|Jeanie, top center, and me on the right|
This weekend, I attended a 90th birthday celebration of a dear friend of mine. I met Jeanie about 5 years ago when we attended a Sunday School class together. Both of my grandmothers are no longer living, and she reminded me of one of them ... she is as short as I am tall, and quite a storyteller. But it wasn't only those similarities that drew me to her. My grandmother was responsible for presenting the Gospel to me, and I still treasure the Bible she gave me as a child, with her distinctive hand-writing commemorating the date.
Like my grandmother, Jeanie became a beacon of unwavering faith to me and so many others. Along with three other octogenarians, I had the privilege of interviewing them and capturing their coming-of-age stories during WW II. It was wonderful to hear of how families survived those perilous times; how they struggled with little money; and how the country pulled together to make the necessary sacrifices that would result in our military's success.
|Jeanie, and her soldier husband, Joe|
Jeanie's husband died at a young age, leaving her with five young children to raise (much like my grandmother's story), and this pint-sized dynamo reared her children to love and abide in the Lord. In fact, at the party, person after person rose to testify of Jeanie's profound and tireless faith throughout her 90 years. She takes her commission to spread the Gospel message seriously, and I've never seen anyone who is so fearless in approaching strangers -- she truly cares about the souls of the unsaved! I wish I had her courage and single-mindedness in carrying out this mission.
When asked what had made her life such a success, she didn't hesitate... Faith and Friendship. But how both have suffered in her latter years. Faith used to be at the center of success, in both the family and the nation; today it is defiled and ridiculed. Friendship used to be about being physically and spiritually available to meet your neighbor's needs. Today it is conducted through emotionless text messages; is usually all about self; and lacks the sight, touch, and sound of another caring human being. I envy Jeanie; she has really lived a meaningful and full life. So, I left her party, thankful for having her in my life, and hoping that God will allow her to continue His work for many years -- and praying that He would use me in the same way.
|The Memphis Belle, movie cast and real-life heroes|
For a few brief moments on screen, airmen can be seen down on bended knee, praying before they climb into an aircraft and take part in a bombing run that could very well be their last. Those left on the airfield are shown bowing their heads and crossing themselves, obviously praying for the safe return of their squadron. And then they showed the tail gunner getting into position, and I was overcome with emotion, thinking about my father, who as a kid of 18 was given that heavy responsibility. I have seen what war does to young men of 18-20 years old; the haunted look of those I've served at the Fisher Houses in San Antonio. And to think that I never took that into account when I questioned what I thought were unreasonable fears about monetary security, or his refusal to face the end of his life.
|My Dad -- kneeling, far right|
But like the brave young men in our all-volunteer military, he and the Greatest Generation answered the call. And unlike their modern counterparts, my father's peer group had the freedom to express their faith. There were no rules prohibiting Bibles or religious symbols; soldiers were allowed to invoke the name of God, and Chaplains were an important part of military leadership. Not that everyone in WW II was a Believer, but at least the powers-that-be didn't discourage the seeking of God.
Maybe I'm just entering a season of contemplation and nostalgia. I don't want to think that we have seen the best of what this nation and our lives can be. I don't want to imagine what it will be like for the next generations. I know that these character traits are still alive in our country; that deep down we still yearn for abiding Faith, authentic Friendship, and enduring Freedom. I pray that I can carry on the legacy of both my father and my friend, Jeanie ... that I can do my part and that I will be able to pass something worthy on to others.
Psalm 78:4 "We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and His might, and the wonders that He has done."