Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Something Old

LANGHORNE, PENNSYLVANIA. The diary is small enough to carry in a large pocket or in a purse. On the flap it simply reads, “Standard Diary No. 251.” But when you pull away the flap and open it you see that it is a diary for the year 1893. It is 118 years old and the pages are still strong. So are the words written in it, strong, simple, and not an unkind word about anyone in it. That is a lesson in itself to remember.

When you thumb through the pages you find one entry that is highlighted in yellow. They did not have highlighters back then. So this entry was set apart from all the others by someone else. The diary belonged to Anna Persis Potter Blood the Great-grandmother of our Princess who is getting married this Saturday. The person who highlighted the entry was L. Pauline Blood Winger, Anna’s youngest daughter and Ruthie’s Grandmother. The entry was for a Wednesday, like today, only it was September 6th, 1893. She says that the weather is pleasant and cool. Then she writes the following:

“Leila (her best friend) came this morn and about 11:30 Rev. E. C. Best and wife came. At 12N or little after We were married. After dinner, Leila took me to the depot to take the 4.05 train. Clarence (her brother) and wife also went with us. Clyde’s brother Deforest who came this morn rode with us. We found C’s father and sister waiting at Conewango and we reached his home about 7 P.M.”

So this was the day that Anna Persis Potter of Collins Center, Erie County, New York married Clyde Lincoln Blood of Cold Springs, Cattaraugus County, New York. The day before she had written that her thumb was hurting her, evidently from picking blackberry’s and that Clyde had come that night. The day after the wedding she writes that Clyde and his father went to Randolph to look at a stove. Then on Friday she and Clyde went and bought the stove. Finally, on Saturday she writes that Mother (her mother-in-law), Elva (a sister-in-law), and Clyde go over to his Aunt’s home and spend the afternoon. It is her birthday. She is twenty-six on Saturday, September 9th, 1893.

It seems all simple and matter of fact does it not? They both came from large families. Farming was a way of life as well as cutting timber and taking it to the mill. Knowing and teaching that working hard was the way of everyday life. Family kept it all together and every Sunday, except when they were sick or the weather was really bad, they were in church. It is a rich heritage, worth doing the research, and very much worth writing about. This is the nature of making sure that family history is passed on to the next generation and the next. Perhaps this is another lesson to remember.

The Blood Family - Front: Clyde (44) , L. Pauline (3)
Back: Anna (44), Flora (6) and Marion (12)
1911 - Jamestown, Chautauqua County, New York

Our Princess is getting married on Saturday. It will be a wonderful day in the life of our families and someone will write about it and maybe, just maybe, her Great-granddaughter or Great-grandson will read about it one hundred years from now in someone else's diary. May you live long and prosper Ruthie and John, and…

Remember your leaders. Those who taught you about God. Consider the outcome of their lives and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:7, 8).

Love you both,

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day 2011: My Unknown Soldier

Allan (left) - South Vietnam circa 1969 - a young 21
  LANGHORNE, PENNSYLVANIA. It was during the Vietnam War and my time over there. So it would have been between February of 1969 and September of 1970. The town of An Khe was located in the Central Highlands on Route QL19 that ran between Qui Nhon and Pleiku. Camp Radcliff was the base just off of that route and next to the town. The 560th Light Equipment Maintenance Company was the unit near the front gate. I was one of two Machinists in the Service Platoon, trained, among other tasks, to fabricate things from scratch that were needed but that they could not get through the supply channels quick enough.

One night I was not feeling well. It was something simple like a bad head cold. All I knew was that I was miserable and I did not have anything to get rid of it. So I went to the medical facility over on the other side of post, signed in, and sat down in the back of the entrance room waiting until someone could help me. But then I started to hear the sound that we Vietnam folks will always recognize right away, the sound of helicopters getting closer and closer. I could hear them right outside so I knew they were Medevac choppers, the ones that saved thousands of lives over there, including those from the major unit on our post, the 4th Infantry Division, that came in the latter part of my tour there.

All of a sudden the whole place was flooded with activity, medical people hurrying to do this and that, automatically doing tasks like they had probably done them a hundred times. They were not confused. They were committed and nothing could distract them from what had to be done. Then the outside doors started swinging open and the gurneys started coming in, one after the other. I had never seen anything like this before. This was my baptism into the hell of war.

My eyes were drawn instantly to one gurney, not twenty feet away. The soldier was lying on his back. One of the main arteries in his neck began spurting out blood like an unholy fountain. They tried to get it to stop but could not. It was coming out too fast. In a few seconds it did stop but he was dead in front of me. All I can remember after that was that I got up and left. I did not belong there. That place was for them, the ones that faced death every day. I never went back. I found other ways to get rid of my petty ailments.

Work after that in the shop became more focused for me. The long hours did not bother me anymore. Making friends with the Vietnamese with which I worked became an even more active part of my daily life. I knew why I was over there in that place. It did not matter about all the demonstrations back home and the politics of the whole thing. I was there and the reason why I was there was for them, the ones who faced death every day and the people who just wanted the war to end in their land.

So today, on Memorial Day, I remember that place and that time. I remember the people and the vets with whom I served. There are many stories yet unwritten. But today, this year, most of all, I remember and write about the one that gave his life over there, right in front of me. I do not know his name or what his unit was. All I know is that his death changed my life forever and I will always strive to be a better person, worthy of the name American.

Thank you for taking the time to read this short story. May God bless you and your family richly as He alone has blessed me and mine as well as the family, I am sure, of my unknown soldier. Amen.

Allan L. Winger
SSG, U.S. Army Retired

Friday, April 22, 2011

Rachmaninoff and Easter 2011

Sergei Rachmaninoff, Walt Disney, Vladimir Horowitz

LANGHORNE, PENNSYLVANIA. Sergei Rachmaninoff is a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor who lived between 1873 and 1943. After the more than terrible reception of the first symphony that he composed, along with other circumstances as well, he went into a kind of depression and could not compose anything for almost three years. Then he was brought out of his depression and writer's block by a psychiatrist named Nikolai Dahl who was also a musician. He kept telling the composer, "You will write the most loved concerto in the world." Out of this therapy came the Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Opus 18. First came the second movement, then the third, and later the first movement. That was in 1901. In 2011 it is still an enduring and inspiring favorite of many, myself included.

For this very short essay let us consider what happened back then and bring it into a current context, one that is a bit more personal. Let us say that you have been having a really tough time recently. It has caused you to be in a kind of a depression where you think you cannot make it anymore. You feel like throwing in the towel and just quitting. This is perhaps effecting your personal life, your family, and maybe even your professional life. Some are beginning to wonder whether you are going to be okay, whether you are going to snap out of it and somehow become normal again.

Let us further say that you are a writer of sorts. It may not be your full-time profession but you would like it to be. You would really like to write things that would be meaningful to others. But life has got you down. The words are just not there.

Then let us say that someone very important in your life gets your attention one day. That person in several different ways tells you, "You will write some of the most loved words that some people have ever read." And that person keeps telling you that day after day after day.

What happens to you? Do you start to believe that person? Do you start writing again? Who is that person in your life that really helps you believe in yourself again when everything goes wrong?

There have been several for me. But those several would have never been there if it was not for He who has become the most important Person in my life. His name is Jesus the Christ. Now before you may stop here and decide to read something else, please do me a personal favor and read on. Through the Bible and in my life He along with His Father in heaven and the Holy Spirit have taught me many things, some things new and some things old. But all are like treasure that is beyond any price imaginable. He has adopted me into His family and no one or no thing can take me from Him. He continues to teach me to be a disciple of the kingdom of heaven which is a pearl without price, a mustard seed that has become a tree that shades many from a variety of things in their lives.

Now this Sunday is Easter. It is the one day of the year that many celebrate as the day that Jesus the Christ rose from the dead after dying on the cross three days earlier. For some it may be one of only two or three days a year when they go to church. For others, they still do not go to church at all. For these folks it may just be that what Man has done through Religion has turned them off from going to church. They say that they are believers in God and that they have a faith. They just cannot stand what others who also have said that they are believers have done with the whole concept of Faith. And what they see and read in the current media continues to feed that perception that church is just not the place for them, maybe some time in the future but not now, or maybe not ever.

However, as you the reader may have seen in the first part of this essay, Faith is not just about what may be perceived as what the Church has become. It just may be about what Faith can be if you make an honest effort to see through the eyes of a personal God who believes in you, wants the very best for you, has a meaningful plan for your life, and really, truely loves you.

Think on that this Sunday, and if you have the time and opportunity, go to church. Your perception of Church may just change as maybe you see things in a different light, something more personal than all the people who clouded your concept of church before. Do me a favor though, will you? When you go, focus on Him who loved you so much that He died on the cross for you, but then also rose from the dead. All that so that you may have life, a meaningful life with real purpose, a living adventure without end. He believes in you more than you know, and that is a fact you can truely rely on. Oh, and if you have the time, drop me a line about your Easter or just life in general. I would love to hear from you :-)

Happy Easter :-)


Sunday, March 13, 2011

RCW at 93 - Still A Fisher of Men

LANGHORNE, PENNSYLVANIA, U.S.A.  This is difficult for me. I am looking at the picture below of my 93-year-old father and I am asking the question of myself and of you. What do you see? There are some of you who do not know RCW at all. There are others that have met him but only know a little about him. Then there are those who have spent years with him, but like myself, still know that there is much to learn. Some are up front and personal with him on a weekly basis. Others like Rusty, his partner in life and the one that loves him perhaps more than all of us combined, lives with him almost "twenty-four/seven" as they say.

I wonder what all of you see in this picture. Perhaps you could tell me some time, and especially perhaps, tell him in some way. That is what I am going to try to do in the next few paragraphs. I do not have that eloquence of diction or perhaps the imagination that comes from the deeps springs of life. But maybe like RCW I am a growing tree firmly planted by streams of living water, Water that comes from the Source that never runs dry.

Luke wrote in his second chapter, "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in the sight of God and man." He grew intellectually (wisdom), physically (stature), spiritually (in the sight of God), and socially (in the sight of man.) The Two Great Commandments that Jesus acknowledges as a summary of all that the Law and the Prophets teach also relates to these four major areas of life. Then, in the last sentence of the previous paragraph that I wrote I eluded to what is written in Psalm One which outlines the difference between the rigtheous man and the ungodly man and the consequences of the paths that they follow.

I am not the preacher in the family. Dad has always been that. Personally I have always seen him as my Paul and I as his Timothy, but I am not one to stand in the pulpit or to pastor a church. Perhaps, like my mother, I am more like the Sunday School teacher, but perhaps for adults, those who can identify with the things that I write about. With all the above said as perhaps an introduction to this "essay of sorts," the question still stands - What do you see in the picture?

When this picture was first put on Facebook (yes our family does that), there were several comments. The person who took the picture, my wonderful sister Laura, used the words, "my precious Dad." One of his granddaughters wrote that he is indeed "precious" and that she talks about him all the time. One son used the word "awesome." The youngest brother of RCW used the words "Brother" and "Friend" and thanked the Lord for him. One of his grandsons wrote that he will always be proud to be a Winger because he has a grandpa that doesn't know how to quit. That kind of sets a "tone" to what we see in the picture does it not? It causes us to look a little deeper does it not? For now we know that what some of us felt when we first looked at the picture has been confirmed by others who have seen it before us. There is something Very Special here.

Now my Dad is not one that would ever want to be put up on a pedestal as a shining example of everything to which others should aspire. No, he would not want that and I am not going to do that here. We need heroes just like man has needed heroes in every generation. But perhaps they should be like the heroes that the author of the book of Hebrews writes about in the eleventh chapter and then writes these words in chapter thirteen which have become my "life-time verses" by which to live:

"Remember your leaders, those who taught you about God. Consider the outcome of their lives and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever." [13:7.8]

What do you see in the picture now? I see a man who has taught me about God. I see a man, who when I think of the outcome of his life, has a faith that if I did not imitate it, I would be a complete fool. Men and women who follow Christ and live with the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives, they will always be the same, yesterday, today, and forever, like Jesus Who is their shepherd. That will never change and that you can "take to the bank" as they say.

What do you see in the picture now? Look at his eyes. Do you see the compassion? Look at the firmness of his face. Do you see his quiet inner strength? Look at the calmness in his hands even though they are not laying flat. Does he make you feel at ease with life? He is ninety-three! Does he look like he has been blessed with the Grace of God all of his life? Sit down and talk to him and he'll tell you about that Grace - for sure. What do you think a man like this does for the lives of his family and friends? You will see what Christ has done through him in the outcomes of those who God has put in his journey through life. Even when they have failed or made mistakes the same God that He knows has picked them up, dusted them off, and told them, "Get back in there. We're not done yet. My plan is bigger than what you may have in your heart and mind. Start thinking in terms of 'Eternity.' Doing things in the here and now is fine. But you need to think about that very long hereafter too."

What do you see in the picture now? I see the Light in the face of a man who knows he is getting close to going to the other side of the river to the Promised Land, and he can already see the Light from the other side. The glow in his face is the reflection from that Light. He is coming to the shoreline of that River but who knows. Maybe he will get to stay on this side a while longer and do some more "fishing" with his family and friends. I certainly hope so and I know that you do too. By the way, what kind of "fish" do you think this man likes to catch the most? "Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men" said Jesus his Lord and Saviour.

Dad and I went fishing one time, up on Findley Lake I think it was, in western New York State. We rented a row boat and went out by this small island. We fished the old fashioned way with night crawlers. It seemed like every time we dropped a line in the water we caught a fish. We caught thirty-four fish that day - Sunfish and good sized Perch. It is funny how you remember details like that from over forty years ago. On the way home we stopped by a creek and cleaned them all. We ate good for a few days. The lady of the house knew how to do fish.

But I tell you what, being a "fisher of men." Now that is where it is at. Some like Dad do it from behind a pulpit, or on the golf course, or on the baseball field. Others like me try do it with the written word. But it is not us who do the "catching."  That is the Holy Spirit and in His time not ours.

So, now that I think about it, I think I have come up with my title for my copy of this picture of Dad and this essay. That was the primary difficulty I was having at the beginning of this piece and why I had to answer the question of what I saw in the picture.  You may have come up with a different title for your copy of the picture and your own answer to that question. But for me it is "RCW at 93 - Still A Fisher of Men."

If you are one of the "fish" that Dad, through the Holy Spirit, has "hooked on to," how has that changed your life? Take the time please to tell him "Thank you" - okay? :-) To protect their privacy I will share their address or phone number in a different way with those who may not have it. But do please consider contacting them. He and Rusty would be glad to hear from you. God bless you real good and...

Thank You :-)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

RCW at 93 - An Essay For Dad

LANGHORNE, PENNSYLVANIA, U.S.A.   Sometimes as a writer you may wake up from a nap that has been long enough and you say out loud to yourself, "It is time to write about this. The words are there. Everything is in place. Write it down before something distracts you."  The person of whom I am about to write has never been a distraction. In fact, writing about him helps me to focus on what are the most important things in my life. This one is for you Dad :-)

RCW and 2nd son ALW in July 2010

He was born Robert Charles Winger. The name "Robert" was after one of his grandfather's brothers, Robert Sylvanus Winger. The "Charles" was the first name of his own father, Charles Edward Winger. The date was March 4th, 1918 and the place was Oil City, Pennsylvania. Bob, as he would be called by those who really knew him, or RCW, as he would sign all his personal letters, would be the oldest of seven children. After him would come Dora, Bill (William), Howard, Alice, Myrtle, and Ollie (Oliver). Of the seven he is still the oldest alive of the four that remain. Bill lives outside Jamestown, New York. Myrtle lives a little north of Phoenix, Arizona, and Ollie lives not too far from Norfolk, Virginia. The Patriarch of the Winger Clan, something of which he is very proud, lives in Sparta, Tennessee. The remaining of the seven - Dora, Howard, and Alice - are gone now, to a better place.

To his five children he is known as "Dad" but to all of them there is another name that is also freely given out of a loving respect that he still deserves and gets. With him it is a name you always use in conversation with him. It is always "Yes Sir" and "No Sir." It may be "Love ya Dad," but it is also "Love ya Sir," and it is the most natural thing in the world for you to say to him.

There have been three great ladies in the life of RCW. The first was his own mother, Myrtle Irene (Bixler) Winger. She was a Registered Nurse in the local hospital of a city that was built around the oil industry of northwest Pennsylvania. Charles, her husband, worked in a factory that serviced this industry. He also played in the city baseball league and he was very good. His son Bob would spend much of his later years coaching Babe Ruth League baseball, passing on that love of the game to future generations. But his father Charles would be stricken with pneumonia and he would die three days after Bob's youngest brother Ollie was born. All of a sudden the oldest son became the man of the house, having to help his mother as she would make decisions that shaped the future of their lives. This was during the Great Depression. Dad would dig the hole for someone who was putting in an outhouse so that he could buy a good sweater to wear. He was very proud of that sweater and kept it for a long time.

They lived on Oak Grove Street, "on The Hill" as it was known. They were surrounded by the Winger Clan. In later years when driving down the old street, Uncle Bill would identify houses still there as either being this or that Winger home and the others as being the homes of "outsiders." Their home on The Hill was built by Wingers and right next door to Dad's home lived Grandma Josephine (Quinn) Winger the matriarch of the clan. She was Irish Catholic so it is not unusual to go to the Catholic cemetary just up the road and find Winger headstones. Charles, Myrtle's husband and father of seven, would be buried there. On the other hand Myrtle, the mother of the seven, would be buried in a cemetary located more in the city. She and her children were Free Methodist. But on The Hill family was still family and differences in religion did not disrupt that life.

The next great lady in the life of RCW was Lois Pauline (Blood) Winger. From a very young age she had decided that she did not like the name Lois and insisted on being called Pauline.  L. Pauline Winger was how she signed her name. She was ten years older than Dad and they had met in the workplace in Jamestown, New York just sixty miles north of Oil City. She was a strong woman and very independant, but in such a quiet way that she and Bob were never known to argue in front of their two boys. Bob and Pauline were married just before the United States entered the Second World War. The oldest son, Warren Irwin, would be born while his Dad was fighting the war in the Pacific. The youngest son, Allan Leigh, would be born three years after the war, while his Dad was studying to be a Free Methodist Minister at Roberts Wesleyan College just outside of Rochester, New York. It was a two year school then so Dad would finish his training at Houghton College and their first church was in Olean, New York.

Dad was seen as an up and coming man of the denomination, a leader of the future, and so the family was transferred to Mason City, Iowa. There his small church became a larger church. The small building where he had started his ministry in a local community became the much bigger building that was closer to the center of town. He was on his way to becoming the next area Bishop who would oversee several churches in the area. But then something started to happen to the marriage. The two sons never seemed to see it coming but all of a sudden the family was moving back to Oil City to live with Grandma. Dad was no longer a minister and he returned to the skills of his younger days, being a machinist back in Jamestown. After a year with Grandma the family would move to Lakewood, just outside of Jamestown. Everything seemed okay to the two sons but sometime after that move the marriage came to an end. Even though the two sons would be living with their mother, Dad was always living somewhere close by. He never stopped being Dad.

The last great lady in the life of RCW was Pauline Lucille (Humiston) Winger. From a very young age her very red hair had earned her the nickname of "Rusty," and that's the name that everyone still calls her even though her hair may not be as red as it used to be. But also, like the respect that is given to their father, when the five children of RCW speak with her it is, "Yes, Ma'am," and "No, Ma'am," and in our own way,"Love ya Ma'am" as well. That respect comes in part from the fact that she and Dad have been married for fifty-two years now and it is definitely no small achievement to have lived with a Winger man for that long. Rusty knows her husband and they are still deeply in love with each other. That love which they share is something that holds the lives of the five children together like a very, very special glue.

Bob and Rusty were married as Dad was developing a new business that he and a friend had started, Good Turn Machine Company. The oldest daughter, Louise Anne, would be born in August of the following year in Jamestown. Almost eight years would pass before the second daughter, Laura Ann, was born. The successful business had been sold and now home was a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee. Dad was working for Avco Corporation at the time. Then a year later, still in the Nashville area, Curtis Edward was born who would bring another male voice to the Winger family. All three are very, very special indeed.

The two older brothers live a long way from Sparta and cannot visit as often as they would like. So it is these three who watch over their Mom and Dad very carefully and very lovingly. The two sisters live within driving distance. The youngest brother lives a bit further away but is always there when his Mom and Dad need him the most.

As the family was growing in years Dad became involved with Toastmasters International. One thing led to another and before we knew it Dad became a Minister again after being out of the pulpit for more than fifteen years. The first church would be in Providence, Kentucky. Then there was the move to Sparta. He would start with one church. Then he would move to be the Pastor of two smaller churches up the road in the Crossville area. Then he would close out his life in the ministry as the Pastor of Prayer in the same church where he had begun in Sparta.  All total there is probably much more than thirty years in the ministry in addition to all the other things he accomplished inbetween.

How do you count the blessings that God has given you in a lifetime? How do you measure the Grace of God in a person's life? How do I as one of his children also say, "Thank you" for instance to someone that has been such an integral part of your life, your very being, for so many years, almost longer than you can remember? How do you also teach what Dad loved to teach the most from the pulpit and in life. How do you teach the Power of God's Holy Spirit? One answer is what this whole essay has been about - Family. But for Dad there has always been something bigger to teach, something that includes Family right along with it, but it is a bigger picture, the biggest in Dad's life.

Teaching the Power of the Holy Spirit for Dad always centers around one thing. That would be the Gospel - the life, death, burial, resurrection, and soon coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ. For Bob Winger, when you examine his life and see what shines through like a ten fold beacon in the night, that is what drove his life and still does. "When God is near, so near I hear Him speak to me..." the words of the song reverently say. When that happens to a man what else can he talk about but Jesus His Lord and what the Power of the Holy Spirit can do in a person's life.

"Honor your father and your mother, which is the first commandment with promise, that you may live long on the earth and prosper." [Ephesians 6:2,3]

We thank the Lord for how He continues to use your life Dad to teach us how to do that.  We are also constantly amazed at how your Lord, our Lord, has prospered you and prospered us as well.

"Remember your leaders, those who taught you about God. Consider the outcome of their lives and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever." [Hebrews 13:7,8]

We thank the Lord on a daily basis for the faith that He alone has manifested through you and the Power of the Holy Spirit which is still very much alive in you is now alive in your family as well.  "...all things [really do] work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."  [Romans 8:28].

Happy Birthday Dad, and perhaps though you would probably prefer to be in Heaven right now, we your family are very blessed that you are still with us in this life :-)
Love ya Sir :-)