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

(Verse 1)

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

(Verse 2)

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

(Bridge)

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

(Verse 3)

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

(Verse 4)

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

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. ❤️

THE RESIDUE

I’m going back to my hometown, Bismarck, North Dakota to hear the premier of a piece I put together for the dedication of the G Ron Gilbreath Auditorium. This holds special meaning for me because it will be housed in Bismarck High School.

The work was composed together with my friends Daniel Bondaczuk and Amber Maxwell, and is a tribute to my dear friend, mentor and band director during the years I conducted the orchestral program at Bismarck High. His name is Gordon Knaak, and he is held warmly in my heart.

In July, I go back once again to Bismarck to remember the life a girl, who apart from my wife Pam, was my closest friend in high school. Her name is Greta Weisser and we played cello together growing up and never lost touch through the years.

This season of remembering fostered a little poetic thought in me. I thought I’d share it with my friends. It’s what I feel.

THE RESIDUE

Silver strands

wrinkled hands

a patch of thinning mane

in the mirror

a vision peers

at tracks

the years have framed

Warm moments spawn

fond reminisce

captured through the years

They temper well

the youthful scars

and adolescent fears

The world was what it was for me

I never thought to ask

or question in those carefree days

I thought would always last

But now the residue of grief

and emptiness I feel

for all of those whose damaged hearts

no human spackle heals

Blossom falls

on colored leaf

Ages payment comes

Once vibrant days

of living finds

a body soon undone.

Dreams and leaves then wind away

Lo soon they disappear

For now is not

what thought would be

in these ensuing years

Life would stamp it’s cruel mark

on all my childhood friends

But in the day

we had it made

We all were different then

It all was different then

Some Good News

Is it just me, or has anyone else ever felt like over the years, they never really grasped the depth of what the bible was trying to tell them? I read scripture and sang hymns using words like grace, mercy, redemption and surrender among others. Oh, I know what they are in terms of definition….and don’t get me wrong, I’m fluent in “Christianeze”, both in liturgical languages, and evangelical/Pentecostal buzz words and phrases. I can pop them off with the best of them, but it’s taken a lifetime to begin to understand the depth of their meaning as I now recount the redundant and overwhelming reality of God’s implementation of these words in my life. I’m such a slow learner.

I see I’ve spent most of my life sidetracked with busyness, children, making a living and trying to do the right things the world expects of me. But after a lifetime of living, something unbelievable has happened to me…beyond the quick quips and easy answers. Life has struck me down and I’m starting to understand what God has been trying to show me for decades.

The good news is that God has not given up on me. Gospel songwriter, Joel Hemphill wrote a song entitled, “He’s Still Workin’ On Me”. A wonderful hope for us all. In the 1989 William Nicholson play, “Shadowlands”about C.S. Lewis and his wife, Joy Greshem, the conclusion of the work conveys to us that the pain we feel as we get older, is God chipping away at us to make us in His image. Now that’s some Good News!!!!

“Being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians1: 6)

THE LITTLE THINGS

I’ve had the joy of staying with my sister for a few weeks after the death of her husband. It’s been a beautiful time, but I’m lonesome for home, kisses from my daughter, cuddling with my granddaughters, seeing my friends, warm hugs from Pam and just getting to talk to her in person rather than FaceTime. I also didn’t realize how much I miss having fun teasing her and fussing about things that are totally unimportant. Who knew?!!!!

I got a call from one of my Bible study friends, J.T. Olsen this morning. He called just to tell me that he was thinking about me and praying for me. It made all the difference to me and lifted my spirits. I’m sure he probably thought I’ll just give them a call, no big deal, I’ve got the time. But his call was huge for me, because it told me that he loved me and that I mattered to him. Even though those words were not necessarily spoken, it’s what I felt. It didn’t cost him much, but it was a lavish gift to me.

I often think that when I’m doing something I think is monumental, you know, something that has a lot of peoples attention, it’s really important stuff. I just want to say this. Sometimes, it’s the insignificant acts that are the big deal. I don’t want to lose sight of that. I don’t want people to get lost in the minutia of my thinking.

I’m reminded of this question that is found in Scripture:

“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?”

“Even the largest avalanche is triggered by small things.”

(Vernor Vinge)

I know I’m quite familiar with this concept about the little things, I’m so painfully aware that at this late stage in my life, it’s still not rooted deeply enough in me. Even though the thought occurs, my action does not follow nearly as often.

Dear God….

Teach me about the little things. Help me become more obedient to your prompting.

Amen.

THAT’S GOOD

I’ve decided to get into art. My medium is pen and ink (avec une gomme). It only makes sense because I have a lotta pens I get from doctors offices, the bank and when I go to my physical therapy appointments.

I thought I was more of an abstract impressionist like Elaine de Kooning. I really like that style because it’s a calming visual where you use colors and soft brush strokes to fill a large area, but Pam thinks I’m more like a distressed impressionist. She says my work definitely has a very distracting quality, troubling yet unnatural. She knows how to talk all arty like that but I think I’m tracking with her.

Just a minute ago Pam mumbled something that seemed weird to me. She said I might want to consider some other thing to get into…like therapy. Maybe artists do a lot of stuff like that to bring out their creativity….but knowing her, now that I think of it, I’m not sure that’s the reason why she’d want me to go.

I just have this sense that I’m on the precipice of something stunning. I just showed her my most recent work, and she told me it would be stunning alright…. more like a stun gun. That’s good, isn’t it?

WHAT DO I KNOW?

There are people of all Christian faiths, whether Presbyterian, Baptist, Episcopalian, Seventh Day Adventist, African Methodist Episcopalian (AME), Christian Church (disciples of Christ), Pentecostal, Catholic, United Church Of ChristNazarene, Church Of. God, Assemblies Of God, Church Of God In Christ, Moravian, Church Of Christ, Lutheran and denominations of every ethnicity….we all have our deal. This certainly is not a complete list by any means. Oh yah…and they all have their own Christian denominational dialect.

We’re expected to sort through eternal security, speaking ex cathedra, entire sanctification, 5 point Calvinism, 5 Solae, no instruments in worship, sacraments, eucharist, infant baptism versus immersion of believers, ordinance, pre or post millennials, speaking in tongues, gifts of the Spirit, purgatory, consubstantiation, transubstantiation, the unforgivable sin, does baptism save you, elders or deacons, episcopal, connexional, Presbyterian or congregational polity, Sabbath observance…and that’s just for starters.

Main streamers have a tooth for the tabernacle and the awe of God. Evangelicals tee-off on the temple and the teachings of Jesus while Pentecostals key on the experiential. The trouble is that each one dismisses the other. There are many congregations of wide diversity…but way more that stay with the people who make them comfortable.

Here’s the deal, you’ve got theologians on all sides of every issue, Bible answer men, a plethora of interpretation with most referencing what the Bible says or how it doesn’t really mean what it says. Just a whole buncha differing views. The funny thing is, not many of these debates center around orphans, widows, the poor and concern for the powerless.

I enjoy having people challenge my thinking, it’s a healthy process, and so needed. I don’t know if you’re like me, but I can sit down and listen to a guy who is really brilliant and convincing, and then sit down with another guy who comes from a sharply different perspective and is equally convincing… Well, that gives me pause. Then…when you think that those two intelligent men I just referenced were Calvin and Luther, both lawyers, it really REALLY gives me pause.

I speak for me only when I say, I haven’t done a very good job of being the God of my life. I have to have some sort of standard by which I set my course in life. That is for me, the Bible as I understand it. I study, I think, but I’m not that smart, but even so, the ability to retain information is not wisdom. Those are two different things.

I can’t run my life on other people’s personal feelings or in culture that shifts. I believe there are eternal truths.

Ultimately, I’m thinkin’ that if God has any questions of me, they won’t be the aforementioned theological issues I stated earlier.

But what do I know? 😮

MY MOTHER’S GARDEN

I remember the unbearable earaches I had when I was in kindergarten and first grade. My mother would lay my head on her lap and pour warm olive oil in my ear. Probably one of those old wives tales. It felt good for a moment, but it didn’t last. This was before you could put tubes in little ears to relieve the waxen impasse.

But somehow, as I lay there in pain and crying, she would look into my listless eyes, rub my head and comfort me. “IThere there, Greggie boy. I know, honey…I know.”

My mom’s name was Irene. She knew about comforting her children. When my father left for the Aleutian Islands during World War II, she was pregnant with her first child. In the early months after her birth she found that my sister had leukemia. She lived 5 months. The most poignant photo I remember of my mother, was her holding Mary Corene about two weeks before she died, her eyes looked so weary and sad.

My mother did so much more than that for me as I grew to be a man. . Things for which my brother, sister and I are forever grateful, and could never repay.

It’s not national Mother’s Day, but I’m thinking about my her just now. I love this poem by an unknown author. Its not profound, but it’s a beautiful image.

AS MY MOTHER KEPT A GARDEN

My Mother kept a garden.

A garden of the heart;

She planted all the good things,

That gave my life it’s start.

She turned me to the sunshine,

And encouraged me to dream:

Fostering and nurturing

The seeds of self-esteem.

And when the winds and rains d came,

She protected me enough;

But not too much, she knew I’d need

To stand up strong and tough.

Her constant good example,

Always taught me right from wrong;

Markers for my pathway

To last my whole life long.

I am my Mother’s garden,

I am her legacy.

And I hope today she feels the love,

Reflected back from me.