Okay, been posting a bunch lately, but over the summer and into the fall I have been involved in a very introspective process. As a tangential benefit of this study I have learned I stand in awe of a number of individuals. I just wanted to share who those people are.
First, I am in awe of those who have earned a PhD degree from a real university (not one of those paper mills). I slaved over a paper that came to just over 180 pages in length, and one of my supervisors told me her doctoral dissertation was over 400 pages in length. I have SO much more respect for the holder of legitimate Doctorates of Philosophy – in any field, history, philosophy, religion. Those who belittle education better not cross swords with me – I am not in the mood to praise ignorance and stupidity.
Second, I am utterly in awe of those who play instruments or sing on a professional level. I mean real musicians, not “America’s Got Talent” musicians. I mean concert musicians, pianists, guitarists, wind instruments, string instruments of all kinds. Just about anyone can play three chords on a cheap guitar. But I am fortunate enough to get to witness some amazing young people who can sing and play with the most amazing skill – even at their level of development. It is awe-inspiring. I simply bow in honor to them.
Third, I am in awe of anyone who can build something with their hands – carpenters and metal workers especially. I am gifted at turning large pieces of wood into sawdust, and that is about it. So, when I see a hand-crafted table, or an ornate ironwork, or even a quality painting, I just quiver.
Once upon a time I had dreams of being a leading professor, or a concert pianist, or a carpenter. I now know none of those things is going to happen. But, I can appreciate the skill of each of these groups of people even more. Now, when I hear a lecture, or hear a concerto, or examine a hand-made wooden table, I can just enjoy it, instead of envying the one who produced it. That makes for a much more pleasant experience.
Thanks to all who have achieved such heights in their chosen fields. I tip my hat to you all.
Was just taking a break a few minutes ago and I thought I would check on something and that led me to this observation: I have never (or at least, in a very long time) publicly thanked those of you who follow this blog on a regular basis.
There are currently 202 of you who follow the blog in one form or another. Wow. That is very special to me and I hope to bear that in mind as I consider future installments.
I am honored by the time you give to reading my thoughts, and I hope I provide something of substance, even if you do not agree with me.
To all who read and follow this blog, may you have a merry Christmas and a joyous New Year. And, most of all, may your theology be clear, the sun at your back, and may you always have a tailwind in all your endeavors.
Paul Smith, the ol’ Freightdawg.
I just noticed that you, my readers, pushed my blog reads to over 10,000 for the year. Now, I am well aware that many blogs get 10,000 reads in a month, some may get that in a day. But, for me, 10,000 is a pretty special number. I was kind of hoping for that by December’s end, so to get it with a few days left in November is really nice.
So, thanks heaps and bunches. Especially to those who are following my blog on a regular basis.
Yesterday I received a compliment. This pat on the back came from someone I only have a professional relationship with, someone who I have spoken with on the phone, but have not met in person. The person is accomplished in their chosen field. This person also served as a mentor to me through a recent course of study. So, when I received his compliment I felt like I had been given a rare and priceless jewel. I cannot describe the feeling that came over me.
Isn’t it amazing the awesome power of a genuine compliment. Of course, we should understand this when we stop and think about the brutal destructive power of hateful words. The little children’s ditty – “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is just so flat out wrong. I have seen young children absolutely crushed by the destructive power of an unmerited criticism, or even the harsh condemnation of a very minor offense. I have to be reminded of this time and again as I react to my own daughter, especially in times when I am hurting, or tired, or frustrated with another issue. So often I lash out with harsh words when a gentle correction and helpful instruction would be so much more appropriate.
No deep theology or profound esoteric questions today. Just a deep, profound “thank-you” to a person who had such a huge impact on my life with just a few words.
May we all have the opportunity to build someone up with a genuine, heart-felt compliment, and may we never lose an opportunity to speak that kind word.
June 6 1944. D-Day. The day the world had been waiting for what seemed like an eternity. Hitler and his minions had been stopped at the English Channel, but for how long? Would the war sink into another interminable volley of punch and counter-punch, or would one side finally gain the upper hand? The allies had carefully planned this day for months, and had been practicing for weeks. Literally thousands of army, marine, navy and air force troops would face their destiny on this day. All of the remaining pictures of that day are old and grainy. Nothing can accurately or adequately describe those harrowing hours.
Every day now we lose dozens of those brave men who turned the tide of the war against tyranny. Soon all we will have left are those old grainy pictures and the written words of those who survived. We have not done a good job of carrying the memory of those war years forward. History has a way of washing over the past and distorting the reality of what occurred. World War II was masked by the Korean “conflict” and that was further distorted by the Vietnam “war” which was never really declared a war. Now we have “operations” – not wars. We had Operation Desert Shield which became Operation Desert Storm. Then we had Operation Iraqi Freedom. The current commander-in-chief does not even want to use the word “operation.” He just launches missiles from secret drones in what is referred to as “surgical strikes” to kill suspected terrorists.
Everything has become so neat, so tidy. Notice the progression. We went from “war” to “conflict” to “police action” to “operation” to “surgical strikes.” We are not fighting wars or killing people now, we are becoming world wide surgeons, removing diseased or vestigial organs.
And every year the memory of June 6, 1944 fades a little deeper into the collective amnesia of a nation. That day was not neat. It was not tidy. It was not surgical. It was brutal – hell on earth. When the last army private, the last paratrooper, the last sailor who survived the “day of days” finally passes from this life an entire generation will be gone. A generation that was called upon to make a genuine sacrifice, and a generation that heard and answered the call.
I hate war. I hate the thought of war. I hate what war does to people – both soldier and civilian. But I stand in honor of those men who stepped out of those airplanes and who crawled down those rope ladders into those landing craft on that foggy June 6 morning. For so many it would be the last morning they would see.
And I am alive and breathe the air of freedom because of what they were able to accomplish that day – and for basically the entire next year. I cannot fathom their courage. I cannot comprehend their strength.
But I can honor them.
And the best way I know how to honor them is to teach that we should never again be faced with the need for another June 6. Let’s pray that we can rise above the insane desire to destroy ourselves through another world wide war. Or, another surgical strike, for that matter.
This post ain’t original. Been said so many times it borders on being a cliche.
But these six words are the most powerful words in the English language, and they need to be spoken often and meaningfully in any relationship: marriage, parent/child, employer/employee, friend/friend.
I love you.
Okay, maybe bosses should not run around telling their employees “I love you,” but “I appreciate you” would be a nice replacement.
How much better would all your relationships be if you just said “please” more often. And then “thank you.” And top it off with a big helping of “I love you.”
Wives need to hear these words. Husbands need to hear these words. Children need to hear these words. A lot! All of us need to hear these words – spoken freely, honestly and with meaning.
Please keep reading this blog. Thank you for your attention and your comments. I love those of you whom I have met, and I deeply appreciate all of you for spending just a few moments with a frumpy, grumpy, and sometimes acerbic old coot.
And, feel free to remind me of these six words when I need to be reminded of them.
The old freightdawg
I just wanted to pass along a huge “thank-you” to those of you who stop by and consider my rantings, quirky jokes, and occasional worthwhile theological insight. Today this blog received its 10,000th view, which is a very pleasant milestone for me. I have been posting here for approximately 19 months, so that averages out to be a little over 500 views a month. I realize in the real blogosphere that would be a bad day for many blogs, but for me it lets me know that you are at least noticing, if not actually reading and agreeing with, what I have to say.
Thanks for stopping by, and I hope that something that I have to say ends up being valuable for you – if for no other reason than it forces you to research your own opinion to prove that I am wrong.
Here is hoping that you keep the shiny side up and the oily side down – and that every take-off ends in a smooth and enjoyable landing!
Paul the curmudgeon “Freightdawg” Smith
Before you pull out your Bibles (or iPads) and tell me I’m misquoting Scripture, I know what Paul said in Philippians 4:7. It truly is one of the most beautiful promises in the Bible. Combined with v. 9 the promise is made complete – the God of peace and the peace of God. But I want to offer just a twist on v. 7, and ask if it would not be legitimate to speak of a peace sent by God that transcends all of our false interpretations and erroneous attempts at understanding it.
A recent thorn in the side of theology, particularly American theology, is the thought that “peace” and the other blessings that God bestows upon us are all somehow measured in physical attributes. Even if it is not something that we can touch, measure, smell or spend, God wants us to have something that reassures us that he loves us and that he, in fact, does exist. It’s like a child looking around at all the presents on Christmas morning but still checking to see if the cookies and milk disappeared, just to prove that Santa had truly visited the house.
So, we measure the “immeasurable” peace of God by our attractive spouses, our nice cars, our secure jobs, the diplomas on the wall, the pictures of the grandkids, the RV out in the driveway, the membership at the country club. Yes, we speak of the peace that transcends all understanding, but it can be measured, photographed and spent.
What if Paul had said, “The peace that transcends all misunderstanding?” That is, a peace that exists in spite of our blessings instead of because of them. A peace that exists in the presence of all kinds of hardship, trial and persecution. We look at a nation of people who are suffering and we pray for their peace. Why? Could it be that they have more peace in their trials and persecutions than we have in our safety and constitutionally protected freedom to worship? Why do we always think that others have it worse than we do because they do not have air-conditioned or heated auditoriums in which to “freely assemble?”
I write this today because quite honestly I am one of the worst offenders and one who needs to hear the word of Paul afresh. I have recently gone through a period of time (and I’m not quite sure when it will end, but I know it will at some point) in which I have been anything but at peace. Why? I don’t know. I have all the comforts of a profoundly affluent life. I could not even ask for a more loving, beautiful wife or a more precious, amazing daughter. I live in a nice house, have 4 cats, and more guitars than I can play. (Brief aside: even if I just had one, it would still be one more than I could play.) And yet I feel deep within me a turmoil that just won’t go away. I am working on it, but I think part of the problem is that I am trying to understand peace in a manner that is simply foreign to the concept of peace in the Bible, and particularly as Paul used the term.
So, I pray for the peace that passes all understanding. That is biblical. But I also pray for a peace that transcends all of my misunderstandings, too. I don’t want the cheap stuff. I want the real deal. I know I won’t fully comprehend it when I realize that God has already given it to me. That is one of the beautiful aspects of the Divine paradox. I’m just tired of misunderstanding it.
I just read where Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the moon, has passed away at the age of 82. Being a lover of all things aviation this news hit me particularly hard. There is just something about a human being flying to the moon and back that captivates me, and I am truly sorry that we have decided that it is not important to push the limits of our own skill anymore.
In addition to being the first man to walk on the moon, Armstrong was a quiet hero. He immediately stepped out of the spotlights. As one article I read reported, many faulted him for remaining so quiet. However, the space program is not about one man, it never was. One of Armstrong’s fellow astronauts said that there were many who were physically capable of performing what Armstrong accomplished, but perhaps he was the only one with the emotional strength to live through the following media attention the way he did.
As I reminisce about the flight that truly changed almost everything about our modern world, I wonder how many people today could accomplish what Neil Armstrong accomplished with as little self-congratulation. He was a remarkable team player. He understood that it was not only his two flight mates, but also the dozens of other astronauts as well as the hundreds of technicians in Florida and Houston that made his flight possible. Also, he knew of the series of flights that would follow his and expand on the accomplishments of Apollo 11.
Armstrong’s overall silence makes his words even more powerful. He was one of many who strongly defended the decision to return to the moon, and he bitterly criticized President Obama’s decision to cancel the next moon landing. When someone who is normally reticent about speaking out on matters of public interest speaks with the clarity and the force that Armstrong did you have to take notice. The difference in leadership quality between Obama and Armstrong is stunning. Armstrong accomplished what many dream about but few have the talent to achieve. His humility in the face of his notoriety is all the more remarkable.
America is losing its heros such as Armstrong in greater and greater numbers these days, and I’m not sure that there is anyone “in the wings” so to speak to replace them. It’s not that we do not have anyone accomplishing notable deeds, but the focus then becomes all about them. Case in point – just months after the super secret mission to rid the world of Osama bin Laden a former SEAL team member writes a book about the mission. What used to be unthought of has now become reality – a special forces member writes a book to bring glory, if not to himself and his team, at least to the mission itself. Will this jeopardize the lives of future special forces team members? Who knows. But I cannot see any good coming from it. And it is in such stark contrast to the history of the special forces and their team members. Maybe it is a sign of things to come. If so, it is a sad comment on the nature of those who seek to serve their country in these elite force teams.
With the passing of Neil Armstrong our astronaut hero corp is certainly diminishing. Let us continue to honor these great Americans who risked so much in a peacetime effort to expand mankind’s knowledge and capability. May we all aspire to live our lives in the same kind of pursuit of peaceful means to make our home on this earth just a little more livable.
(Note: an earlier edition of this post erroneously made mention that John Glenn had also passed away. I don’t know how that came to my mind – but I was certainly wrong and glad to report that Sen. Glenn is still alive and well.)