Monday, May 31, 2010

A Memorial Day Remembrance

Yesterday, my daughter Angela and I visited a couple of cemeteries in the Muncie area. First, we went to the Gardens of Memory north of town to place some flowers at the grave of my parents (Ralph & Margie DeCamp), my brother (Freddie Nicholas), and my brother's baby daughter (Lisa Kay Nicholas) who had died as an infant in 1967. In placing the flowers at my parents and brother's graves, I started sharing about how I used to visit my brother's grave (he died in 1969 at the age of 26) with my mom, and she used to clean the stone, place the decorations, and then sit down and "smoke a cigarette" with Freddie. I felt kind of strange sitting there cleaning off of her stone while explaining how she used to do the same for my brother.

Secondly, we drove to the Hopewell Cemetery off of Highway 1, north of Farmland, Indiana to visit the grave of my grandparents and an uncle. I have always loved to visit this place because of the unique and very, very old headstones; some date well back into the 1800's. The unique stones are shaped like tree trunks. Many of the old stones are worn down, and I enjoy trying to decipher these very old stones and imagine what the lives of these people must have been like. One series of stones in a row represents a decade in the life of one man and woman who kept trying to have children only to have them die as babies. I don't recall the count, but there must be at least eight stones in that row; so much pain represented and so few people remember.

One other stone I saw at Hopewell was relatively new. It was the stone for a recently deceased WWII veteran. It is sad that we are so quickly losing them from our lives and with them they take so many stories; stories that they have quietly carried inside. That stone circled my mind back around to my own father whose grave I had visited earlier in the afternoon. He too served in WWII. He rarely ever spoke of his experiences, and carried most of them to his grave. I learned only after his death that he was truly a decorated veteran. He served in the Army Air Corp in Europe and North Africa. He was a crewman on one of those large bomber gunships, and he participated in over 70 missions. He returned home with six bronze stars and several other decorations.

One of my greatest wishes is that I had both listened more intently when he did share the few stories that he did tell, and also that I had prodded him to share even more. It was only after his death that I learned that he was a true American war hero, but I am sure that he did not see himself that way, and would not want me to refer to him as such. The fact is though, he was a hero.

If you have a hero in your family, ask for his stories and take the time to listen. Time slips away so quickly.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Oil and Illegal Immigrants

A thought struck me today that despite how incredibly different the issues of the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the illegal immigration from the country of Mexico are, they actually have some remarkable similarities.

The situation in the Gulf of Mexico is that there is a pipe at the bottom of the ocean at about a mile deep that is spewing thousands upon thousands of gallons of oil into the the once beautiful and life-teeming Gulf every day. There are two significant problems to solve; how to plug the well and stop the flow, and how to clean up the mess of the oil already in the water. The efforts to clean up the oil in the water are really futile until the flow out of the well is stopped. Until the oil flow is stopped, all the people in the affected area can do is try to mitigate the effects upon the environment and the economy of the area.

Keep in mind, it isn't the fact that it is oil that is the problem. We love oil. We all use oil every day. We need oil. Oil is vital to our economy and our way of life. It isn't even a problem that oil is flowing out of the well. There are dozens of other wells where oil flows every second of every day with no negative effect. The problem is that the oil is flowing out relentlessly, improperly, and in an uncontrolled manner.

Now, as we compare that to the illegal immigration issue, I would like to point out that it isn't the fact that most of the illegal immigrants are from Mexico that is the problem. Personally, I love the fact that we have food, culture, and people from Mexico. They are good, hard-working, family-focused people, and I think they enrich our lives. (I especially love the food!) It is the fact that the flow of the immigrants is uncontrolled, or rather out of control, and improper. It wouldn't matter if instead of being from Mexico they were from England, France, or Canada. If it is out of control and unrelenting, it is a problem. Further, it doesn't matter what we do to try to deal with the illegal immigrants that are already here if we can't "plug the well." We need to stem the uncontrolled, illegal flow of immigrants into the United States and until we do, all we can do is make some efforts at the mitigation of the effect.

My opinion of what to do regarding the millions of illegal immigrants that are already here "in our waters" is still under consideration and development, but what difference does it really make regarding that issue until we can control our borders and stop the flow from the broken well?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lord or Curse Word?

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to Searcy, Arkansas to pick up all of my daughter's dorm room decor and move her home from college for the summer. After loading it all in a minivan and having a late breakfast, we headed back to Indiana on a the nine-hour drive that was required by the task. She drove her own car, so I was left to drive alone. Along the way, I passed a semi with an interesting statement plastered all over the rear and the sides of the trailer. It read: "Jesus Christ is Lord not a curse word."

My first reaction was to agree with the second part of the statement. We've all heard it many times. Someone gets angry or frustrated and one of the common phrases that they spew out is, "Jesus Christ, why'd you do that?" or "Jesus Christ, that ticks me off." Or, they may even connect "Jesus Christ" with something even more graphic. I definitely think that this is inappropriate and offensive. Ultimately, it is disrespectful to Jesus himself.

However, then I was struck with another thought. I wondered how many of us would truly agree with the first part. Is Jesus Christ the Lord? I'm sure that many people who are not particularly interested in spiritual issues, or don't make Christianity an important part of their lives would readily admit that He is not their Lord. However, what about those of us who do claim Christianity? We say that Jesus is the Lord. We give lip-service to the concept. But, do we really mean it?

We like Jesus as the "savior." We love him as the "Son of God." Have we really thought about what it means for Him to be the Lord? Here is the definition from the dictionary: a person who has authority, control, or power over others; a master, chief, or ruler. If we really believe this; if we really mean this; if this is true in our lives, then it would have to be evident in how we live. If we mean this, then it would be reflected in our priorities, in our language, in how we spend our time, and in how we treat others.

"Jesus Christ is Lord not a curse word"

Is this true in your life? I wonder how true it is in mine. I hope to make it more true with every passing opportunity.