Remembering June 14

June 13th, 2017  |   

It’s June 13th, and I am alone in a motel in Bloomington, IL, on my way back to Charleston. I have been on the road for almost two weeks.

I have been spending grandfather-granddaughter time. You see, I drove to Asheville, NC, to perform the wedding ceremony for Granddaughter Katherine, and then went on to Minneapolis for Granddaughter Eva’s high school graduation.

Tomorrow is June 14th, the last leg of my trip home. It is also an anniversary date linked to June 14, 1958, the day Judy and I were married.

I can’t help but smile when I think that these two granddaughter’s I have been with, and their mothers, and the entire Lewis family, would not have been around, if Judy and I had not been married fifty-nine years ago.

On top of that, I have to laugh out loud every time I tell someone the rather amusing way Judy and I met.

In 1954, both of us were college freshman, and seven men were paired up with seven women for a big blind date night. The woman who arranged the evening was responsible for deciding the pairing. As Judy would tell it, this woman was actually practically blind. Almost nose to nose with Judy, she said, “I think you would be good for Jim.”

Two weeks after Judy and I were married, we found ourselves in Quantico, Virginia. Leaving Judy in a nearby motel, I reported for basic training, with an eventual deployment to Southeast Asia as a infantry platoon commander. As I think about the precarious state of the world back then, there is a stunning similarity to what is taking place today.

While driving tomorrow, I intend to stay away from radio news. There will be plenty of time for that when I get back to my routines at home. While driving today, I listened to Jeff Sessions ramble on about what he can’t recall. Tomorrow, I will listen to music and think about that wedding 59 years ago, and certainly feel grateful for that woman with poor vision who somehow could see which woman would be good for me.

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A Lesson In Glassblowing

June 2nd, 2017  |   

A couple of weeks ago, daughter Debby and I took to the road and went to the Shenandoah Valley. We were there to do some studying, while sightseeing. In Staunton, Virginia, we visited the Sunspot Studio and watched a glassblower. Back and forth to the blazing kiln, he blew, caressed, pounded, fired, and shaped a piece of glass. The finished product was a lovely glass mushroom, a popular item for sale in the adjacent shop,

I asked the glassblower what he enjoyed making the most. Mushrooms? Not really. I was delighted by his answer. He said that he loved to create something new, because it caused him to get back in touch with the reason he had become a glassblower.

Creating something new reignited the passion that was at the heart of his artwork.

I have been thinking about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, the three men whose story is depicted in the Hebrew Scriptures. In the book of Daniel we read about how Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, threw them into a fiery furnace because they would not bow down and worship the golden image he had created.

The flames, however, did not consume them. The furnace, if you will, became a refiner’s fire, not a crematorium. The furnace became a kiln. Hardened, rather than destroyed, the men walked free from the flames.

Historians view Nebuchadnezzar as having been insane. There is good circumstantial evidence that President Trump is mentally ill. He is our very own Nebuchadnezzar, putting us, and the world we live in, through a fiery ordeal. Could there be any more outward and visible sign of this than his denial of global warming?

With that story in mind, I see life moving about in the midst of this holocaust. There are numerous signs, not only resistance, but creative efforts to thwart, circumvent, override, and defeat Nebuchadnezzar, who can be seen more and more as a tragic, lonely, isolated, disturbed man in a sheltered tower. There is a creative spirit making itself know among individuals and community efforts, despite his presence.

The play that Debby and I saw in Staunton was Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.” It is a marvelous testimony to the indomitable power of human beings. Yes, often ignorant of what’s going on around us, blind to the indestructible eternal realities that are readily present, and yet we are still capable of loving mercy and prizing justice, and putting it to work.

Wilder’s words are better than mine: “We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars . . . everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.”

Add comment June 2nd, 2017

A Little Boy In A Marine Uniform

May 29th, 2017  |   

As the Memorial Day weekend comes to a close, always a bittersweet holiday, thinking about war and death, I can’t get a little boy off my mind. His picture was on the front page of the Charleston Gazette last week. He was dressed in a Marine Corps Dress Blue uniform. These costumes can be purchased at Walmart or Amazon. He was marching in the Armed Forces Day Parade in South Charleston.

The little boy brought to mind my putting on a Marine Corps Dress Blue uniform in June, 1958, when I was 22-years-old, newly married and on my way to Marine Corps Basic Training School in Quantico, Virginia.

When I set sail for duty in Southeast Asia, just 10 days after my son Stephen was born, I knew nothing about Southeast Asia, its people or history. There’s nothing unusual, however, about that. The troops we have sent to fight in places like Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, too often had no idea where they were going, and have had little or no knowledge about the designated enemy they might be called upon to kill.

It’s highly likely that this boy, and plenty more boys and girls his age, will be called upon to go to war. That’s because our nation is in what’s being called a “perpetual war,” more aptly described as an “endless war.” Its roots are buried in the Vietnam War, and a long list of wars that followed that conflict. Sad to say, I see no end in sight. Which means more bloodshed, more military graves, and more little boys and girls trained in the art of killing.

Worthy of note is the fact that since 1991, both political parties—all four presidents—have taken our nation into a series of senseless wars with no exit in sight. We have wasted lives as well as financial and human resources that could have been put to a better use, in an effort to shore up our democracy. The sacrifice has been enormous.

This little boy, in his Marine Dress Blue uniform, is the next generation in our militarized state.

President Trump has just authorized $110 billion worth of military armament to Saudi Arabia. Since Saudi Arabia is supplying weaponry to the Taliban in Afghanistan and Syria, these weapons will be used against our troops. This is outrageous and we must protest his misguided action. If this boy should ever put on an authentic military uniform, I do not want him to face weapons made in the U.S.A.

Since WW II, we have been engaged in wars that have not been constitutionally declared by Congress. This boy may march in the streets of South Charleston, but he should not be sent to any war that has not been declared by Congress.

One last thought before bedtime. Our nation may be too steeped in violence and war for our children to learn, particularly in school and at home, that there are alternatives to military service. Our nation has an honorable and patriotic tradition of conscientious objection to war. I wish to God our places of worship would rise to the task of teaching our children about the nonviolent options available for patriotic service.


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Nations will hammer swords into plows, their spears into sickles, there shall be no more training for war. Each person will sit under his or her fig tree in peace.
Micah 4:3 - 4