Thursday, November 11, 2010

It Is Not Unusual

YARDLEY, PENNSYLVANIA, U.S.A. It is not unusual to be inspired to write during this particular week of the year. Everywhere there are heroes to remember, heroes to see marching in parades, heroes to visit, heroes in our own families to talk to, whether in person, over the phone, or through a myriad of other ways that our current electronic gadgets allow us to communicate.

It is not unusual that we each have our own pictures of this time in our hearts and minds. The pictures may be of individuals, of groups, or of symbols that we associate with this day that we celebrate. So many are of white crosses in cemetaries not only in our country but across the world. But yet so many more are of the living, those who have served in the past, those who are serving now, and those younger ones who we know will serve in the future. The pictures also include the families, those who kept, keep now, and will keep in the future, the home fires burning. There are many more of those kind of soldiers who serve and sacrifice but do not wear the uniform of those in battle. They wear a different uniform, back home, in their hearts and minds and in their daily lives.

It is not unusual to remember that "Freedom is not free," we say, and all around us are stories of that cost that we somehow wish we did not have to pay. But we also know that until this world that we know somehow comes to an end, Man will be Man and the tumult of war will always be there.

It is not unusual, especially for those who have experienced the horrors of war, whether on the battlefield or back home, to search for hope in the midst of our memories. We long to find The Truth that will somehow help us to understand it all. But we also search for The Truth that will tell us that this pain, this cost, these sorrows that hit us like a ton of bricks more often than we care to think about or feel, that somehow it is all going to come to an end and that there will be peace.

So it is not unusual that we go to our places of worship. We turn to our Faith, whatever that may be, and we seek the face of the God of our Faith. In whatever way we worship Him we ask Him for the end to come, to have mercy on us, to give us a light in the darkness that we just cannot seem to escape.

It is not unusual for that hope to be provided. But it is also not unusual for that hope to not be provided for some. For some there is peace, temporary though it may be, and for others there is no peace, hopefully a temporary kind of no peace that ends after days, or months, or years, ending many times when the current war has ended.

We the living celebrate this time, as history has dictated, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. We celebrate our freedom, something that has been given to us by others. We remember them and as we see those who have served we say, "Thank you for your service." We say it with a smile on our face and with thankful hearts and minds. We also hope that those who hear our thanks will really know that our thanks is real and true.

In the United States we call this day Veterans Day. In other parts of the world it is celebrated as Armistice Day. In the British Commonwealth countries, of which our Canadian friends on the other side of our northern border is one, the same day is celebrated as Remembrance Day. If you also remember, our most beloved poem for this holiday, was in fact written by a Canadian, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, and is entitled, "In Flanders Fields."

It is not unusual to experience this day and then not quite remember another day that comes in a very short time on the United States calendar. We should remember it though. We have just said our Thank you to our veterans. The next holiday in the U.S. is Thanksgiving. It is that time when we all go home, those who can, those who are not serving in some distant land. Then after that is Christmas, another time when we give thanks.

It might be unusual, but then again maybe not, to remember next year, if you did not think of it this way this year, that our Season of Thanksgiving begins with this holiday at the beginning of November instead of perhaps that holiday that we love so well at the end of the month. Just a suggestion :-)

Happy Veterans Day and remember. It is never unusual at any time during the year, not just around this holiday, when you see a veteran, to say, "Thank you for your service."  They always appreciate it :-)


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Marathon Man: An Expression of Values

BENSALEM, PENNSYLVANIA, U.S.A.  It was Friday morning at work. I was sitting there staring at the computer deep in thought. We are a family in the very beginnings of a transition. There is something good happening. I know it is of the Lord. But for some reason I was just not myself. I was holding my hands out in front of me just checking to see if they were still steady because sometimes they aren't. They were steady this time.

The date was September 24th. Our 29th wedding anniversary was coming up on Sunday. I was remembering what had happened on the 24th way back in 1981. I was 33 years old. My wife to be was 27. I was sitting in my office, my Fort Devens, Massachusetts office, back then too. For me, back then, what I was about to do was a 'til-death-do-you-part-type thing. That was a bit scary to say the least. I also had not known whether staying in the military was what I should do after we were married. That question had been up in the air along with everything else.

Then, back then, something happened. We had originally scheduled our wedding for October, but then I came down on orders for language school so we happen to choose September 26th as our new wedding day. We didn't know at the time but that same day just happened to be the 40th anniversary of the Military Police Corps of which I was a part. Thinking about that "coincidence" that day made me feel the same way I was feeling on the same date 29 years later. Back then something had come to my heart and mind. This was a way that the Lord was showing me that the lady I was marrying was the right one and also that we would stay in the military. From the joy, the unspeakable joy, caused by that God-given peace about this major step in my life, came a special kind of writing on that day in 1981. Caretakers of the Colors was what the title of it was. That piece of writing and the story behind it is here at our web site.

But what was happening this 24th of September, 2010? Why was I feeling this way again? The previous weekend I had spent a bunch of time with my son AJ at a conference at his church. The speaker for Friday night and Saturday morning was Tullian Tchividjian, pastor of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida and grandson of Billy Graham. The time under his teaching and some other teachers, professors from Westminster Theological Seminary, had brought out some realizations of what I felt the Lord wanted me to do with the next thirty years of my life with the help and added guidance of my wife. My son AJ is also going through a kind of transition himself so the time was meaningful for both of us.

So here I was, on Friday morning the 24th of September, 2010. For some reason I was very unsettled about what the day was going to bring. So I turned around to my desk and began to open the morning paper, the Bucks County Courier Times. I usually read the editorials at the end of the first section first. But as I separated that first section from the rest of the paper, there in front of me was the front page of the local news section. And there in the center of that page was a picture that was so big that it was impossible to miss. It was a picture of my son, AJ, running for all he's worth. The title of the picture was Marathon Man. The caption underneath read, "AJ Winger of Bensalem trains for a marathon on Thursday at Tyler State Park in Newtown Township."

BAM!!! I hit my fist on the top of the desk and yelled out, "Yes!! Yes!! Yes!! Wow!!! Praise the Lord!!" I could not contain myself!!

He had told me the night before that he had had his picture taken by a photojournalist from the paper. He had said that he was right at the end of his run, going as hard as he could, and that he had spotted this lady taking a picture of him. Kim Weimer, the photojournalist had identified herself and asked if he was in training for something. He had told her that he was preparing for the Philadelphia Marathon in November. She had asked him how long it was and he had told her that it was 26.2 miles. He said that she was impressed. But you know how it goes. Sure he had his picture taken but the chances of it actually showing up in the just don't really expect those kinds of things to happen.

So here I was, sitting in my office. I'm supposed to be working my normal routine. But instead I'm going out the door and getting in the car. I'm driving down to the closest gas station where I know they sell the paper, and I'm buying all the copies they have. Then I'm driving home because I know my wife is there and probably my son as well. My wife is there and I give her a copy of the paper. She is flabbergasted of course. AJ is not there and I figure he's probably up at the fitness center at the school. But before I go back to the school, where I also work, I go to my daughter's job to give her a copy. I tell her, "Ya know Ruthie...29 years ago something special happened on this date and you know the writing that came out of it which was very special. I just want you to know that both you and your brother are my heroes and I thank God everyday for ya'll." I gave her a hug and went out the door.

I found AJ in the fitness center and gave him the paper. Some of his friends there had already seen the paper and had told him about it but you could tell he loved that picture. I told him the same thing that I had told his sister, also adding that I was very proud of him, and then I pulled myself away. I did have to work that day. But it seemed that the whole day was one where I was just bubbling all over and couldn't stop showing this person and that person the picture and bragging about my son.

Not too much longer in the day Ruthie had scanned the picture at work and it was up on Facebook for all to see. And the comments from family and friends began rolling in. At the end of the work day I took a copy of the paper over to the friend of mine that runs the fitness center. I said as I was walking in, "Tom, do you need a motivational picture for your new fitness center?" He looked at the paper, immediately took some scissors out of his desk, started cutting out the picture, and with a big grin on his face said, "I know EXACTLY what I'm going to do with this picture! Man, he's running flat out in that picture. He's going for all it's worth!"
Photo by Kim Weimer, Bucks County Courier Times, 24 Sep 2010
Scanned by AJ's Sister Ruth Winger
Later I would read an article on the internet about Kim Weimer the photojournalist from the paper. The author had written that "Effective photojournalists interpret, rather than record, the news by expressing values that all of us share as human beings...Human values are expressed through gesture and body language, and Weimer is masterful at finding that moment in light, time and space that conveys human response as symbols of the values we share."[1]

Did you catch the sentence in the previous paragraph where the fitness center manager is quoted. He said,"...Man, he's running flat out in that picture. He's going for all it's worth!" Photojournalist Kim Weimer from the Bucks County Courier Times had once again, masterfully expressed a human value that all of us as human beings share. Her photography was expressing the human value of doing the very best that you can, to put everything you have into everything that you do, and more...

If I may I would just like to take this opportunity to thank Kim Weimer for her dedication to excellence. I trust that many will learn from her talent how to be the best photojournalists that they can be. She sure has taught me something even if the picture is of my own son :-)

And yo! Dude! Marathon Man! AJ! I'm proud of you son. Keep on keeping on :-))


[1] Philip N. Douglis. "Effective Photojournalism Interprets Events Through Human Values." Communication World, Oct-Nov 2002. Acquired 26 Sep 2010.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11: A Day of Prayer

LANGHORNE, PENNSYLVANIA, U.S.A. Today is September 11th 2010, the ninth anniversary of an event that changed us as individuals, as families, as places of worship, as communities, as a nation, as a world. We cannot turn back the clock. We honor those who were at the center of our lives for a time, those who were in the middle of the event that occurred that day, and those who heard the call for help and responded. We honor them as much as we honor those who have heard the war tocsin sound and who have responded to that call as well. Some paid the ultimate price. Others live with the scars of responding to that call. The tapestry of which we are one continuous thread is rich in color, strong in character, and espouses a sense of freedom that is unequaled.

We live in a world of pain and suffering and hard times. But we also live in a world full of joy and blessings and people who care about each other and reach out to those in need. For we say to ourselves, through our faith, "There but by the grace of God, go I."

For those who know even an inkling of a faith that sustains them, let this day be one of prayer first and foremost. Yes, a spirit of patriotism should also ring loud and clear on this day. But right along side, coexisting in parallel and going in the same direction, can we pray in the way that we were taught to pray, whether the teacher was those who raised us from birth, or someone else along the way who in someway mentored us into the persons that we have become? Can we pray as we were taught?

Can we pray for peace? Can we pray that something like this will never happen again? Can we pray that we would be good mentors to the next generation? Can we pray for a world that needs prayer? Can we pray for those who lead us at whatever level that may be?

I think we can. I know we can. For in our freedom it is not just what we are free to do. It has also become what we have learned that we are free not to do. We should be thankful for that. And for those of us who have even an inkling of faith in our lives, we have always known that prayer is a good thing and to not pray is just not a path that we should ever think of following.

Will you pray with me today? And for those who have already made this day one of prayer, thank you for allowing me to join you in that oneness of spirit.

Thank you all and peace be with all of you always,


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Maybe Even Some More Chutzpah...

LANGHORNE, PENNSYLVANIA, U.S.A.  Something happened on Friday but it was not discovered until the next morning when I turned on the car radio as I do most every Saturday.  As my wife and I drive to the local diner for breakfast we listen to Weekend Edition Saturday on NPR with Scott Simon.

What we have always liked about this program is the kind of week in review commentary of veteran news analyst Daniel Schorr.  But he was not there in person this time like he usually is.  Instead Scott Simon was giving about an eight minute piece in remembrance of Dan.  At the age of 93 Dan Schorr had died on Friday. Yes I cried, but not because I was sad.  I cried because deep down inside I felt privileged to have been mentored in a way by this man's thirst to share what he believed to be the truth.

In 1976 for example, my military career was taking me from California to the European country that was then known as West Germany.  In that same year Dan Schorr was appearing before a Congressional comittee because he had leaked to the press a special report he had been given about the CIA.  Dan was going to be asked to reveal his source and he was not going to tell them.  He could have been found in contempt of Congress which was no small matter and it could have resulted in a couple of years in prison.  But he successfully stood on principle and his First Amendment rights and he made it through the hearing.  That was just one episode in his sixty some years of what he called "investigatING journalism."

So on Saturday when I had begun to write this blog I had opened a brand new spiral writing pad.  On the front cover I had written "Remember Your Leaders..." and "July 24, 2010" in pen.  I had sharpened a new number two pencil and put a new pencil cap eraser on the top end.  An internationally known investigative reporter had died on July 23rd, 2010.  But his life and work had helped to inspire at least one Mentor in Training to perhaps write with more accuracy, more dedication, and yes, maybe even with some more chutzpah.

For more of what is inspiring about Daniel Schorr please go to National Public Radio and explore a bit.  If I may suggest a starting place try the following link:

Journalism Legend Daniel Schorr Dies At 93 by Alan Greenblatt

It starts with a 23 picture photo gallery and along with the printed story it has several audio and video links. Two of the audio links recommended are different lengths, one short and one longer:

NPR's Scott Simon Remembers Daniel Schorr  [8 min 25 sec]

Dan Schorr Memorial Special  [54 min 52 sec]

Thank you Daniel Schorr for your example :-)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Just a Thought For Today...

LANGHORNE, PENNSYLVANIA, U.S.A. You hear from your stepmom that her youngest brother has just unexpectantly passed away. You never had the privilege of knowing him but you give your condolences because she means a whole lot to you and he was her brother. All you have is his name and that he lived in Wisconsin so you put the name in Amazingly the obituary appears in front of you, from three different sources. At the bottom of one it tells you that you can go to the funeral home web site and leave a public or private condolence. When you find his page on that site it is complete with a recent photograph. While glancing at the picture you read what is written about this brother that you really never knew.

He was born on a certain date to a father and mother in a particular town in Iowa. He married a wonderful woman and had two children. He had graduated from a university with a degree in secondary education. He had taught remedial math for eighteen years until his retirement in 2007. He had been on the board of directors of a local civil organization. He loved his cats and his dog Zoe. He loved his wife and children enormously and he will be dearly missed. He is survived by his immediate family of course. There are also still living all four of his older sisters and brother who live in different parts of the country. He was the youngest. He is also survived by many nieces and nephews, other relatives and many friends of course. He was preceded in death by his parents and there will be a memorial service and time of remembrance on a certain day at an appointed place. Terry Humiston was special to many folks and the memories that he leaves those still living are numerous and rich in content.

What does it mean to you when you turn to the book of Hebrews, the thirteenth chapter, the seventh verse, and you read these words, "Remember your leaders, those who taught you about God. Consider the outcome of their lives and imitate their faith." What do those words mean?

When I first learned this verse in the Bible, it was the summer of 1978. I was stationed with the military in what was then West Germany but I was visiting a very special place in Switzerland. Around the time I was first introduced to this verse two of my uncles passed away. They were the husbands of my mother's only two sisters. I knew that I needed to write each one of my aunts a letter to not only give them my condolences but also to share with them why my Uncle Frank and my Uncle Bennet were very special to me. They were both strong Christian family men, rich in character and wisdom, who had taught me many things. As I wrote those letters the verse in Hebrews came alive and it forever changed the way I look at life.

Now, it is easy for the normal student of the Bible to say that because both of my uncles were strong Christian men, that yes they had taught me about God with their lives and thus they were worthy of imitation. Without question I should imitate their faith. But what about those verses in Genesis that directly infer that ALL men (and women) are created in the image of God? We are all "image bearers," and the way I was taught this truth, it was also inferred that we are ALL image bearers of God, whether we consider ourselves to be "Christian" or not. We were all created in the image of God.

Let me be very careful here. I am not saying that there is "a little bit of God in all of us," and so right along with it we can more or less assume that we will go to Heaven when we die. I'm not saying that. What I am saying is... Let me stop there. This writing is becoming too technical, too deep, and that is not what I am trying to get across at this particular time.

What I am trying to say is this. Remember Your Leaders. What did you learn from them? Hearing about the passing of one of those leaders can definitely bring important memories to your heart and mind. But don't wait until their death to imitate what you have learned from them. Imitate them now while they are still living. It is the best thank you that you can ever give them. And what about your legacy? What will those that you taught in some way about God, about what is right and true and honorable...what will they remember about you? How will they imitate Your faith?

Just a thought for today :-)


Monday, July 5, 2010

Maybe These Are the Words

LANGHORNE, PENNSYLVANIA, USA.  This new blog is still a work in progress.  The title is right. The subtitle seems to be the one that needs to be there.  The hat graphic on the right seems okay.  But the writer is still not sure whether he will be able to focus on a content in the articles that will mean something to those for whom this blog is being written.

One part of the audience is his family of course, the immediate as well as the extended parts of that group of loved ones. Another part of the reader audience are members of an email discussion list that is focused on personal faith and how to live the Christian life. This is also the subject matter of a smaller discussion list, another small group of family and friends that is part of the audience but in a more personal and private way. One more group in the audience are members of a discussion list who are Vietnam veterans, fellow brothers who wore the same uniform in the same battalion in Southeast Asia, who will somehow always try to stay connected with each other.  The final group in this blog audience are high school classmates, those he grew up with back in the day and to whom he is also trying to stay connected.

You love them all in some way.  Your heart is maybe trying to be too big but then that's kind of the way that you've always been.  You have moved from place to place all of your life.  You have known so many and the memories are so rich.  You somehow want to reach out to all of them and just say thank you, but your way of saying thanks has just somehow never been quite enough in the past.

So, you remember each one.  You remember what you have learned from them. You know from your personal faith that ALL of them were created in the image of God.  Part of all of them has somehow become part of who you are.  So you try to live a life that somehow has all of those blessings that God has bestowed on you through them all wrapped up inside your heart and mind.  The blessings keep coming because God in His grace has not turned off the Fountain.  Every day is still an adventure where new and different relationships are still a reality.

So, you turn back around.  You share back with them what life means to you, what symphony is being played out in your life, what splenderous landscape is being painted before your eyes, what words and sentences and paragraphs and stories come to your mind that illustrate the joy and the truth and the love of life every day.

Then maybe you change the title of the article in the blog for this time from "Looking for the Words" to "Maybe These Are the Words."  Then you also add, "Maybe...just maybe, there will be more words to come."  Then you go home and eat lunch :-)

Oh yes...hello audience...since this blog is for you, what would YOU like to see here? :-)

Love ya'll,