to drop everything and come over to Safeway to get some dog treats.  I’m so glad I found you!”  Whereupon she gave Buddy not one but two dog treats and started back toward the bank.

Buddy and I both thanked her and I carried one of the dog biscuits and he the other as we went back to the car to wait for Jean.

Her thoughtfulness restored both Buddy’s and my faith and confidence in US Bank.  My regret is that I didn’t have the presence of mind to ask her name.  She is a really nice lady.

Editing Stuff I’ve Written

I’m compiling a year’s worth of my GraceNotes daily devotionals into a book. I’m working with the devotionals from 2009, when I was reading in the New Living Translation, using my usual through-the-Bible-in-a-year reading plan.

These devotionals became the first year of the daily GraceNotes by email series and I was beginning to work at making my writing a little tighter and limiting myself to a page of text for each devotional article.

Now that I’m putting them in a book, I’m learning a lot! For one thing, a book page doesn’t hold as many words as an 8.5 X 11” sheet of paper! So to fit each devotional on a page in the devotional book, I’ve got to trim some words from some of them.

I also discovered that my devotionals varied by as much as 35% in length. So it makes sense to work toward a more consistent length for each and all of them. This requires editing. That means cutting out some words that at one point I felt were necessary words – words that had to be present in order to say what I intended to say.

In this process (there are 365 devotional articles to read and adjust as required!) I’m learning a couple of other things as well. I just realized, after painfully going through the first 100 or so articles, that I am writing better now than I did two years ago and it’s worthwhile to make some changes that make it better for the folks who will read it!

Another thing I realized at about the same time is that these are my words and I am free to do what I want with them! I’m not obligated to leave a paragraph in if it makes the article too long and if I can get the message across without it. I can just cut it out and no one but me will even know it was there. And that it’s gone! Amazing!

Anyhow, this is a healthy process for me. It’s also plain old hard work! And that’s good for me as well.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress as we go along.

Seven Spanish Angels

I’m writing this at about one a.m. and that’s not the wisest time to write something that someone else may eventually read!  Oh well, let’s roll.

I woke up from about two hours’ fitful sleep and discovered I’d been dreaming some pretty weird dreams accompanied by the words and music of “Seven Spanish Angels” by Ray Charles and Willie Nelson.  I vowed never again to listen to that song on YouTube just before going to bed.

Seven Spanish Angels is probably not a song you want to base your theology on, at least not exclusively.  “There were seven Spanish angels, at the altar of the sun.  They were praying for the lovers, in the valley of the gun..”  It goes on…

YouTube is becoming a universe in itself.  A couple of years ago, when I’d search YouTube for an obscure song that only I and four other people on earth would even think of or remember, I’d be lucky to find even a jumpy, low-res video from a hand-held recorder in a low-light setting in someone’s basement.  Now I can search the same eclectic mental play-list and come up with dozens (well, three or four) versions shot professionally and recorded flawlessly.

Two other songs I thought of and listened to before heading off to bed a few hours ago are “The Late Night Benediction At The Y’All Come Back Saloon”  and “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys.”

If you’re reading this late at night, just before heading off to bed, I can only hope that you click on the link and have a listen.  Then good luck with getting it out of your brain!

Sweet Dreams!