PRAYER OF OUR REMEMBRANCE

O Lord let all who gather here

Give thanks for freedoms we hold dear

Remembering the bravest ones

Though facing fear their courage won

A prayer of our remembrance now

O God sustain them by your power

Now what is left when war is done?

Do joy or tears remain unsung

Would mother’s sacrifice and grief

be blessings carelessly received

A prayer of our remembrance now

O God sustain them by your power

So in the fervent cause of unity

And the heart of our dear country beating strong

We rise and stand together here today

to proudly lift our voice in grateful song

The lamp of light, eternal flame

Illuminates

their honored ways

Steel guardians all who gave their best

Lord guide these heroes home to rest

A prayer of our remembrance now

O God sustain them by your power

Thou fount of mercy

Gracious One

Teach us to wield Your boundless love

Restore our nation in this hour

May ways of peace

our hearts devour

A prayer of our remembrance now

O God sustain us by your power

O God sustain us by your power

Amen

PRAYER OF OUR REMEMBRANCE

I love Veterans Day, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. Those days have meaning to me because my father and his brothers fought in World War 2, and I’ve lost close friends and classmates to war, particularly the conflict in Vietnam.

War and its residual are tragic..ugly….and it rages on even now as I write. Young men and women, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers and children. There are casualties, including the dead, wounded and their families. This while we go on about our business, mostly numb to the reality.

The following lyric is set to the hymn tune of “Eternal Father Strong To Save”. It’s my attempt to articulate the feelings I feel on these national celebrations of recollection and gratitude.

PRAYER OF OUR REMEMBRANCE

O Lord let all who gather here

Give thanks for freedoms we hold dear

mRemembering the bravest ones

Though fighting fears their courage won

A prayer of our remembrance now

O God sustain them by your power

Now what is left when war is done?

Do joy or tears remain unsung

Would mother’s sacrifice and grief

Be blessings carelessly received

A prayer of our remembrance now

O God sustain us by your power

The lamp of light, eternal flame

Illuminates

Their honored ways

Steel guardians all who gave their best

Lord guide these heroes home to rest

A prayer of our remembrance now

O God sustain them by your power

O fount of mercy

Heavenly One

Teach us to wield Your boundless love

Restore our nation in this hour

May ways of peace

Our hearts devour

A prayer of our remembrance now

O God sustain us by your power

O God sustain us by your power

Amen

THE BEST WAY

She’s my only daughter. Sarah Nelson Mingle. I need no other. She is enough. She is complete. Sarah is as strong a person as she is kind, and has never given Pam and me one day of grief, and always the one you can count on. (Oh, and one more thing..two really. She talks with her hands and is truly, the fun kind of funny.)

There are no words in the English language or any other mode of communication that adequately describe the love and respect I have for Sarah, or the gratefulness to God I have for giving me this priceless gift. I have only to hold her hand at every opportunity, be a good listener, give her my warmest hugs and whisper my best attempts to tell her how much she means to me. Oh, and yes, I can do one more very important thing .

I can endeavor to be a man after God’s own heart, continue to listen to His voice and understand that as I live my life, I am not making choices that affect only myself, but decisions that will shape Sarah, her children, and their children. And finally, as I love others well, she will realize all the more how much she is loved….It’s the best way for her to feel the truth of these words, “I love you, Sarah Mae. ❤️

LEFT UNSAID

(For Dad On Father’s Day)

From time to time I have a need
to travel back again
to the place my father farmed
when he was just a kid

Now walking side the furrowed field
I’ve photos in my hand
of the home place I was told
once rested on this land

Dad’s father passed before 8th grade
with mother’s fields to tend
sure there would be no school for him
he worked the land instead

There wasn’t time to be a boy
he lived just to survive
for in those bleak Depression years
sheer will kept him alive

Then crops and grass refused to grow
the sunburnt soil was spent
So dry the only moisture fell
from drops of family sweat

At times there seemed a blackened sky
that promised needed rain
but hopes were dashed
for these were swarms
of locust on the plains

Hungry cattle lingered there
Some sold but even worse
lay dying from the scorching winds
on snowdrifts made of dirt.

They always had a sense of faith
and did not live in fear
for even in the worst of times
they felt that God was near

And beautiful those winter nights
with family round the stove
mother played, the brothers sang
and there was joy somehow

A few years later dad would serve
in the Pacific strife
my mother said that what he saw
left scars in him for life

It’s all I have to treasure now
of dad back in the day
save images and family lore
my mind has tucked away

He never spoke of war or farm
or what his life was like.
When I would ask he’d look away
and say “some other time”

Oh what I wouldn’t do right now
To have him back again
and hear the stories he could tell
of things he left unsaid
Yes, hear the stories he could tell
of things he left unsaid

WHERE LIFE TAKES YOU

Every once in a while I check the obituaries in Bismarck North Dakota to see if someone from my past is in there. I think when you get older you tend to sneak a peek now and then. But yesterday I came upon an obituary of a woman who was survived by her daughter and her ex-husband Kenny. There was virtually no other information than that… which I thought was a bit odd.

So I wondered, what’s their story? These days I have plenty of time on my hands, so I wrote this ode to Kenny and Cindy.

WHERE LIFE TAKES YOU

we met up at the Elks Club
in Oak Lawn, Illinois
for the bulldog reunion
at old Richards High
I don’t know who’s gonna be there
but fewer this time
for the 30 year old recap
of mysteries and lies

oh brother you look familiar
I should be, hey it’s Toot
wow it’s so great to see you
thanks I’m doin pretty good
did you hear about Kenny
you mean Kenny Beshear
I guess he isn’t coming
to the party this year

what do you hear about him
not really that much
after graduation was over
we kinda lost touch
well Cindy Maynard and him
got married right away
he drove truck there at Loeffler’s
she waitressed at Jay’s

he got tired of the driving
just after a year
his life was a noose
with a black hole career
when sweet baby Emma
came onto the scene
He looked for a way
to be all he could be

he signed up for three years
11 bravo 1st Cav
pulled a 9 month tour of duty
in Afghanistan
Ronnie Wade was there too
friends back in the day
good times til a IED
blew Ronnie away

when Kenny got stateside
he was messed up real bad
his mind was the a bomb
that blew up in rehab
9 months in the V.A.
they do the best they can
but they couldn’t put Kenny
back together again

Stacie just told me
he’s on SSI
selling copper and cans
in Blue Ash, Ohio
he split up with Cindy
never called her again
keeps on drinking and thinking
with a mind that won’t mend

Cindy died of the cancer
about two months ago
she never remarried
raised her Emmie alone
and the last thing she told her
Em I want you to know
you can still have your dreams
if you never lose hope

but it’s all such a shame
and for me hard to hear
everybody liked Kenny
and Cindy round here
so if you’re living or dying
just be sure you pray too
cuz you don’t know the dance
life is taking you to

by Greg Nelson
© Poppie’s Hallel

LIKE LITTLE CHILDREN

She wants to be a barista …at least this week. She is the youngest of our granddaughters here in Tennessee. Her name is T-Ball.

(The name has been changed to protect the innocent…more specifically..me…because if any grandfatherly non-compliance should occur using said chipmunk’s name or likeness on Facebook without permission…and witnessed by the ever vigilant momma Sarah bear….well…in a twinkling of an eye, my life is gonna take a sudden turn, and I might add, very unlike the rapture.

Well “T” set up her “fake” Starbucks operation, that’s what she calls it and called us to see if we would like to have a delicious drink. As any self-respecting grandparent knows, When your grandchildren call, you’re always interested in a delicious drink. So Pam and I decided on what we’d have, and I ordered a Strawberry refresher, and Pam a Cocoa drink.

We drove over to their house, and for social distancing reasons,she left them on the step for us to retrieve, while Sarah, Damian and the sisters all looked on. We didn’t know what to expect, but both of us found our drinks absolutely delicious. This girl had done her homework.

What I haven’t mentioned is that she’s been watching the television reports of the brave health workers in this COVID-19 pandemic. This was very troubling to this 8-year-old, and she wanted to do something about it, so she came up with the idea of using her love of wanting to become a barista and helping these health workers at the same time. It was a win-win scenario for her. I don’t know how many drinks she made, but she didn’t charge for any of them, with the caveat and a wink, that tips would be accepted..

Well, she received a lot of tips and felt very good at the end of the day. She had worked so hard planning, getting her ingredients together, experimenting, making a menu and rounding up potential customers.

Pictured below is the note she wrote to the sweet doctor who lives across the street from her. Upon receiving this gift from “T”, the doctor was overcome with gratitude and wrote a beautiful thank you note back to her.

For Pam and me, it was a spiritual experience receiving those drinks, knowing her intentions.

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

IN THE HUMAN WAVE

I’m a sand pebble in the human wave…shaped by institutions…institutions in which I am losing trust…there’s a disconnect…
I feel it

I’m a sand pebble in the human wave…existing with corona…death
…uncertainty …economic upheaval …social reset….world turmoil…greater economic divide
I feel it

I’m a sand pebble in the human wave…living with social media ….connective expression …
little formative construct….
unbridled…volatile……
I feel it

I’m a sand pebble in the human wave..experiencing societal fracture…and political manipulation…a climate of anger..
I feel it

I’m a sand pebble in the human wave…the church….vacillating ..
divisions.. ..scandal…benign positivity …
I feel it

I’m a sand pebble in the human wave….but even so….there in the uttermost parts of the sea…One who rules the swelling of the waters…stills the roaring of the waves….and the tumult of the people…
I know it

GOING HOME

In the Spring and Fall, I like to sit out on our front porch in the fresh air, with a hot cup of coffee. From this vantage, I can see our little neighborhood park across the street. It’s not a park really, but a green space that the developers left for us to enjoy , instead of looking at more houses.

This wooding is a real treasure to me, because she gives permission to stare and enjoy her beauty. I’ve often prayed looking over there, accompanied by the sound of a goldfinch chirping away in a gentle rain, or sometimes too….in reverent silence.

I take a sip of my coffee and think about what I’ll be doing with my day, people I’m thinking about and sometimes, recounting events of my life and wishing I was back home again. It reminded me of the song, “Going Home” from Dvorak’s “New World “Symphony.

I was supposed to be going back to my home state of North Dakota in May, to be a part of festivities at my high school alma mater, Bismarck high School…and then again in mid summer to remember a very very precious friend of mine. Now, that is not going to happen, which makes me sad.

But as I look over toward the beautiful flowered green, the branches of these lovely trees wave at me, as if to say, “go on”, and in my heart…I’m back home.

ON A WALK

I needed Easter more than ever this year as we face calamity and COVID-9.There’s been deadly tornadoes, flooding, issues with social distancing and political unrest.

I thought about it as I was walking in my neighborhood before the storms hit. There were hopeful signs along the way. I saw rocks that had been placed around our property ..with words written on them like “JOY” and “BREATHE”. I smiled… my heavy spirit was lifted.

When I got back home, I wrote this little poem about the people who are working in critical care areas. I’m so very grateful to them…and that gratitude continues as all of us march on, into the unknown.

FOR THOSE WHO WEEP
(Ode to all health workers)

Now in present cloistered days
of unremitting limbo
Musing on this phantom strain
I look out from my window

Apollo, famed in Grecian myth
With untold healing powers
Could not lone protect the horde
Of souls in these dark hours

Yet then in turmoil’s curious path
Mid cries of fear and faith
Come the Healer’s angel band
Who face uncertain fate

With need so great for mask and gloves
And some in short supply
Still these teams of loving hands
Keep prayers of hope alive

Their well trained skills are calming fears
Jehovah in their midst
Curing minds keep pressing on
Though deadly worm persists

My heart is oh so heavy though
My senses overwhelmed
Thinking of the suffering
and precious lives in peril

I need to walk and feel the sun
then smell the fragrant flowers
Clear my head in nature’s way
For me a healing power

So this my prayer before I sleep
and through the days and weeks
Lord sustain these weary ones
and comfort those who weep

Greg Nelson
© Poppie’s Hallel

THE BOTTOM LINE

We’re coming up on the celebration of the central tenet of the Christian faith. We’ve observed Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday. Today is Good Friday, and then, the Cornerstone….Easter.

There’s been great melancholy about missing Easter egg hunts, chocolate bunnies and not having a reason to buy a new dress for Easter Sunday. I can’t imagine the consternation if this occurs at Christmas. I don’t know what the reaction to this is from all the CEO attendees (Christmas Easter Only).

I’m hearing interesting takes on the coronavirus in what it means in a spiritual context in this season. Some feel that in an instant, God has taken all the things that we worship from us, like sports events, concerts, entertainment venues, and to be sure, the stability of our entire economic system.

Speculation is rampant. You hear things like, “Well, that’s not gonna happen” or, “These newsmakers don’t know what they’re talking about”, and in other conversations, “We’ll just go back to the way things were“ or, “Well, things won’t be going back to the way they were before“. And people get so emphatically all knowing, like they’re speaking “ex cathedra”. It goes on and on, “I know we’re in the end times” or “This is really not much worse than the flu?”

I don’t know what is or isn’t going to happen, but I’m watching and praying…and I’m sticking with the proverb that describes me and my approach perfectly. “Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.” So here’s what I’m absolutely sure of.

Christ has risen from the dead!!!

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,”
‭‭(1 Peter‬ ‭1:3-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

For me, and I can only speak for me…THAT’S the bottom line for all I face.

Here is a song that my good friend, Paul Marino and I wrote about how we want to approach these observances.

HEALING

There are good days, difficult days, ones of expectation and those that speak uncertainty. Everyday I’m so grateful to God for the mercy of a new day…But on those “ I don’t understand” days, I need to be reminded again of Isaiah 55:8-9.

““For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

I woke up this morning feeling somewhat downcast. I‘ve had medical testing, doctor visits and still dealing with those suffering from the upheaval of recent tornadoes here in Nashville. That was enough for concern, but now the isolation of family in this present pandemic seems a little much, and I have questions. So God has His way of answering me in ways I can best understand. Simply, clearly and with music.

One of the great joys in my career, was to produce a recording with artist/songwriter, Richard Smallwood. He’s a fabulous pianist, consummate musician and steeped in classical understanding. He has adroitly married the soulful expression of black gospel music with a classical leaning. He took this chronically white, boy from North Dakota, into his world, a culture in which I had no footing. I am so very thankful for his friendship.

I wanted you to hear some of Richard’s music I was listening to this morning, As he sang, I wept at the song’s beauty and truth. God is near in al of this..

NO REAL DIFFERENCE

I came across an article about the Wechsler Adult lntelligence Scale. It was fascinating to me and touched on the ratio of IQ level related to percentage of the population. Only approximately 1% of the people in the world have an IQ of 135 or over. Genius or near-genius IQ is considered to start around 140 to 145. Less than 1/4 of 1 percent falls into this category., while an average IQ is anywhere from 85 to 110. Bill Gates has it IQ of 160

I don’t exactly know what comes to mind when I think of intelligence. I appreciate Ken Jennings, who won the Grand Championship on Jeopardy. He seems like a good guy and not caught up in himself. I’ve met intelligent people who are nice, and others who make you aware of their brilliance by way of subtle self mplication.

My cousin, Glen is unbelievably bright, it’s just scary. Both Pam and I thought for sure he had total recall. He’s very kind, you feel very comfortable around him and he’s not trying to let you know what he knows. I’ve never personally met anyone who was so thorough in his knowledge of so many varying subjects … except for maybe my old doctor neighbor, Ed, who , in a casual conversation at a New Year’s eve gathering at his home, remembered his preliminary heat time at a swimming meet in which he competed in eighth grade. FREAKY!!!!

When you hang around these guys too long, this stupid feeling comes over you, and you just want to run away to monastic life and the Order of Blessed Brothers of Ignorance.

This all got me thinking that maybe I should take that intelligence test to see where I am on the scale. I asked Pam what she thought of the idea, but she just shook her head and said, “I wouldn’t bother, you’ve had enough disappointments in your life. I didn’t get where she was going with that.

No matter what she says. I feel really good about myself, because if you take away intelligence (okay…also looks, money, charm and success)

…really, there’s no real difference between me and George Clooney.