Memorial Day

Normandy CemeterySince we will observe Memorial Day this coming Monday, I thought it appropriate to post next week’s Perspectives article early. So from my file come two stories with an important connection.

STORY NUMBER ONE

Many years ago, Al Capone virtually owned Chicago. Capone wasn’t famous for anything heroic. He was notorious for enmeshing the windy city in everything from bootlegged booze and prostitution to murder.

Capone had a lawyer nicknamed “Easy Eddie.” He was Capone’s lawyer for a good reason.  Eddie was very good! In fact, Eddie’s skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for a long time.

To show his appreciation, Capone paid him very well. Not only was the money big, but Eddie got special dividends, as well. For instance, he and his family occupied a fenced-in mansion with live-in help and all of the conveniences of the day. The estate was so large that it filled an entire Chicago City block. Eddie lived the high life of the Chicago mob and gave little consideration to the atrocity that went on around him.

Eddie did have one soft spot, however. He had a son that he loved dearly. Eddie saw to it that his young son had clothes, cars, and a good education. Nothing was withheld. Price was no object. And, despite his involvement with organized crime, Eddie even tried to teach him right from wrong. Eddie wanted his son to be a better man than he was. Yet, with all his wealth and influence, there were two things he couldn’t give his son; he couldn’t pass on a good name or a good example.

One day, Easy Eddie reached a difficult decision. Easy Eddie wanted to rectify wrongs he had done. He decided he would go to the authorities and tell the truth about Al “Scarface” Capone, clean up his tarnished name, and offer his son some semblance of integrity.* To do this, he would have to testify against The Mob, and he knew that the cost would be great. So, he testified.

Within the year, Easy Eddie’s life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago Street. But in his eyes, he had given his son the greatest gift he had to offer, at the greatest price he could ever pay. Police removed from his pockets a rosary, a crucifix, a religious medallion, and a poem clipped from a magazine. The poem read:

“The clock of life is wound but once, and no man has the power to tell just when the hands will stop, at late or early hour. Now is the only time you own. Live, love, toil with a will. Place no faith in time. For the clock may soon be still.”

STORY NUMBER  TWO

World War II produced many heroes. One such man was Lieutenant Commander Butch O’Hare.

He was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific.

One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission. After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top off his fuel tank. He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship.

His flight leader told him to return to the carrier. Reluctantly, he dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet. As he was returning to the mother ship, he saw something that turned his blood cold; a squadron of Japanese aircraft was speeding its way toward the American fleet.

The American fighters were gone on a sortie, and the fleet was all but defenseless. He couldn’t reach his squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet. Nor could he warn the fleet of the approaching danger. There was only one thing to do. He must somehow divert them from the fleet.

Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dove into the formation of Japanese planes.  Wing-mounted 50 calibers blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another. Butch wove in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until all his ammunition was finally spent.

Undaunted, he continued the assault. He dove at the planes, trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible, rendering them unfit to fly. Finally, the exasperated Japanese squadron took off in another direction. Deeply relieved, Butch O’Hare and his tattered fighter limped back to the carrier.

Upon arrival, he reported in and related the event surrounding his return. The film from the gun-camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It showed the extent of Butch’s daring attempt to protect his fleet. He had, in fact, destroyed five enemy aircraft.

This took place on February 20, 1942, and for that action Butch became the Navy’s first Ace of World War II, and the first Naval Aviator to win the Medal of Honor.

A year later Butch was killed in aerial combat at the age of 29. His home town would not allow the memory of this WW II hero to fade, and today, O’Hare Airport in Chicago is named in tribute to the courage of this great man.

So, the next time you find yourself at O’Hare International, give some thought to visiting Butch’s memorial displaying his statue and his Medal of Honor. It’s located between Terminals 1 and 2.

WHAT DO THESE TWO STORIES HAVE TO DO WITH EACH OTHER?

Butch O’Hare was “Easy Eddie’s” son.

*NOTE: For those who check such things, online watchdog Snopes says: “When Easy Eddie did eventually provide information that aided federal authorities in sending Capone to prison for income tax evasion, it was far less likely that he did it because he had an attack of conscience, wanted to right the wrongs he’d done, or sought to teach his son the value of integrity. More probably he turned state’s evidence because he could see the handwriting on the wall: Capone was going to be nailed with or without his assistance, but by doing the government a favor, Eddie could keep himself out of prison. Some sources even suggest the connections Eddie made by turning government informant were what got his son Butch a berth at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.”

Notwithstanding that grounding of “Easy Eddie’s” story in reality, these two stories demonstrate that even when children are raised in less than desirable moral circumstances, they still have the possibility of becoming people of integrity, valor and courage. Eddie O’Hare was such a man.

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150 Years of Blessings!

Zion WalburgThat was the theme of this past Sunday’s observation of the 50th ordination anniversaries of three retired or semi-retired men who are also active members of Zion Lutheran Church in Walburg, Texas. That’s the rural congregation of which Terry and I are active members. We’re blessed to have Rev. John Davenport as senior pastor, his wonderful wife Lynn at his side.

The three men and their wives are:

  • Bob and Jean Greene
  • Wilbern and Betty Michalk
  • Glenn and Sandra O’Shoney

These three men, accompanied and supported by their dear spouses, have served the Lord and his church faithfully in numerous capacities:

  • Bob Greene: parish pastor; President and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of the South; Chairman, LCMS Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance
  • Wilbern Michalk: parish pastor; mission developer; numerous circuit and district roles and responsibilities
  • Glenn O’Shoney: parish pastor; mission developer; President, Texas District LCMS; Chairman, LCMS Council of Presidents; Executive Director, LCMS World Mission

All three are graduates of Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, Ill., now in Fort Wayne, Ind. Bob and Wilbern graduated in 1963, Glenn in 1962. As one can tell, their 50th anniversary celebration, clearly appreciated by all, was a bit tardy. Better late than never!

Festivities of the day included a sermon focused on:

  • Thanksgiving to God for his blessings in the lives of these six men and women;
  • Biblical qualifications for the office of overseer/pastor and the difficulty/impossibility faced by every pastor in endeavoring to fulfill them completely;
  • The calling of God for all men and women who have been reconciled to God through Christ to be Christ’s ambassadors to the world.

The services were followed by a congregational lunch, including a touch of humor in a round of “The Not-So-Newly-Wed Game.” The game allowed these couples to share with the crowd some basic information about their lives, backgrounds, marriage, children and ministry. It was a fun way to help the congregation learn about these wonderfully dedicated and committed couples!

The idea was initially suggested by my dear friend, Dr. Will Sohns. The Board of Elders did most of the planning. I just preached and presided at the NSNWG. Not surprisingly, my dear wife Terry expressed words of appreciation to Jean, Betty and Sandra, and presented each of them a long stemmed rose to match their husbands’ boutonnieres.

You may want to consider something similar for your pastor, including retired men who may not have actually served your congregation officially but are dedicated and committed members. The honorees will be appreciative, your congregation will be blessed and God will be praised!

An Atheist’s View On Life

Thinking 1

 

 

Recently I read this clever yet poignant way of contrasting an atheist’s view on life with that of a Christian. Some complete sentences below, reading both down and back up to the top, include more than one line. I think you’ll be able to figure out where the punctuation marks belong!

 

An Atheist’s View on Life

I will live my life according to these beliefs
God does not exist
It is just foolish to think
That there is a God with a cosmic plan
That an all-powerful God brings redemption and healing to the pain and suffering in the world
Is a comforting thought, however
It
Is only wishful thinking
People can do as they please without eternal consequences
The idea that
I am deserving of Hell
Because of sin
Is a lie meant to make me a slave to those in power
“The more you have, the happier you will be”
Our existence has no grand meaning or purpose
In a world with no God
There is freedom to be who I want to be
But with God
Everything is fine
It is ridiculous to think
I am lost and in need of saving

A Christian’s View on Life
(Now read this from bottom to top, beginning with “I am lost …”)

Author Unknown

Cranky Old Man

Old Man 1From Facebook: When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a nursing home in an Australian country town, it was believed he had nothing left of any value. Later, the nurses went through his meager possessions and found this poem. It so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital. One nurse took it to Melbourne. It later appeared in magazines across the continent and now wings its way around the world over the Internet.

Cranky Old Man

What do you see, nurses? What do you see?
What are you thinking when you’re looking at me?
A cranky old man, not very wise,
Uncertain of habit, with faraway eyes.
Who dribbles his food and makes no reply,
When you say in a loud voice, ‘I do wish you’d try!’
Who seems not to notice the things that you do,
And forever is losing a sock or a shoe.
Who, resisting or not lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding, the long day to fill.
Is that what you’re thinking? Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse, you’re not looking at me.
I’ll tell you who I am as I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, as I eat at your will.
I’m a small child of Ten, with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters who love one another.
A young boy of Sixteen, with wings on his feet,
Dreaming that soon now a lover he’ll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty, my heart gives a leap,
Remembering the vows that I promised to keep.
At Twenty-Five now, I have young of my own,
Who need me to guide, a secure happy home.
A young man of Thirty, my kids now grown fast,
Bound to each other with ties that should last.
At Forty, my young sons have grown and are gone,
My wife still beside me to see I don’t mourn.
At Fifty, once more, babies play ’round my knee,
Again, we know children, my loved one and me.

Dark days are upon me, my wife is now dead,
I look at the future, I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing young ones of their own,
And I think of the years and the love that I’ve known.
And now I’m an old man and nature is cruel,
Its jest is to make old age look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles, grace and vigor depart,
There is now just a stone where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass a young man still dwells,
And now and again my old battered heart swells.
I remember the joys, I remember the pain,
And I’m loving and living life over again.
I think of the years, all too few, gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people, open and see:
Not a cranky old man,
Look closer! See ME!!

I’m reminded of Psalm 103 (selected verses):

Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.
The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.
Praise the LORD, O my soul!

 

Remember this poem and this Psalm when you next meet an older person whom you might brush aside without looking at the young soul within. By God’s grace we will all one day be there, too!

Honor, Integrity, Discipline, Selfless Service

Texas A&M 1Those are the qualities highlighted at my recent 50th reunion of graduates from the 1964 class at Texas A&M. It was a wonderful gathering that in many ways surpassed my expectations!

Naturally, one highlight was the informal gathering of a dozen of the men who had spent time together from our freshman through senior year. We were all in the same Corps of Cadets “outfit” creatively called Company A-3. We lived together in one dormitory and had successfully survived the very real challenges of hazing to which freshmen in those days were regularly exposed.

When people go through difficult times together, a lifelong bond is formed between them. That bond was evident at our four hour gathering, spouses included, during which we recalled stories and experiences from the past and summarily brought each other up to date regarding personal, family and professional experiences of the past half century. Very interesting stories!

Another highlight was the Aggie Muster Silver Taps, held in the 10,000 seat auditorium on campus. Reed Arena was packed to capacity, with well-dressed and well-behaved students surrounding us old codgers who were seated on the main floor. This gathering is held annually on April 21 on the main campus in College Station and in 300 other locations around the world.

The main focus of Muster is the calling of the names of all former students who have passed away during the 12 months prior. Someone in the crowd answers “Here!” to signify the symbolical presence of the deceased, and a candle is lit after the calling of each name.

When all names have been called and all candles lit, the Ross Volunteers (an honor guard of juniors and seniors in which I participated long ago) marches into the auditorium and fires a 21-gun salute in three volleys of seven shots each. Then “Taps” (also known as “Day is Done”) is played three times by a small group of bugle-playing Band members. The somber notes penetrate the candle lit silence. In many ways it’s a very meaningful and memorable experience!

The main speakers at both that evening’s Muster/Silver Taps and also the next morning’s class meeting emphasized the uniqueness of Texas A&M University. They highlighted qualities and characteristics that included “Honor, Integrity, Discipline, and Selfless Service.” In today’s world those commodities are all too often much rarer than they ought to be.

Here at Concordia University Texas in Austin, while we may not use exactly those same words, we certainly encourage the concepts. At Concordia we emphasize the importance of Teaching, Modeling, Practicing and Recognizing the personal and spiritual qualities required to succeed in “Developing Christian Leaders.” We define such leaders as “Men and women who transform communities by seeking out leadership opportunities and influencing people for Christ.” It’s a worthy mission that embodies “Honor, Integrity, Discipline, and Selfless Service.”