Remembering Those Who Gave All

“Poor is the nation that has no heroes. Poorer still is the nation that, having heroes, fails to remember and honor them.” Marcus Tullius Cicero

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. It’s a day we mark with picnics and parades. The unofficial beginning of summer, yet so much more than the chance to eat hot dogs and buy a new swimsuit.

Decoration Day, as the holiday was originally known, began after the Civil War–our bloodiest conflict. It was a time when a divided country was trying to heal–perhaps as we are today.

We mark the day on the last Monday of May–but May 30 had been the selected date before three-day weekends became a priority. May 30 reminds us of no notable battles from the Civil War. The day only reminds us of those who’ve given themselves for the cause of country–our country.

We enrich ourselves in this remembering.

Remembering those who’ve done noble things tells us we can be noble too.

Of his sailors and marines at Iwo Jima in World War II, Admiral Chester Nimitz said, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.” Iwo Jima is famous for the flag-raising image that is now a statue.

Three of the six flag raisers died in battle.

My father was in the South Pacific as a Navy medic. He was someone who went to war to make sure others came home safely. Someone who hoped not to see battle–but was prepared in case he did,

“Courage, G.K. Chesterton said, “is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.”

Today we remember those who wanted to live but fought anyway. Some came home. Some gave themselves instead.

Today, we honor those who gave all.

Photo Credit: Pexels and National Geographic

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Value of Wonder

“We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.” G.K. Chesterton~

One year between Christmas and New Year’s Day, I had the blessing of being sick. Good timing. After Christmas. When there’s time for not doing much.

One day: A granddaughter was sick along with me. Two bad cases of winter yuck: coughing and head stuff. We each claimed a couch and a blanket. Since she is the other Rod Serling fan in the family, I put in a DVD of Twilight Zone episodes. Black and white images flickered in the glow of a wood fire and a lit Christmas tree.

We found a twilight of wonder with Serling voicing over our dreams.

The next day: Still sick, but in solitude, I wanted to stitch away some time. To finish restoring a quilt. If I finished it (and applied some Lysol), two granddaughters could dream underneath it for our then-annual New Year’s overnight.

As I sewed, I searched for some background diversion. Flipping channels, I found two-inch deep television. I settled on Netflix and discovered The Little Prince.

It’s a story within a story. An eccentric neighbor relates the story of The Little Prince to a young girl. Her life is consumed with the essentials of preparing for adulthood, her mother having mapped out every waking moment. No time for dreaming. No time for wonder. Only enterprise, but without the vision of wonder.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish,” Proverbs 29:18.

The neighbor shows the girl the stars. Beyond them, she sees what is truly essential—what the neighbor himself has already learned from the little prince.

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

When we find wonder—the invisible that shapes our souls—we learn the essence of who we are. And that essence speaks in everything we do.

We learn that the world can be full of patient wonder. And patience is not found in a thirty-minute sitcom that resolves a superficial crisis.

Wonder takes us deeper than two inches. It teaches us to endure. And endurance pays off with a prize.

The prince: “Well, I must endure the presence of a few caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies.”

Patience is, of course, a virtue. And wonder will always teach us virtue. C.S. Lewis shows us what happens when we lack vision and thereby lack wonder: “We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise.”

Without wonder, we have only empty enterprise. We have no virtue and no vision.

On the first night of the New Year, two young girls and I settled down with a bowl of popcorn and The Little Prince. Then they dreamed under the completed quilt.

Soon enough they will be grown-ups, at times consumed with the essentials of everyday living, but the prince reminds us that,

“All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.”

May we count ourselves among the few who remember—because only those who remember that wonder comes from God can participate in it with Him.

“Then Joshua said to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.’” Joshua 3:5


Photo Credit: Nancy E. Head

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

HEADlines: Emerging from the Cave–Moving from Darkness to Light

Published 12/28/19 in the Mustard Seed Sentinel.

Humans, history says, emerged from a cave. We drew pictures of animals on the walls around us.

A great thinker, Plato, told a story about a man in a cave. This man is bound. Unable to see anything except the shadows cast upon the wall in front of him. He perceives these shadows to be the sum total of reality.

As Plato’s story goes, the man one day escapes his bonds, leaves his cave, and goes out in broad daylight for the first time in his memory. The bright sunlight blinds him. He needs a guide to discern this place, this reality.

The man’s eyes adjust to the sunlight. He finds his way. And he decides to reenter the cave and tell the others still in bondage there what he has discovered: They are only looking at shadows.

They are missing all that is real.

But they are content. They call him a lunatic. They know what is real. It’s right in front of them. Plain as day.

They stew in the darkness of the cave.

Emerging from the cave makes a difference. We move from darkness into light. Into a blinding light to which the eyes of our souls must adjust.

British writer G.K. Chesterton pointed out that one man who was born in a cave grew up to an unjust death. Then He emerged from his cave tomb. At no point did his eyes need to acclimate to the light. He had created it. He spoke it real and it became reality.

People still inhabit the cave. They have their own “reality”. And their view of reality affects their view of Christmas.

When I was a radio news reporter, I wanted to do a special Christmas feature for the morning drive program.

I wrote a poem to record to music, but I wanted another voice along with my own on the piece. So I went to my kids’ elementary school and interviewed six first graders. I asked them, “What is Christmas?”

Three of them talked about Jesus. But the other three made no mention of Him. To them, Christmas was all about Santa and presents. Nothing more.

My sample was small and young. Hardly a statistical representation of first graders, let alone Americans in general.

But my results actually came close to how Americans view Christmas today. Pew has issued a study showing that only 55 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday.

That’s down from 59 percent as recently as 2013.

HEADlines at Mustard Seed Sentinel

(Credit: Walter Chavez)

Many of us bemoan such news. But our complaining about the de-sacralization of the holiday hasn’t changed the minds of those enjoying a holiday they deem secular. All our griping has not turned a tide toward keeping the day holy.

The Pew study investigates belief (or disbelief) in the details of the Christmas story: Jesus’ virgin birth, the shepherds, and angels.

Belief in those details, of course, reflects faith in who Christ is. Those details hold great meaning. Christ is sinless because he had no human father. God as his Father means he is perfect God as well.

When Christ was born, God the Father sent angels to the socially lowest of people–the disregarded, the outcasts–the shepherds. The presence of shepherds within walking distance of Bethlehem indicates that Christ was not born in December. Shepherds typically did not keep their flocks near villages because of the odor they caused. They would be nowhere near Bethlehem except during a 30 period before Passover–a period of preparation for the yearly sacrifice.

The shepherds outside Bethlehem were Levitical shepherds. Ironically, they were ritualistically unclean. They walked through feces. They touched dead things.

The angel told them to find a baby lying in a manger and wrapped in swaddling cloths. To shepherds raising sheep for Levitical sacrifice, swaddling cloths would be vastly significant. For a lamb to qualify for sacrifice it had to be perfect, without blemish.

The shepherds swaddled lambs intended for sacrifice–they wrapped them in cloths to protect them. The angel saying that they would find the infant wrapped in swaddling cloths indicated that the baby would be a sacrifice. That baby was the Messiah they had long awaited.

Many would have expected a Jewish king to be born in Jerusalem–the city of the king–not Bethlehem. But Bethlehem was the City of David–a keeper of sheep.

God’s choice of a birthplace for his son wasn’t just a fulfillment of prophecy–which it was. It was also a symbol that Christ the King would be the fulfillment of sacrifice on our behalf.

Christ was the sinless Son of God, the perfect Lamb to be sacrificed for the shepherds’ sins–for our sins. Those are details many today disregard.

If we find the cultural embrace of a secular Christmas disturbing, we can still keep the true Christmas in our hearts. We can heed the angels’ message of “Fear not.”

“Don’t take this sobering news [of the Pew study] as a reason to rend your garments and wail. Use it as reason to make your family’s celebration of Advent and Christmas more religious.” Rod Dreher.

As we do, we remember that, on that first Christmas, God invited the unclean to see His Son.

Those who reject him today—or ignore him—are yet among the invited. The invited who refuse to come out of the cave.

The baby’s birth in one cave, and the man’s emergence from another, marks a division in the history of humanity. G.K. Chesterton writes,

“There is even a shadow of such a fancy in the fact that animals were again present [for Christ’s birth]; for it was a cave used as a stable. . . . It was here that a homeless couple had crept underground with the cattle when the doors . . . had been shut in their faces; and it was here beneath the very feet of the passers-by, in a cellar under the very floor of the world, that Jesus Christ was born. . . . God also was a Cave-Man, and had also traced strange shapes of creatures, curiously coloured, upon the wall of the world; but the pictures that he made had come to life.”

We are all creatures of a cave–a cave in which we hide from truth or an empty cave from which we have emerged. Every person we encounter is someone who has discovered reality, or is still in a cave, or has come out but cannot yet fully discern through blinding light.

Chesterton again: “Man is the microcosm; man is the measure of all things; man is the image of God. These are the only real lessons to be learnt in the cave, and it is time to leave it for the open road.”

Christ brings peace on earth–within our hearts. He is the perfect sacrifice for us. When we celebrate him, our silence can overwhelm the noise and darkness.

Embrace His peace. Celebrate him. Shine the true light. Keep faith in dark days and steep in his peace. Speak the glory of God to each person you meet. Celebrate his birthday throughout the year in awe of our great God.

Lead photo credit: Bruno Van Der Kraan, Unsplash

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wonder in Sick Days

“We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders,” G.K. Chesterton.
 Last week, I had the blessing of being sick. Good timing. After Christmas. When there’s time for not doing much.
Wednesday: A granddaughter is sick along with me. Two bad cases of winter yuck: coughing and head stuff. We each claim a couch and a blanket. I put in a DVD of Twilight Zone episodes. Black and white images flicker in the glow of a wood fire and a lit tree.
We find a twilight of wonder with Rod Serling voicing over our dreams. Continue reading “Wonder in Sick Days”