Veterans Day

One year ago tomorrow, my favorite veteran lost his final battle with cancer.

My grandpa, Charles Clark, enlisted in the Army Air Force in 1941 and served four years, stationed in Guam and Alaska.  He was active in the American Legion for 69 years, always proud to be a WWII vet.  When I was a child, our Memorial Day tradition was watching Grandpa march in the Chatfield, Minnesota parade.

Like most of that greatest generation, Grandpa rarely spoke about his military service.  A modest man, he never sought recognition for that or any other successes.  Back in 1945, he was content to quietly return home, marry my grandma, settle into a career of managing grain elevators in North Dakota, and raise five children.

Last Veterans Day, two servicemen came to Grandpa's room at the hospice house in Rochester.  They presented him with a small gift and saluted him as he lay alert but unable to respond.  Looking at photographs from that ceremony is acutely moving to me tonight.  For all that is wretched and broken about 21st-century America, here is a moment that shines of our country's pride and virtue.  An honorable gesture for an honorable man.

The roses in the above picture are from the flower arrangement on Grandpa's casket, and the shell is from the honor guard's salute at the graveside ceremony.  It rests in plain sight in my living room, a daily reminder of sacrifice, honor—and a precious future reunion in our Savior's presence.


Everyone's Looking for Something

For years now, I have frequented a nearby trail for jogging or walking.  Something about the fresh air and the whispering cottonwoods and the comforting familiarity of the place sparks a certain je ne sais quoi for me.  It seems there are always interesting people and happenings on the trail—or maybe my mind is just sharper to observe detail and think creatively there.  Either way, little things like the following result.
_ _ _

"Have you seen some slippers?"
I was startled out of reverie
as I walked along the river
by this young mother's question.
She was astride a green bicycle;
behind her, a child with sorrowful eyes,
whose Mickey Mouse slippers had fallen off
somewhere along the path.

The next evening another stranger
blurted out a different inquiry:
"Have you seen any ducks?"
His toddler son was on his shoulders,
clutching a bag of bread crumbs.

Everyone's looking for something.

I myself am tempted to ask the next passerby:
"Excuse me, sir, but did you notice
a pile of patience beside the path back there?
I seem to have lost it along the way."

I imagine a little cove on the river,
cleverly hidden from our sight,
where mallard ducks take turns
trying on small Mickey Mouse slippers
and admiring their reflection in the water.
And when one of them takes too long,
the next in line does not quack
his annoyance or stamp his webbed foot,
but calmly helps himself
to another portion of my patience.


The Sketch Book

A year ago, I started keeping a sketch book with my Bible and journal.  There's also a pouch full of assorted pens and markers close by.  (The pouch has "Ford" inscribed on the front; it used to hold a car owner's manual and is the only remnant I have of my beloved Bubbles.)

Here's my one rule for the sketch book: Bible verses or passages only.  No doodles, no poetry, no Origami.  (A blank page of paper holds so much possibility!)

I have found my quiet times to be so enriched by the creative, kinesthetic practice of writing out bits of Scripture.  It makes each word soak into my mind in a way that simply reading doesn't do.  Even more importantly, it's an act of worship.  A verse may strike me with such poignancy that I can't help but copy it down and add some color and flourish, as if to say, Look, Father!  Look at this beautiful thing You have said!  What a magnificent Book You have written.

Have your daily quiet times gone a little stale?  Try adding an element of creativity.  You will be blessed; even better, the Lord will be blessed.


See the Conqueror

Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for yesterday we were dead.
- Russell Moore

- - -

I woke up with this hymn running through my head.  Here's wishing you a joyous Resurrection Day, full of praise to the Death-Conqueror.


An Open Letter to Ellie Holcomb

Dear Ellie,

I have a few bones to pick with you.

1.  You make my mascara run.
To start off your CD release concert on Sunday, you stepped to the mic and recited parts of Hosea 6 and Lamentations 3.  It wrecked me.  In the future, please take a cue from any number of other Christian artists and stick to trite comments and humorous anecdotes when you're up in front of people.  Quoting beautiful passages of holy Scripture is an unfair advantage over those of us who prefer to keep our Avon intact.

2.  You are an enemy of the forests.
Conservation, Ellie.  Conservation.  You have caused me to blubber into more tissues than your fair share.  Maybe if you sang with less sweetness, if you spoke with less conviction and wrote songs with less vulnerability and joy—maybe then I could have kept the shrinkwrap on this three-pack of Kleenex and preserved an innocent pine.

3.  You made me miss my exit.
In October I took a week's retreat to Colorado.  Your EP, With You Now, found its way into my car's CD player and remained there the whole eight days.  It was a time of release and renewal for me, and your music was the soundtrack.  I would have been grateful, except that you caused me to lapse into such introspection and prayer that I missed my exit on I-70 three different times.  The same exit, Ellie: missed three times in a row by a woman who prides herself on level-headedness.  Neil Diamond has never made me miss an exit.  Neither has Alison Krauss or even Johnny Cash himself.  Your manager should have received my bill for 92 cents of gasoline.

4.  You do not live in Utah.
Sure, you do a number on my eye makeup; you make me expend fistfuls of tissues and drive like a clueless person. Still, I would be willing to set all this aside and strike up a friendship if only you lived 1,635 miles closer to me.  The truth is, with my (ahem) unrivaled humility and your delightful music, hilarious stories, authenticity, and love of Jesus—we could be very good friends indeed.  Is it really too much to ask that you leave the hub of American music and come to the Christian musician's flyover state?  In a burst of generosity, I hereby waive the 92-cent tab if you give just one concert here.

It is for these reasons, Ellie, that I am imploring all three of my blog readers and all seven of my Key Radio listeners to not watch your concert online for free, or download some of your captivating music for a tip of their choice, or purchase your new album which I Kickstarted in a moment of temporary insanity.

Yours with tongue in cheek,