Thursday, July 28, 2022

Thanks to Barbara For a Chicken Dinner and a Lifetime of Love

I have been married fifty years to Barbara, the love of my life. She likes to joke that she caught my attention with a fried chicken dinner. There is some truth to that, but hardly the whole story. The chicken may have won some of my attention, but Barbara’s attentiveness won the evening.

 

After dinner, and after the other guests had left, we sat and talked till about 4 a.m. as I remember. Probably I talked till 4 a.m. and Barbara got a word in here and there. I was on fire for “world peace through law” at the time. That hasn’t worked out yet, but the conversation was the beginning of the best and most loving friendship I can imagine.

 

As I learned when we married and the years passed, Barbara is a good listener not only to me but to many people. And I have learned from her how to listen better.

 

Listening is important. Henri Nouwen said: “Listening is much more than allowing another to talk while waiting for a chance to respond. Listening is paying full attention to others and welcoming them into our very beings. The beauty of listening is that, those who are listened to start feeling accepted, start taking their words more seriously and discovering their own true selves. Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality by which you invite strangers to become friends, to get to know their inner selves more fully, and even to dare to be silent with you.” 

 

Barbara also loves offering hospitality, and I have seen many people blossom when experiencing her hospitality in our home. Women and men. It is a treat to be with Barbara in these times, as well as in private times like when she first sat on the couch with me till 4 a.m.

 

So here’s to Barbara, our children Will and Holly, and all the family we share. Happy Golden Anniversary!




Wednesday, July 13, 2022

How King Solomon prayed …


I have just read the prayer of King Solomon, David’s son, dedicating the temple he built for the Lord God in Jerusalem. In the prayer he looked ahead to the defeats, afflictions, and sins of his people, and prayed for their repentance, redemption and forgiveness. 1 Kings 8:22-53. In it he prayed that when they repented and turned back to the Lord He would receive them and maintain their cause.


The thought occurred to me that we American Christians too seldom turn to God and together pray for our people’s redemption and the redemption of other peoples. We too seldom pray the way that Solomon was praying.


Should we not fervently and repeatedly turn to God and in the name of Christ pray for deliverance out of sin, its ensuing afflictions and into faithfulness to God and His will and plan? For ourselves and for people of other nations?


I think of Russia’s war on Ukraine and the thoughts of other nations about helping or not helping Ukraine. How many Americans - especially the church - have humbly and publicly confessed our sins and departure from God’s way and asked to be guided in the way of His solutions? Should we not?


I think of national responses to the plague of Covid19.


We should think seriously about who’s in charge here. Is it President Putin, President Zelensky, our president and other leaders?  Or God the creator of heaven and earth and its redeemer? Solomon believed it is God, and prayed publicly that in future national miseries the people of Israel would repent and return to God and God would take up their cause. 


Should Christians in America and elsewhere pray more like Solomon for ourselves and for the church in other nations?

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Some things are getting scarce …


Going to the grocery store with my mom during World War Two was often fraught with disappointment at empty spaces in the shelves or at the checkout counter. I say checkout counter because that was the main place where our store displayed candy when it was available. Candy was seldom available because of sugar rationing.


One of the sweetest things in life is kindness and acceptance by friends. Humility in appraising my faults.


Some bitter collateral damage of the war against Covid19 (and variants) is explicit and implicit questioning of my judgment by a small number of my friends when I mask up for indoor gatherings. Never have I met this number of amateur scientists nor critics of public figures who recommend uncomfortable disease precautions.


Please let me declare, I have no particular expertise in medical science. In fact I may be choosing the wrong experts to listen to and follow. 


Still, in masking up I feel I do no one harm and reluctantly accept an unconventional - not to say “odd” - appearance. 


Here is my scientific basis for the practice: I have had only one respiratory infection in more than two years during Covid. And no sign of Covid19. This compares favorably with my customary bronchitis and occasional pneumonia in prior years. 


My experience is my primary “science” for masking up.


Please let me suggest this to critics: humility. It goes down better and makes me a better listener.

 

I know only one person who makes a living in science. He has not expressed an opinion about Covid19 to me. I really appreciate that. I would love to know his opinion, but not as a critic.


*****

“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.” James 3:13 (NASB)


Tuesday, July 5, 2022

People don’t believe in the supernatural anymore …

 “People don’t believe in the supernatural anymore.” That’s what my cousin said after reading my long piece about the rescue of famous World War One hero “Captain Eddie” Rickenbacker and six companions from the Pacific Ocean in World War Two. America was fighting Japan in the Pacific.

My cousin and I both believe in the supernatural.

The Rickenbacker Mission pilot, Captain Bill Cherry, credited their survival to “divine intervention” and insisted this be inserted in the record of their post-rescue interrogation. (Rickenbacker's mission was to deliver a secret message from the Secretary of War to General Douglas MacArthur the Pacific theater Army commander.) Seven men survived; one died of pre-existing illness and drinking salty ocean water.


Briefly, here’s what happened.

 

On October 21, 1942, the B-17D Flying Fortress carrying the Rickenbacker Mission became lost flying from Hawaii to Australia when navigation instruments failed. Before fuel ran out Captain Cherry ditched the plane safely between two wave crests and crew and passengers evacuated into three small life-rafts. At first hopeful of quick rescue, the fliers fell into hopelessness in a few days. 


Then the men spied John Bartek, the flight engineer, reading from a pocket Bible given him by his hometown church. Bible reading was not a habit for any of them but they began to gather the three rafts daily for reading the Bible aloud and praying. One passage became a favorite: Matthew 6, verses 31-34, words spoken by Jesus. Do not be anxious; seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all you need will be given you.And focus on today’s challenges, not tomorrow’s.

 

Co-pilot Whittaker recorded miraculous answers to their prayers in a pocket notebook (from which he later wrote a book). Among the prayers answered were prayers for water on Days 7, 11 and 13 that brought immediate results in the form of rain squalls passing over the rafts, each squall renewing exhausted water supplies from previous downpours. 

 

On Day 20, after several friendly planes passed over the rafts without seeing them, Cherry split off alone, deciding dispersed rafts would more likely be spotted than three rafts linked together. Rickenbacker protested but Cherry went anyway. Whittaker soon followed Cherry in a raft with two other crew members.

 

A U.S. Navy float plane scouting for enemy activity spotted Cherry’s raft and called in a rescue boat. Cherry described the location of the other rafts and Rickenbacker and two companions were found and brought to safety.

 

The Whittaker raft drifted near an island, and Whittaker paddled to safety while shouting prayers for God to help him defeat the powerful currents that were forcing the raft past the island back into open sea. He and his two fellow crew members made it ashore and were found by natives who alerted the U.S. Navy. By November 14, 1942 all the fliers but one were safe. 

 

If I hadn’t already believed in an all-powerful and merciful God, I would have found it hard to disbelieve after reading the reports by pilots Cherry and Whittaker and flight engineer John Bartek, and seeing their declarations that God had engineered their rescue.  

 

Co-Pilot Whittaker’s book about the episode, now out of print, is Whittaker, J. C. (1943). We thought we heard the angels sing: The complete epic story of the ordeal and rescue of those who were with Eddie Rickenbacker on the plane lost in the Pacific. E.P. Dutton. 


Copyright 2022, Douglas M. Smith

 

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Two Fathers

My mother and father divorced when I was very young, and my mom remarried. My stepfather treated me like one of his own children and constrained my new older brother and sister to do the same. “There will be no ‘steps’ in this family!” So it was. He took pains to teach all of us self discipline. He showed us all father-love. He was friendly when my natural father came to visit me.

My natural father - within the limitations of our separation - took pains to be touch with me and be a part of my growing up. He taught me to fish with a fly rod - an uncommon way of fishing then for a boy from Texas. He contributed to my education through law school. When I was about thirty he and I moved to the same city to work and began to know one another on a daily basis.

One day when Mom was getting along in years, she looked at me and said: “You are fortunate to have two fathers who are honorable men.” She was right. I was more than fortunate; I was greatly blessed.


Saturday, May 28, 2022

An Open Letter to President Joseph R. Biden about military style firearms


Dear Mr. President, 

 

Thank you for your long service to the United States. 

 

I am overwhelmed with grief over the killing of 19 school children and two adults by a shooter in Uvalde, Texas. I am not alone.

 

I understand the killer used an AR-15 rifle much like the M-16 used by our armed forces. I would call it an “equivalent” of the military rifle.

 

I respectfully request that arms manufacturers must be required to agree contractually that they will not supply to the civilian market any weapon substantially equivalent to any weapon they sell to the U.S. armed forces.

 

Proposals to regulate weapons often stall on 2nd Amendment objections. I see no legitimate objection to using government contracts to keep military weapon equivalents out of the civilian market. This would not eliminate the weapons now in the market but would stop our government feeding new weapons into the existing supply. It would be a small but meaningful step toward peace and safety.

 

There was a mass shooting of newspaper staff members in an Annapolis, Maryland newspaper office a few years ago. The local paper said “Condolences and prayers are not enough. It is a tragedy that this cycle of gun violence continues to play itself out, over and over again, while lawmakers offer thoughts and prayers instead of action. This cycle must end, and it must end with us.” 

 

The cycle the Annapolis Capital Gazette described has not ended. Shooters employ military equivalent weapons that can get off many rounds quickly, killing many people before help can come.  

 

I favor citizens having weapons for self-defense if they choose, but I oppose the continued production and distribution of military equivalent weapons to the civilian public. These can tempt even law-abiding citizens - especially youthful ones - to careless and destructive use.  

 

Of course, trained and disciplined law enforcement officers should be trusted to use military weapons when necessary to protect the public. 

 

Please use appropriate executive and legislative means to limit companies that contract with the U.S. government from distributing market military equivalent firearms to the civilian public.

 

Respectfully,

 

Douglas M. Smith




Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Ukraine: Engage and Endure?

World War Two is fresh in the minds of my generation. We recall the tension of not knowing whether we would win intense battles in two parts of the world.

We remember the way joy erupted when the war ended favorably to our side, and friends and family came home. Sadly, not all of them.

Now we see another power, Russia, crushing its neighbor Ukraine, headed toward Europe. There is no way to stop this invader without risking nuclear war - if we credit Russian threats. What must today’s generation do?

The modern generation must consider the same kind of choice made by the World War Two generation. You (and we of the prior generation who have lived into the twenty first century) must answer the question, “Can we allow any nation destroy the people of a neighboring nation at will?” Are other people’s lives and freedom worth contending for?

There is no assurance of success if the decision is to contend on behalf of Ukraine and take serious risks in an effort to protect Ukraine and Europe from the same fate they suffered under Nazi Germany. 

Still it is a choice dropped in your younger laps, and to some extent into the laps of us older folks. 

In the twentieth century America chose to join in Europe’s fight against invading and murdering Nazis and Asia’s fight against murdering Japanese militarists. That was before nuclear weapons came along. Do we today have the courage to confront enemies that threaten modern war? 

Americans of the World War Two generation accepted the fight to defeat militarists in Germany and Japan. The militarists of 2022 are no less a threat. Shall we confront them? Will we confront them, and will we endure the finish? 

God knows. God can show us the way. We’d better ask Him.

Douglas Smith, March 15, 2022