Thursday, September 18, 2008

Walking on Broken Glass

I often listen to the pastor from Moody Memorial Church on a local radio station. After I have gotten El Guapo and Bean out the door to work and school, dropped off Bear at preschool and am ready for a strong cup of coffee and some breakfast, Erwin Lutzer comes on. My favorite breakfast is eggs, and it's funny that even if I hear him at some other time of day, I suddenly will get a hankering for eggs as soon as I hear his voice. We have spent that many mornings together! He has a distinctive voice that El Guapo is not very fond of, but I have come to find such a sweet familiarity there, it is like sitting down with a beloved friend over coffee each morning and getting eloquent and humble teaching.

A few weeks ago he spoke about Paul admonishing us to walk circumspectly and to illustrate what this looks like, he gave the following word picture. When he took a trip to Africa, he noticed that most houses and buildings had high solid fences around them. To offer further security, bottles and glass had been broken and then embedded in the top of the concrete to discourage people from climbing over.

He then vividly recalled seeing a cat walking across the top of one of those walls. As it walked along the jagged shards, it picked its way carefully, mindful of each step, placing each paw in a safe spot. It was hard for the cat to always find a foothold, but Lutzer was impressed when the cat reached the end of the wall and leaped gracefully down, with nary a scrape or cut. He had traversed the broken glass unscathed!

(Imagine glass shards on top!)

Of course, the parallel is that we should walk in our own lives as carefully, contemplating each step and choosing the wisest course. I sure need to practice that more! How my life would change if I could just not open my big mouth as much, but use more restraint and reflection! I tend to be more like this:

You know, running headlong, tongue lolling out, stepping in who knows what! So even though I am a "dog person," I guess I need to be more of a "cat person," if only in this one way: to ask God for wisdom at each juncture of my day and to put into practice those things that I SAY I believe, but don't always act on. I guess this is the journey to authenticity that I'll be on for the rest of my life.

"Be very careful then how you live -- not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity." -Ephesians 5:15

Thursday, September 11, 2008

ZamFam Road Trip: Part 4

See, Bug did actually have fun on vacation. This is chillin' East Coast style! Can you believe those eyelashes? They cast shadows! And you heard it here first, folks. That outfit is prophetic. My boy is going to be a world class baseball player (mostly because I have forbidden him from playing football!)

Uncle Randy's world famous, gut-busting sundaes! Yeee--ummmm!

The proud American (extended) ZamFam at the Washington Monument. We went to Washington, D.C. for the day to walk around the monuments in the mall. The theme of our trip seemed to be insane humidity and crazy heat, but we had an awesome time. We walked our feet off, but even in the heat, D.C. was moving and invigorating. We are definitely going to try to get back and spend MUCH more time. There is a definite atmosphere about Washington that exudes power and drive.

If you know me for about ten minutes, you will know that I am a World War II buff. This memorial was the main reason I wanted to visit Washington. It alone was worth the visit and exceeded my expectations. I found it so incredibly moving that I left everyone at the reflection pool and walked around by myself with tears streaming down my face and a huge lump in my throat. I must have looked strange to some people (I wouldn't really pass for a WWII vet!), but I didn't care.

This is the view of the memorial from the top of the Washington Monument. It is one of the most gorgeous, well-designed public spaces I have ever seen, full of symbolism, gravitas and import -- so befitting the people and events it memorializes. It is amazing to me that this memorial is so new, that we didn't have a national monument prior to 2004. Fittingly, it was begun in September 2001 and was funded primarily through private donations. (Tom Hanks and Bob Dole spearheaded the fundraising. Thanks, Tom and Bob! -- Yeah we're on a first name basis.)

"HERE WE MARK THE PRICE OF FREEDOM" (and here is where the tears flowed even more freely). This is a reflection pond with the above inscription in the foreground and a field of blue studded with gold stars in the background. Each of the 4,000 stars represents 100 American lives sacrificed (400,000) in the war that saved the world from tyranny.

The oval is flanked by two pavilions representing the two theaters of war -- the Pacific and the Atlantic. In the center of the memorial is a large fountain which drowns out street noise and offers a fitting background for contemplation. Fifty-six large columns offer the roll call of the nation -- one for each state and territory that united in the effort. The wreaths on each pillar are of oak and wheat symbolizing the nation's industrial and agricultural strength which were essential to the success of the global effort. There are also quotes and inscriptions throughout the memorial from key battles.

On the floor of each pavilion is a large medallion of the WWII Victory Medal that all who served received. Suspended from the ceiling are four bronze victory eagles holding laurel wreaths. So spectacular! I had a headache when I left because I was swallowing so hard trying not to just burst out weeping. I'm sorry my picture descriptions sound so "guidebook-ish." I just cannot convey how meaningful it was for me to visit this memorial. Never before have so few sacrificed so much for so many. (And just imagine my poor nephews who were with on this trip. They would offer the following advice: never go on a vacation to Washington, D.C. with your aunt if she is a history teacher! If you think this is bad . . . )

We also went to the Vietnam War Memorial. The famous Wall is beautiful as it is not a wall just jutting out of the ground, but is a graceful arc that starts thin, culminates at over six fee tall and than narrows back down to a few inches. It is built into the side a small rise and has the name of each soldier who was killed, captured or missing in the war. If the name has a diamond after it, that soldier is confirmed dead. If there is a cross after the name, that soldier is MIA or captured. There are over 1000 names on the wall designated as MIA/POW. I found this mind boggling, as did Bean, who poignantly asked, "Why did people invent war?" Good question.

The Korean War Memorial was also incredible. "The Forgotten War" is memorialized by a fitting inscription: "Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met." As a former history teacher, I knew the dates of the Korean War (1950-1953), but until I saw the memorials all together, I didn't realize the ramifications of the fact that the Korean War was just a short five years after the end of World War Two. It was also one of the first major tests of the newly formed United Nations (not a real stellar legacy if you ask me -- considering the present situation with North Korea) and the first time US troops went into battle as UN forces. In three years of conflict the US lost over 36,000 soldiers in addition to 92,000 wounded, 8200 MIA and 7100 POW.

Statistics like these and those from WWII and Vietnam really put the Iraq War in perspective for me. Any casualty is one too many, but on this day of remembering patriots, we really should think about all that our troops have accomplished in Afghanistan and Iraq and with some of the lowest troop casualties of any war the US has ever fought.

I have a few more pictures from D.C., but I will post them in one final "Road Trip." Our trip to the nation's capital was amazing and with family living so close to it, we plan on many returns. I'll leave you with one final picture for today:

America. Land of the Free. Home of the Brave.

Waxing ever patriotic,


Never Forget

Do you remember where you were on September 11, 2001? Do you remember what you were thinking and feeling? Do you remember what you were afraid of, afraid for? Do you remember who you wanted to be with, who you wanted to call, who you wanted to embrace? Do you remember the bravery, the heroism, the patriotism?

Pause for a moment of reflection. Fly your flag. Give a loved one an extra hug. Call your mom. Kiss your kids. Praise God for simple blessings. Thank a hero. Never forget.

Monday, September 8, 2008