Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Not To Keep

A couple of things came together simultaneously for me just recently.  I ran across these pretty gruesome x-ray pictures of Sgt. Dan Powers, who had been savagely attacked by a teenage Iraqi insurgent, having a 9-inch knife plunged into his skull. At first he thought he had been punched in the head. Amazingly, after being airlifted to Walter Reed Medical Hospital and after a grueling rehabilitation, where he needed to learn how to walk again, Sgt. Powers regained his physical abilities.  He went on to rejoin his fellow paratroopers out of Fort Bragg, NC and boarded a plane, headed for his next assignment--in Afghanistan.

Rejoin his fellow paratroopers?  Are you kidding?  What must his family have been thinking as he went back out?  He just narrowly escaped with his life in tow and now he's going out again to risk it?   I can only shake my head in disbelief....did the military really need him that badly?  Or did he choose to go back on his own?  I don't know the whole story.  If anyone does, I'd love an update.  Does he have a firm conviction of what he is fighting for, or is he just in it for the paycheck (such as it is)?  Does he like the excitement or is he doing it for the camaraderie of it all?  These things are a mystery to me and I can't help but be deeply touched that these men can go through this kind of duress and go back without being physically hog-tied.  They go back willingly and bravely.  Did he have a wife or a sweetheart?  What was she thinking as he left her yet again. 

I found this poem a couple days ago and I think it is appropriate for this scenario, though not in all aspects. 

                  Not To Keep
                     Robert Frost  

They sent him back to her. The letter came
Saying... And she could have him. And before
She could be sure there was no hidden ill
Under the formal writing, he was in her sight,
Living. They gave him back to her alive-
How else? They are not known to send the dead-
And not disfigured visibly. His face?
His hands? She had to look, and ask,
"What was it, dear?" And she had given all
And still she had all-they had-they the lucky!

Wasn't she glad now? Everything seemed won,
And all the rest for them permissible ease.
She had to ask, "What was it, dear?"

Yet not enough. A bullet through and through,
High in the breast. Nothing but what good care
And medicine and rest, and you a week,
Can cure me of to go again." The same
Grim giving to do over for them both.
She dared no more than ask him with her eyes
How was it with him for a second trial.
And with his eyes he asked her not to ask.
They had given him back to her, but not to keep.
And so, as they send their sons, husbands, fathers, brothers out once, twice, maybe for the last time, do they have a sufficient reason to believe that this was what was meant to be?  Can they be at peace with themselves and with God.  I think some can, and some definitely can't.  And thus comes the unbearable sadness and despair and possibly bitterness that the loss of that loved one brings.

I feel grateful to have the belief and knowledge that when I send a loved one away, as I have done and I  will do again, more than once more,  I know that it won't be the last time I'll ever see them.  In fact, I have quite a bright hope that not only will I see loved ones again after I "send them away" or they are "sent away", but that I will have the chance to associate with them on a bright and happy level someday and somewhere.  I'm not exactly sure of all the details, but I know I will see them again.  Will I be sad?  Will I miss them? Of course!  But my belief may just help to carry me through those dark days of missing whoever I may have to send away for a little while!  But in the end, I will keep!

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Little Boy's Prayer

I went to church with my Dad yesterday, as I do every other Sunday. I do this so that he won't have to go to church by himself all the time. Have you ever gone to church by yourself? Sometimes it's OK, but I prefer to go with someone, as I'm sure he does as well. It was Fast and Testimony meeting. Fast and Testimony Meeting happens monthly on the first Sunday of the month and it is exactly what the name implies. We come to the meeting, ideally having fasted for 2 whole meals and with the money saved from not eating those meals, donate that money to Fast Offering, which, in turn, is used for helping the poor around the world. The members of our church are also given an opportunity, as they are moved, to bear their testimonies about  the Gospel of Jesus Christ and their feelings for it.

Towards the beginning of the meeting, an elderly gentleman got up and told about his son-in-law in Afghanistan. He is commander in chief of a company of Utah marines there. This past week he lost 2 young men in combat. It turns out that both of them were from here in Orem and both went to Mountain View HS. One was Lance Cpl. Nigel Olsen, 21, and the other, Lance Cpl. Carlos Aragon, 19. He told of how his daughter was so sad and devastated about the loss and would be attending the funerals of both these young men, and how tough it has been for everyone to lose these fine, valiant, young men. The two news articles are here and here.

Then he went on to tell about his own little 3-year old grandson, who was with him this last week, before anyone knew of the incident. He recollects that as they were in the car driving together, his little grandson said emphatically, "I need to pray for my Daddy. My Daddy's in trouble and I need to pray for him now." This grandfather, who was also accompanied by one of his own sons, stopped and let the little boy say a prayer for his Daddy in Afghanistan. He goes on to say that this little boy said the most heartfelt, mature prayer on behalf of his father, pleading to the Lord to save his Father and bring him back home to him someday. It was beyond a 3-year-old's capacity, but he was witnessing it along with his son. After the prayer, the little boy returned to being a 3-year-old. But for a moment, they witnessed a true "out of the mouths of babes" experience. Later they learned that this company had been under some extremely dangerous circumstances, and of the two losses.

This reminds me of how special our little children are and how in tune to the quiet whisperings of the Spirit they are. Now, granted, I'm sure this little boy has been taught by his parents to pray when he feels the need.  But more than that, I feel he has been taught to recognize what those quiet promptings are and what they feel like.  That little boy, in turn, taught me how far I have to go to be able to feel, recognize, and act upon those promptings that are directions from God himself through his Holy Spirit.

What does the influence of the Spirit feel like?  Here are some descriptions that I've recently heard:  "When you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas."  "A sensation of light.", "it feels like sunshine," "a feeling of comfort, like a warm blanket", "a still, small, voice", "feelings of "peace, hope and joy."  Have you ever felt any of those feelings?  If so, chances are that it was the influence of the Holy Ghost!

Next, I ask myself, how can I better recognize these feelings?  The Lord has counseled us to "be still, and know that I am God."  Maybe if I can provide myself a still and quiet time each day when I am not bombarded by television, computer, video games or other distractions, I can allow that still, small voice an opportunity to provide personal revelation and to whisper sweet guidance, reassurance, and comfort.  Maybe I can save myself a whole lot of unnecessary grief and regret if I can do that! 

And last, it all reminds me of a poem that I heard put to music a few years back.  The words are from Charles Dickens:
They are idols of hearts and of households.  They are angels of God in disguise; His sunlight still sleeps in their tresses, His glory still gleams in their eyes; Those truants from Home and from Heaven, They have made me more manly and mild; And I know now how Jesus could liken The Kingdom of God to a child.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I Told You So

I have never enjoyed a song more by Carrie Underwood than I did on American Idol '09 when she and Randy Travis came and performed this song live for the first time. Let me tell you how it was for me. I heard it one time and it's simple melody and words became branded in my mind. This morning I woke up with it playing in my head . I looked it up on YouTube and it brought tears to my eyes. Am I getting sentimental? No, not getting....I have always been. But what a sweet and haunting song. Judge for yourself! Although Randy Travis wasn't at his best, Carrie Underwood showed once again what a versatile singer she is, when it comes to Country Music!