Thank You to a Silent Savior

His name was Nicholas Winton, a quiet Englishman who recently died at the age of 106.  He never got around to talking much about himself. Probably no one would have known had his wife not found the dusty scrapbook in their attic, and that didn’t happen until 1988. It was a faded record of names and pictures, a story from the Holocaust.

In 1938, Mr. Winton was a London stockbroker who for some unknown reason canceled a skiing vacation in Switzerland to go with a friend to help refugees in Czechoslovakia, which had just been annexed by Germany.  What he saw there was not at all what he expected.  Countless refugees were living in appalling conditions.  War looked inevitable and escape, hopeless.  Except that Britain had started a program called Kindertransport that allowed unaccompanied Jewish children to be admitted into the country so long as there was a host family for them.  But there was nothing like that in Czechoslovakia.  So Nicholas Winton started one.  He bribed, forged documents, secretly met with the Gestapo, and spent every penny he could beg, borrow, or take from his own bank account.  He met with desperate parents in his Prague hotel room, took pictures of the children, and sent them to his mother in England.  She pleaded in newspaper ads, and church and synagogue bulletins, for foster families and money.  Hundreds of families responded.

Hours before Hitler dismembered Czechoslovakia, the first 20 children left Prague on the first train.  Eight more trains were lined up to take the rest of the children.  Seven trains made it through. 669 children.  The last train, with the other 250 children, left on Sept. 1,1939.  It was the day Hitler invaded Poland. All borders closed, and Winton’s rescue ended.  That last train disappeared.  None of the children on it were ever seen again.

For fifty years, Nicholas Winton said nothing of the children.  Only when his wife found the scrapbook did he tell her he saw those little ones every night in his dreams.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

~Martin Luther King, Jr.~

 

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Happy Birthday, Dad

Had my dad lived three more months, he would have been 99 years old today.  99!  That’s so hard to imagine.

If you’re no longer a young whipper-snapper, you probably recognize that weird phenomenon of getting set on a certain age.  No matter what nature does to you, no matter what the calendar says, that’s how old you always consider yourself to be.  For me, it’s 40.  That’s how I see myself.

Last year I was talking about that to my dad, and I asked him how old he felt in his mind. Without missing a beat he said, “60.”  He paused and thought for a moment, then he added, “It always confuses me that my children will soon be as old as me.  How can that be?”

Getting older is a great thing.  But I thank God for allowing my dad the honor of living for almost 99 years, and still being 60.

Happy birthday, Dad.  How amazing it must be to celebrate it in heaven!

“We are always the same age inside.”

Gertrude Stein

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So You Want To Write A Book?

Write your book only if you can do it for the creative joy of writing.  Because if you don’t enjoy it, you likely won’t finish writing it.  And even if you do finish, most likely you won’t take the time and effort to do it the best you possibly can.

Here are some facts you should know:

  • Number of self-published books in 2016 (last year available):  786,935.*
  • Number of traditionally print books in 2016:  683,624.
  • Chance of a book being stocked by a bookstore:  less than 1% **
  • Most book marketing today is done by the authors.  (This is why one’s “marketing platform” is so important to a prospective editor.)

So is it even worth writing your book?

  • If you have to  ask, maybe not
  • Probably not if your goal is to quit your day job and live off your writing.
  • Yes, if the writing itself gives you pleasure.
  • Yes, if you can’t not do it.

How should you start?

  • Learn the craft of writing. (From good writing books.  Better yet, from extended education writing classes)
  • Attend a good writers conference where you can meet agents and editors, and learn from successful writers.
  • Write and write and write some more.

*According to Bowker, the official source for ISBNs in the United States. An ISBN uniquely identifies your book, and helps get it into bookstores and libraries.

**For every available bookstore shelf space, there are 100 to 1,000 or more titles competing.

 “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.  The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

Thomas Edison

 

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What if…?

What if  I lived in Syria instead of the USA? 

What if my little granddaughters were out

playing when the chlorine gas fell from the

sky?

What if they

couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t help them?

What if the rest of our family was already gone

from previous attacks?

What would I do?

What if I were to do that now?

Because it is someone’s child, just as innocent. 

And just as precious.

Dear God, forgive me. 

Forgive us all.

“The world has achieved brilliance without conscience.  Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants.”

General Omar Bradley 

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Truth or Fiction

“It is as fatal as it is cowardly to blink at facts because they are not to our taste.”

~John Tyndall~

English Physicist (1820-1893)

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Once again, Poison Gas Raining Down

Several years ago, I told you about an amazing Iraqi soldier, fighting under Saddam Hussein in Desert Storm.  A member of the privileged class, he lived well and wanted for little. Amazingly, he was a Christian. When Saddam rained poison gas down on the Kurds as punishment for their lack of support for his regime, the soldier watched as it all unfolded –terrified parents desperately pushing terrified children forward in a vain attempt to get them away from the poison.  Young men running with their grandmas on their backs.  Families tossing aside the last of their worldly goods in their struggle to outrun the poison gas.

As a  Christian, the soldier could not remain on the side of the aggressor.  So he hurriedly gathered his wife and children together, then locked the front door of his lovely house.  He tossed the keys, along with the keys to his luxury car, to his neighbor as he hurried his family to join the crowd of running Kurds. He knew he would not be coming back.

Saddam Hussein is long gone. The Kurds are in another place, living a better life than they ever had in Iraq. As for the soldier, he and his family cast their lots with the Kurds, teaching and healing and demonstrating compassion.

The soldier’s compassion brought him and his family to the Kurds, but it is their faith that to this day sustains them there. They are Christians. And because of the choices one Iraqi soldier made, many Kurdish Iraqis are as well.

And now it is Syria.  The Syrian government, Iran, and Russia are together waging the same horror on a different unsuspecting part of the country.

I wonder…might a Syrian soldier cast his lot with the hopeless population and risk his life to help them?  Or an Iranian?  Or possibly even a Russian?

And what about Americans?

What about us?

Will anyone even speak up?

“The greatest patriotism is to tell your country when it is

behaving dishonorably.”

Novelist Julian Barnes

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Is Dinner Ready? I’m Starving!

Oh, how I hate to hear that lament!  I know, I know.  It’s just a saying.  And, yes, I have said it too.  But I still hate it.  That’s because I’ve seen starving people and they look nothing like us.

And now what was awfully bad is getting horribly worse.

The deputy head of the U.N. children’s agency reports that a famine is looming in Southern Sudan.  Nobody’s fault.  The reason is the scarce rainfall.  That’s the cause, but what makes it unbearable is the blind eye “have” countries are turning toward the afflicted “have nots.” And the ones caught in the middle?  As usual it is the most helpless–the children.

Two of the ten most afflicted states will be harvesting zero crops this year. Hilda Johnson of UNICEF lamented, “The malnutrition in children there is already at a very, very high emergency level…and now there is absolutely no food.”

That’s what starving means.

“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well- being of a person is at stake.  Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”

~Martin Luther King, Jr.~

 

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The Legend of the Dogwood

In Jesus’ day, so the legend goes, dogwood trees grew as large and stately as oaks, and they were covered with beautiful blossoms in white or pink.  It was a dogwood tree that was chosen for Jesus’ cross.  Despite His own agony, Jesus recognized the pain the tree felt, for it never wanted to be used for so horrific a purpose.

Certainly not for One so Holy.

So Christ made a promise to the dogwood tree:

“Never again shall a dogwood tree grow large enough to be used for a cross.  Instead of tall and sturdy, they shall be slender and twisted.  They will still have their beautiful blossoms, but from this day forward, those blossoms will have four petals that form a cross.  At the tip of each petal, for all to see, will be a jagged wound stained with blood.  And the center of each blossom will wear a thorny crown. And from that day to the end of time, all who see a dogwood tree in bloom will remember Me.”

True story?  No.  It’s only a legend.  But isn’t it a lovely one?

Blessed Easter!

 

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Good Friday

Three Crosses

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 53:5

 

 

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You Know How It Is?

You know how it is when you are scheduled to do something important and really enjoyable but you’re so tired you consider canceling  it?  When others much more important than you will be there anyway, some in much more prominent roles than yours, so you figure no one will miss you?  And it’s not really your fault you’re behind because how could you have known back then when you made the commitments how busy you would be now?  Well, yes, it is your fault for overscheduling, but not totally because you tried to say no but if you didn’t do it, who would?

You did say you would, and you do want to be asked back, and you do have material you can recycle, and who’s going to know anyway?  So you go, your recycled things in hand, and you don’t worry about BEST because you did show up, and shouldn’t they all be grateful for that?

You know how it is when someone meets you when you arrive and you’re all rumpled and sleepy, your mind cluttered and your computer bag stuffed full of that other project?  But then before you can complain about how busy you are, that other person thanks you for something you said to him several years before that changed his life and now he’s come back to thank you.  You know how that is?

Yeah, me too.  So I tossed my other project back into the car, prayed for forgiveness and for last minute help, and got to work.  And, oh, what a week it was!

“Whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.” 

~Galatians 6:10~

 

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