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THE PHILOSOPHER’S AWAKENING — A CHRISTMAS ALLEGORYI

Posted by on Dec 22, 2014 in Blog, Devotions, Uncategorized | Comments Off on THE PHILOSOPHER’S AWAKENING — A CHRISTMAS ALLEGORYI

It was almost thirty years ago that I first read THE PHILOSOPHER’S AWAKENING by Mabel Lee Cooper. I’ve heard this Christmas allegory read by Paul Harvey, the well known American radio broadcaster, famous for his “‎The Rest of the Story” broadcasts several times in the years since. I’m sharing it now with you.  I wish you a blessed Christmas.

THE PHILOSOPHER’S AWAKENING

It was Christmas Eve. Outside the wind howled and the snow was falling; a dreadful blizzard was on the way. Inside his little house by the side of the road, a great philosopher sat comfortably by his warm fire with his books for companions. This philosopher was very wise. Many people found their way to his door to seek his advice and help. Not only was he wise, but also very kind; he loved all living creatures, and for his great kindness and wisdom he was beloved by all who knew him.

As he sat this stormy night by his warm fire he thought of all who might be out in the blizzard. He arose, raised his curtains high, and put a bright light in his window, saying, “All who must be out tonight can find shelter and warmth and welcome by my fire.”

As he stood by the window, suddenly he heard the sound of many voices singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among men!” It was the little band of Christians singing in their chapel nearby.

“This is Christmas Eve”, thought the philosopher to himself, “the night the Christians celebrate the coming of God to earth in the person of Jesus Christ.”

Now this philosopher, being in the habit of understanding the things he believed, had not joined the band of Christians. He thought the Christians’ way of life was the best way, but he could not understand the many mysteries of their faith. Above all, he could not understand the Incarnation. Why was it necessary for God to come to earth in the person of Jesus Christ? How could it be? Because he could not understand these things he would not become a Christian.

As he was thinking, suddenly he heard a noise at his window, caused by a flock of half frozen birds beating their wings against his window pane. The poor birds had been caught in the blizzard as they journeyed southward to a warmer climate.

The heart of the philosopher was touched, for he loved birds.  He opened wide his window, thinkBirds in the Snowing the birds would fly in where there was warmth. But the birds didn’t understand, and would not fly in. Putting on his warm fur coat, he went outside, determined to save them if he could. He tried to force them into his room, but they resisted. Several times he tried to clutch them in his hands, but they eluded his grasp. Then he took bread crumbs and scattered them on a little place he had cleared in the snow. The half-starved birds devoured the crumbs, and then, with renewed strength, tried to fly again.

The philosopher thought of his barn where the birds would be safe in the warm hay. He placed a ladder leading to the door of the barn and covered each round of the ladder with bread crumbs. He succeeded in attracting the birds to the ladder. They ate the crumbs on each round and reached the open door of the barn. But they wouldn’t fly in! How hard the philosopher tried to force them inside, but they didn’t understand; and in spite of his efforts he saw the birds drop, one by one, frozen to death, with a haven so close at hand.

The philosopher looked sadly at the birds he had tried so hard to save. “The great difference between the birds and myself,” he thought, “is that I know where a haven is; they did not. They did not understand that I was trying hard to save them, and I could not make them see that the haven was close by. There was only one way I could have saved them ― only by becoming a bird could I have made them understand!”

As he mused, suddenly he heard again the Christians singing: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!”

Then a great light seemed to come to the wise philosopher. “O God,” he cried, “there was no other way for You to make men understand ― no other way that even You could lead them and make them understand, save by becoming one of them!”

And then, in the drifting snow, he fell upon his knees and uttered from the depths of his soul, “I believe! I believe!”

Holy Family

 

 

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SALUTING AN UNCOMMON HERO

Posted by on Nov 11, 2014 in Blog, History, Uncategorized | 6 comments

FlagOn this Veteran’s Day, I want to give homage to Alex, a World War II hero, a United States Navy fighter ace and Medal of Honor nominee. Alex and I worked in the same Wells Fargo Bank office for six years back in the early 70’s. He worked upstairs in the Trust Department and I worked downstairs in the bank. I would see this man’s smiling face every day as he walked through the lobby and up the stairs. We would exchange pleasantries and at times chat in the lunch room. When my parents wanted to open a trust account, I set up the appointment and introduced my father, a retired Navy Captain, to Alex Vraciu, the Trust Officer.

By the mid 70’s I had relocated to the east coast and never saw Alex or most of my former coworkers again. One evening in the 80’s, I happened to be watching a program about World War II on Navy Seal 2television about the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot”. Since I had visited the Marianas chain of islands, I was particularly intrigued. They were telling the story of the famous Navy fighter pilot, Alex Vraciu, already designated an ace because of his previous kills. But on June 19, 1943 he destroyed six Japanese dive bombers in a period of eight minutes. My eyes were glued to the screen watching the film footage as they detailed Alex’s many victories and illustrious career. I was stunned. Alex knew I came from a Navy family, yet he never mentioned he had served in the Navy.

Alex was nominated for the Medal of Honor for his actions at the First Battle of the Philippine Sea, but it was later downgraded to a Navy Cross. By the time the war ended, Alex was the US Navy’s fourth highest ranking ace. After the war he became a test pilot and played a part in forming the post-war Naval Air Reserve program. He was promoted to Commander and led squadron VF-51 from 1956 to 1958. In 1964 he retired and went into banking.

Commander Alexander Vraciu in front of an FJ-3 "Fury" like the one in which he won top honors at the 1957 Naval Air Weapons Meet in El Centra, California. - U.S. Navy Photo

Commander Alexander Vraciu in front of an FJ-3 “Fury” like the one in which he won top honors at the 1957 Naval Air Weapons Meet in El Centra, California. – U.S. Navy Photo 

Alex Vraciu was a hero, not only for his naval exploits, but also because of his remarkable humility. I suspect he and my father probably shared some Navy stories, but my father was also a man who did not believe in calling attention to one’s success, so he never shared what he knew of Alex with me.

Alex Vraciu is now 96 years old.  

“Fair Winds and Following Seas” Alex.

 

A note on a webpage set up to honor Alex states “ALEX VRACIU HAS NO DIRECT CONNECTION WITH THIS WEBSITE. THIS IS AN EFFORT BY HIS FRIENDS AND ADMIRERS, NOT BY ALEX HIMSELF. HE IS TOO MODEST A MAN TO PETITION FOR REDRESS.”

http://www.alexvraciu.net/Alex-Vraciu-Bio.html

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FATHER’S DAY

Posted by on Jun 15, 2014 in Blog, Commentary, Uncategorized | Comments Off on FATHER’S DAY

Like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day can bring on a multitude of differing emotions, some painful  . . . some pleasant.

Some people will experience sadness on Father’s Day.  It may be a reminder of the loss of a beloved parent. Or it may be because not everyone has had a positive experience with their own father growing up, or as an adult.

Dad and the kids. I'm the short one.

Dad and the kids. I’m the short one.

 

It’s been said that the greatest gift a father can give his child is to love and respect their mother.

 

I was fortunate to have that, and it provided security and stability for me and my siblings. My father came from very humble beginnings, without any parental encouragement or support. Still, through hard

work and a desire for an education he got his degree in civil engineering from Ohio State University during the depression. I couldn’t ask for a better role model of integrity, loyalty, honesty, personal responsibility,

Ken - the best father a person could have

Ken – the best father a person could have

perseverance and thrift. I respected and loved this very reserved and quiet man.

 

 

This Father’s Day, I celebrate my precious husband who is not only a wonderful father, but has been like a father to my sons. I also honor my sons and a son-in-law. These three men are doing a terrific job loving their wives and raising their children.

 

Chris & Christy's Family

Chris & Christy’s Family

 

 

Jeff & Jill's family

Jeff & Jill’s family

Jimmy & Sanja's Family

Jimmy & Sanja’s Family

 

Some people who have had a poor, or non-existent, relationship with their earthly father may have a more difficult time understanding or accepting the love, provision, and protection from our Heavenly Father. My prayer is that those living with that disappointment, may come to know that by opening their heart to a relationship with Jesus, they can experience the unconditional love, and the provision, presence, protection, and peace with the Perfect Father. 

 

 

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A Local Tragedy ~ And The Rest of the Story

Posted by on Jun 3, 2014 in Blog, Commentary, Uncategorized | Comments Off on A Local Tragedy ~ And The Rest of the Story

“You intended to harm me,

but God intended it for good

to accomplish what is now being done,

the saving of many lives.”

Genesis 50:20 (NIV)

Sometimes you hear a story that makes such an impact it’s hard to get it out of your mind. Yesterday in church, one of our pastors asked for prayers for the families of a tragedy that took place last Friday in Norfolk. We did not know the details at the time.

Since then we’ve learned that a young man, 17-year-old Mark Rodriguez was inside his car on his way home from Norfolk Christian Schools graduation activities when he was killed by a suspect on an apparent random shooting spree. According to a newspaper article, the teen was a rising senior and was on his way home to Virginia Beach, after dropping off a friend off in Norfolk when he was murdered.

Police say the trigger-man was 29-year-old James Brown. A police officer and the gunman were also killed later in the evening.

A former teacher said Rodriguez was “wise beyond his years, a leader in the classroom and in church”.

“All of us who interacted with him just saw a very special young man with great talents and great gifts that we believe God used in a powerful way, even if he was only allowed to be here for 17 years,” noted Pat McCarty, Head of Norfolk Christian Schools.

Mark was a photographer who posted beautiful pictures to his blog, and

Mark Rodriguez

Mark Rodriguez

sometimes he also posted his thoughts. He wrote about his passion for photography, people, and God.

“By opening my eyes to the world around me, I began to realize how blessed I am and how much I take for granted. Within a couple of years, I developed a love for people and decided I wanted to show these people how awesome they are, and challenged myself to capture their personalities and passions in photography.”

Mark wasn’t afraid to show his faith. He was involved with music ministry at Norfolk Christian Schools and served as a member of the praise and worship team.

Mark Rodriguez parents

Mark Rodriguez parents

Mark is survived by his parents and three younger siblings. Mark’s father, Carlos, serves as a pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Virginia Beach, where Mark also played bass guitar for worship services.

A Memorial Celebration service for Mark has been planned for Wednesday, June 4 at 1 p.m. at Tabernacle Church in Norfolk.

People will ask why such a senseless crime, why did we lose such a fine young man? We live in a fallen world where evil often seems to prevail. But God is greater and He can use evil deeds and tragedies such as this as an opportunity to reach the lost.

This tragedy has touched many lives, but there is something remarkable about God’s presence and provision in the midst of the chaos. On April 5th, 2014, Mark wrote a post about heaven on his website, never knowing he would see heaven so soon.

God knew in April the events that would transpire last Friday. And I believe the Lord inspired Mark to post his thoughts on Heaven when he did. What a gift for Mark’s family, friends, and strangers who will read it and see the certainty of heaven that Mark had; a hope that only people who trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior can have. It won’t minimize the loss of this remarkable young man, but perhaps God will use it to draw others to Himself and grow His Kingdom. That’s my prayer.

Mark’s blogpost on HEAVEN is below or go to his website:
HTTP://MARKRODRIGUEZPHOTOGRAPHY.COM/2014/04/05/HEAVEN/

HEAVEN 4.5.14
“I’ve been meditating on heaven a lot lately, and I must say, it wells my eyes with tears of joy every now and then. What a beautiful thought that one day, I will be completely in the presence of God and will actually be able to feel the magnitude of all his love and peace with no earthly fears or worries to distract me. The joy that I feel now, the serenity I feel now, will finally be made perfect.
The presence of God here on earth is enough to make me shudder in wonder. I’ve had some incredible moments in life that can only be explained as miracles where I see my Abba, my Father move in love for me so powerfully; it brings me to my knees in amazement. To think that one day I will be perfectly and totally in his presence….I’m definitely going to need a heavenly body because the joy he fills me with now sometimes makes me feel like I’m about to explode!
I love the image of Heaven because it is perfect, perfect peace. Every quarrel, every hurt, it’s all gonna be resolved. All of God’s children will be together and we won’t hurt each other anymore; we’ll finally understand how to love perfectly. And the fact that we’ll all be worshiping the Lord together in one place, forever….that amazes me.

It makes me so excited to think of the wedding feast awaiting us when we go to be with the Lord. I imagine streets filled with rejoicing, loud trumpets, wedding bells….I’m sure it’ll be far more incredible than I can comprehend now, and I love that.

God is super good. I can’t wait to be with him forever
When we arrive at eternity’s shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring
Your bride will come together and we’ll sing
You’re beautiful

 

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MEMORIAL DAY ~ Is The Unknown Soldier Truly Unknown?

Posted by on May 23, 2014 in Blog, Commentary, History, Uncategorized | Comments Off on MEMORIAL DAY ~ Is The Unknown Soldier Truly Unknown?

Flag

Have you ever heard a story that was so unforgettable that you even remember where you were when it was told? I can recall such a story our teacher shared with our class in May of 1959, an account that has remained burned in my memory ever since. It goes like this:

There was a little boy, about five years old who was the delight of his mother and father. One day he raced outside and began playing near a tulip bed. His blond curls were almost as yellow as the tulips. When the sun came out from behind a cloud, several yellow butterflies hovered over his head. His mother marveled and said, “They think you’re a flower, Dick. It’s good luck to have a butterfly land on your head. A butterfly is the symbol of immortality.”

Cloudless Sulpher Butterfly

Cloudless Sulpher Butterfly

 

The mother told her husband of the butterfly event and they looked for pictures of yellow butterflies to be able to identify what variety they were. It was determined that they were Cloudless Sulphur butterflies that migrate from north to south and back each spring and autumn. They often hide near the ground and only come out when the sun shines.

The young boy’s father died when he was only eleven which drew themother and son even closer to each other. According to his mother, Dick continued to grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man. He grew into a loving man of upstanding character and he was his mother’s joy.

Even though he completed his education at a university, when war in Europe broke out and America joined in, he decided not to enter service as an officer but as a dough boy.

Like any mother she expressed her concern for him, but Dick replied, “The best thing to do with a life is to give it away, you taught me that and this certainly is the best way to give it, for our America. Nothing can happen that’s unbearable.” After his training, Dick was shipped overseas, and for a long time the mail they shared kept he and his mother as close as possible. But the day came when she received a notice that Dick was missing in action.

The mother never lost hope, even as the war drew to a close and the men began returning home. She thought of her son as a symbol of all that was good in America even if he never returned home.

Congress approved a resolution March 4, 1921, providing for the burial of an unidentified American Soldier at a memorial to the war to be built in Arlington National Cemetery. Dick’s mother felt certain that the Unknown Soldier was her beloved son. She saved money so that she could travel to and attend the dedication of the monument and she asked God for a sign that it was her precious Dick who was to be interred there.

On Memorial Day that same year an Unknown Soldier was exhumed from each of four cemeteries in France. These remains were placed in identical caskets and in October a highly decorated, wounded veteran chose the Unknown by placing white roses on one of the caskets. This would be the Unknown Soldier that would represent all of the unknowns. On a very solemn Armistice Day Nov. 11, 1921, President Warren G. Harding officiated at the interment ceremonies in Arlington. Inscribed on the tomb are the words,

“Here Rests in Honored Glory

An American Soldier Known But To God.”

Dick’s mother was at the Navy Yard when the ship carrying the flag draped coffin arrived and she was in attendance at the long ceremony. The next day she was among thousands who attended the internment; still certain it was her son who would represent all the missing. She only needed the sign she believed God would provide. She gave a soldier her own flowers to add to the many already gracing the grave. When the ceremony ended the attendees drifted away, and she was left to wonder, where was God’s sign?

She went home to Kentucky but returned to Arlington Cemetery the next April. She scattered yellow tulips on the grave and pleaded with God for the reassurance she sought. She bent and kissed the yellow tulips and got up to leave. As the noon hour bells rung, she turned to give a last look at the tomb where she saw a mass of Cloudless Sulphur butterflies hovering over the tomb before lighting on the yellow tulips. She believed it was the sign she had asked for, and was convinced God had given her the sign that here rested her son, a proud and patriotic American still serving his nation.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

 

Over the years I’ve wondered about the veracity of this story and, with access that the internet allows, it was easy to research. Yellow Butterflies, by Mary Raymond Shipman Andrews was published by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1922. Whether the author’s story was entirely fiction or based on actual events remains a mystery, much like the American WWI hero entombed at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington.

To learn more about the fascinating history of the Tomb of the Unknowns and the remarkable sentinels who stand guard every day, see:

http://www.army.mil/article/38013/

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MOTHER’S DAY ~ A MIXED BLESSING?

Posted by on May 6, 2014 in Blog, Commentary, Journal, Uncategorized | Comments Off on MOTHER’S DAY ~ A MIXED BLESSING?

It’s safe to say we all had mothers, but Mother’s Day can bring on a multitude of differing emotions, some painful some pleasant. The same is true for Father’s Day and often for the same reasons, but since it’s May, and for the purpose of this commentary we will focus on Mother’s Day.

When our nation celebrates Mother’s Day, one is bombarded for weeks ahead by merchant’s pleas to purchase cards, gifts, and flowers for those special Mothers in our lives. On a walk through any card shop in early spring we will see Mother’s Day cards honoring mothers, step-mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, mother’s–in-law, daughters, nieces, and friends. What is lost in all the commercial promotions is that Mother’s Day can also elicit emotions that no one wants to celebrate. Not everyone has had a positive experience with their own mother growing up, or as an adult. Some people find Mother’s Day a time of great sadness because it is a painful reminder of the loss of a beloved parent. What about the woman who has longed to be a mother, but for whatever reason, she’s never experienced that joy? That Sunday can pierce her heart annually. And for some of us who were mothers, or were about to be a mother, but lost that precious child, it can be an agonizing or a bittersweet day.

Mom & Me

Mom & Me

I was very blessed to have a terrific mother with whom I had a wonderful relationship. She died of an excruciatingly painful disease when I was thirty, and I will always feel her loss, and regret that my children never knew her. Providentially, when my father remarried, he gave me a stepmother whom I loved and enjoyed for many years. I’ve also been fortunate to have mother’s-in-law whom I loved, respected, and felt fortunate to have in my life. There are also a few women in my life who have been mentors for me. In their own way, they have been like mothers. I am grateful to have had all of these ladies in my life and I learned much from each of them. Now, I have daughter’s-in law and a stepdaughter, each a mother, doing a terrific job raising their children.  

 

Mom & Sons 2001

Mom & Sons USNA Graduation 2001

 

So this Mother’s Day I give thanks to all the “Mothers” in my life and to my two sons who gave me the privilege of being a mother. I will also pray for a special blessing, and healing for those women who may find this holiday less than joyous. 

 

What are your thoughts on Mother’s Day?

 

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