Just touching base with you all as we begin another week of limited gatherings. The reality is that these restrictions of gatherings less than 10 may be longer than just 15 days. While we pray for this pandemic’s effects to flatten out, it continues to grow in the U.S.
With that said, we continue to look for ways to “do church.” Thanks to all who participated with us in online worship on Sunday. We are sorry for the initial audio problems, but had most of it worked out by the second song. If you missed the service, a video with those first 8 minutes clipped is available HERE. We found that some needed to “refresh” their browsers in order to deal with screen freezes. We’ll continue to work on improving our online broadcasting.
Another observation is that we are relational people. God created us to be in community, and this is testing so many of us who are feeling more isolated. Even the most introverted among us still needs relationships. In some of my reading this week I came across this statement: “One hundred years ago, French sociologist Émile Durkheim used the phrase ‘collective effervescence’ to describe the shared emotional excitement people experience during religious ceremonies.” Although, online gatherings are a poor substitute for in person events, one of the things about Sunday that was so good to see was the interaction happening in the comments.
Because we are relational, one of the most beneficial exercises we can do for ourselves is to reach out to others. While we don’t need research to validate the Word of God, again and again it has proven what Paul said in Acts 20:35: “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” Send a text, make a call, drop a card, invite someone to dinner, deliver some groceries or baked goods, take a meal…do something that will help maintain the relationships you have and build some new ones!
Finally, let’s be creative. After all, we were created in the image of God and His first act was to create. What are ways in which we can utilize social media, create new ministries, etc., in these days of social distancing? Ask God to give us fresh ideas that will carry us through these challenging times and beyond!
As I was looking for wildlife on a late afternoon drive on Wednesday, I heard the unmistakable song of an Eastern Meadowlark. On it’s migratory path through Iowa, I think most move on toward Minnesota, Wisconsin and Canada for the summer. Hearing before I saw it, my eyes (and lens) finally found it on a utility wire, throwing its head back every time it let loose with its flute-like melody. After it flew away, I continued my drive only to hear another Meadowlark a few miles away. This one lighted on a cedar and sang away.
Tonight as spring begins, we have thundershowers. Both the bird’s song and the storm cause my thoughts to run to God’s Word and its directive to praise the Lord:
7Praise the Lord from the earth, Sea monsters and all deeps; 8 Fire and hail, snow and clouds; Stormy wind, fulfilling His word; 9 Mountains and all hills; Fruit trees and all cedars; 10 Beasts and all cattle; Creeping things and winged fowl; 11 Kings of the earth and all peoples; Princes and all judges of the earth; 12 Both young men and virgins; Old men and children. 13 Let them praise the name of the Lord, For His name alone is exalted; His glory is above earth and heaven.
(Psalm 148:7-13, NASB)
So in these days of so much uncertainty, take a cue from creation and sing your praise to the Lord…for we never know when we will wing our flight to worlds unknown.
There’s within my heart a melody; Jesus whispers sweet and low, “Fear not, I am with you, peace, be still,” in all of life’s ebb and flow.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know, fills my every longing, keeps me singing as I go.
Though sometimes He leads through waters deep, trials fall across the way; though sometimes the path seems rough and steep, see His footprints all the way.
Soon He’s coming back to welcome me far beyond the starry sky; I shall wing my flight to worlds unknown, I shall reign with Him on high.
While I’m trying to work out logistics for maintaining a church ministry presence in the coming weeks of COVID-19 shutdown, I’ll let my daughter, Anna, take up residence here for a second day.
This is a new and unexpected experience for some parents…homeschooling. If your school is expecting your child to continue the learning process from home (and even if they aren’t), here are some tips from my daughter, Anna, to help you in these weeks to come.
*Upfront. I realize not everyone has the luxury of staying home with their children right now. I am extremely sensitive to that and am eager to be a part of helping those in our community who don’t have the advantages I do. That said. Dear COVID Homeschool Moms, Congratulations! You tackled your first day! Or […]
We left town on Monday for Spring Break and while we were gone full-blown Covid-19 panic moved to town and took up residence. As we got closer to home yesterday and closer to rush hour, I could feel an insidious worry taking root inside of me. This wasn’t about the disease or fear, it was about the fact that we had a post vacay food situation: no milk, juice, bread, low pasta supply (the only meal all four of my children love) and very little cream (YIKES!!!).
When I went to Trader Joes, (admittedly not the best idea) it was crawling with people and FULL buggies. And also there were so many empty shelves.
My tinies spent an hour basically decorating a box of gold today…(luckily it was part of my monthly amazon delivery).
How do we love our neighbor during war, famine, and disease?
Finis Ewing Harris, Jr. was the oldest son and named after his father, an attorney and judge in Cookeville, Tennessee. “Finis,” Latin for “the end,” was a fitting name for the father, who was the last of 12 children. However, the name was a misnomer for the first of three sons born to Finis and Margaret Harris. Finis was my wife’s uncle. One she never knew because of his service to our country. One whose grave she never nor her family ever visited. One who laid down his life in the defense of his “friends.”
When WWII came, all three sons wanted to do their patriotic duty and the older two were fully trained and deployed to the battle. It was reported that Finis completed his advanced air training at Pampa, Texas, where he received his wings in the U.S. Army Air Force in May 1943. He went to England in August 1943, piloted a B26. He was later transferred to a B-17 Flying Fortress with the 305th Bomb Group (Heavy), nicknamed “Can Do.” The Group base was at Cheverston, England, from which they flew 337 missions in 9,321 sorties and dropped 22,363 tons of bombs. During their tour of duty the Group lost 154 aircraft.
Stories of Finis’ final flight were somewhat muddled when I came into the family. Myra, my wife, thought the plane that Finis piloted crashed as he was on a training flight with his replacement pilot. A bit of internet digging three years ago led me to a much different story. Thanks to the websites Find a Grave, American Air Museum in Britain, Sywell Aviation Museum and other searches, I was able to piece together the real story of his crash, as well as update some sites with the information they lacked.
Although a page is missing from the crash report from the lone survivor, this is what I have been able to pull together from various reports on Finis’ death. He was a part of a bombing run over Kassel, Germany on December 15, 1944, where 344 planes had successfully targeted the town’s railway marshalling yards and tank factory. However, his plane sustained major flak damage and Finis piloted the B-17 back to the base with the number one engine out. Flying in “zero-zero” weather conditions, Finis and another B-17 flew in tandem back over the coast of England. Concerned about his ability to land the plane, Finis told the crew to bail out if inclined. Only one, the tail gunner, did. While trying to land using radio beacons, both planes hit the wires of the Air Ministry Gee Mast at Borough Hill, Daventry. The Gee Network was a system of radio beacons that were used by pilots to navigate over Germany. The other plane was able to fly through the wires and land with bits of wire still attached to the plane. The farmer, into whose field Finis’ plane crashed, saw it hit the stay of the radar mast in the fog. A wing was ripped from their plane, and the plane hit the ground a few seconds later. He and the eight remaining crew members (John Griffin, R.L. Mason, Laverne Ridge, Herschel McCoy, Cliff Melton, Robert L. Burry, Willie Barnes, and Charles Nordland) were killed in the crash.
On August 23, 2015, a memorial plaque was unveiled, located in the garden at Daventry War Memorial. In attendance were Sgt. Burry’s son, Peter Searle, and granddaughter, Rebecca Saywell. Burry was the ball turret gunner and Peter’s English mother was pregnant with him at the time of the crash, delivering him six weeks later. Additionally, an excavation of the crash site was conducted in recent year and items from the site were displayed at the Sywell Aviation Museum in Daventry. Items included the navigator’s hat that was taken from the original crash site by some school boys.
Tragically, Finis’ younger brother, Cpl Perry Rowe Harris of the 498th Bomber Squadron, 345th Bomber Group, (B-25), was killed in action on November 12, 1944 in the Philippines just weeks before Finis. His death notice was received at Christmastime, preceding his brother’s by a week. This news report comes from their hometown newspaper.
Judge and Mrs. Finis E. Harris received a telegram this week from the War Department stating that another son, Lieut, Finis E. Harris, Jr., was killed in England on December 15, 1944. Only last week, a message was received by Judge and Mrs. Harris from the War Department, stating that Cpl. Perry Rowe Harris was killed in action on Leyte, in the Philippines. Another son, Mark E. Harris, who is in training in the Army Air Corps, in Nashville, is seriously ill with pneumonia. Judge and Mrs.Harris have the sympathy of the people of Cookeville and the entire Upper Cumberland in this sad hour. The three brothers volunteered for service in the Army Air Corps.
Putnam County Herald, Cookeville, Tennessee, 1/4/1945
Finis was buried at the Cambridge American Cemetery. Apparently at the time of their deaths, only Finis could have been returned for burial in the U.S. Their mother, Margaret, said of the decision to have Finis remain in England: “It would not be fair to bring one son home and not the other.” However, every time she heard the whistle of a train that was known to be bringing home the remains of a Cookeville native son, she wept over the loss of her boys.
Thus, the brothers lay in graves half a world apart and to our knowledge no relative has ever visited their graves. However, I am indebted to fellow blogger Amy Maranto. After seeing her photos of the American Cemetery in Cambridge from an early 2019 post, I emailed her about Finis. She said that a trip would be planned again in the next few months and that she would take some pictures. Additionally, I asked her to be the family proxy and leave a penny on his marker…the symbol of a loved one’s visit to the grave. Not only did she take pictures, but so did her daughter, who was working there as a school experience. Amy wrote: “When next of kin visit, they clean the grave marker and rub it with the sand from one of the Normandy beaches. Since she was going to be hosting a visiting next of kin family the next day, they told her to pick a marker to practice putting the sand in. She knew I was working on these photos, so she chose Finis to clean.” The sand she chose was from Omaha Beach!
Finis and Perry are among the approximately 130,000 soldiers who are interred in 27 American military cemeteries in ten foreign countries, managed by the American Battle Monuments Commission. Over 90,000 U.S. service members, who were missing in action, or lost or buried at sea, are memorialized at these cemeteries. Still thousands of other military dead are in unmarked or mass graves and private cemeteries. I wonder how many of those soldiers, like the Harris brothers, have never had a family member visit their resting places.
Thanks to our Veterans, who have sacrificed so much as they put their lives on the line in the defense for ours and our allies countries. Thanks to the families, who endured periods of absence of their soldiers. A special word goes to those families who mourn their sons and daughters, who gave the ultimate sacrifice. ” Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13 (NIV).
I appreciated my church allowing my wife and me to take off a long weekend in February. It enabled us to go to Fort Worth for two reasons. Of course, seeing the grandchildren was tops, but the second reason was just
Anna with Al (1982)
as special to us. Several months ago we received an invitation to celebrate the 90th birthday of Al Anisowicz, who we have known for 40 years. Al and his wife, Robbie, were some of the first people we met at North Fort Worth Baptist Church while I was in seminary. We had a 10-month old daughter, who we entrusted to Robbie’s care in the nursery while we went to Sunday School. She and Al then “adopted” Anna and additionally our other two daughters, who were born during our time there, as their granddaughters. Their own grandchildren were not in Texas, so our daughters met the need they had to “love on” some babies. We have maintained that relationship over the years and they even made two trips to Iowa as Al played in senior softball tournaments into his 70’s.
Me, Al, Anna’s daughter, Charlie and Myra
It is not a misrepresentation to say that Al and Robbie were the main reasons we joined that church. Yes, I wanted good, biblical preaching, but that was available in a number of churches that were much closer to the seminary. However, we were away from family and significant connections, and this retired couple reached out in significant ways to show the love and care of Christ. For that reason, I was compelled to give some time, travel and TLC to the man, now a widower and dealing with cancer, and reciprocate the love he showed to my family and me.
As I type these words, I hear the singing voices of kindergarten – 8th grade students of Mayflower Heritage Christian School as they prepare for a Veterans Day program, which they hold annually. Tomorrow, men and women who have served our country in war and peace will be in attendance. The oldest honorees will be Korean War veterans and the youngest have served in our conflicts in the Middle East. This is a rich learning experience for these young people as the Veterans share their stories of service. Already, two of the graduates of this small Christian school that began in 2001 are serving in the Air Force and one in the Army. We are a people who love God and country and believe that our allegiances fall in that order. We are definitely patriotic and appreciate those who have and are serving in our military!
Many of us have been affected and influenced personally by veterans, living and dead. My father, a WWII veteran, was a Navy fighter pilot, whose orders were changed before going to the Pacific Ocean theater. Remaining stateside for the duration of the war, his previous profession as a teacher translated into an assignment as a flight instructor. That change in orders, while initially upsetting to him, likely saved his life. He remained in the Navy Reserves after the war, and ultimately flew jet fighters. I was always proud to see my father in his uniform and wondered why the military guards at the base gates knew to salute him as an officer when he was in his civilian clothes. Little did I know that the military decal tipped them off, differentiating the vehicles of officers and non-commissioned personnel.
My wife’s family experienced the ultimate sacrifice, her dad losing his two older brothers within a month of one another in 1944. The middle brother, Cpl Perry Rowe Harris, was on board a ship that was attacked by the Japanese. He sustained mortal wounds and was ultimately buried at the American National Cemetery in Manila, Philippines.
Lt. Finis Ewing Harris, Jr., the oldest brother, was a B-17 pilot. His plane was hit by flak in a daytime bombing run over Kassel, Germany on December 15, 1944. He struggled to return the plane to the American base in England. Once over land and enshrouded by fog, he encouraged his crew to bail out, knowing that he would likely be unsuccessful in landing the injured B-17. Only one crew member did and almost immediately, while trying to land using radio beacons, one wing hit the stay of the Air Ministry Gee Mast at Borough Hill, Daventry. The plane spun into the ground and the nine remaining crew members were killed in the crash.
Uncles, brothers-in-law and nephews have also served in peace and conflict. Military service forever changes people. Young people, who go off to military service, whether it be wartime or peacetime, come back with life experiences that the general public will never have. They are trained to do things that most of us will never have to consider doing. They see, hear, smell and touch things in prolonged and real time that if we DO see are only through the medium of video or print, in short exposures that might impact us, but not with the full force of those in action.
Consequently, those of us who have and continue to benefit from the service of our military owe them our thanks and recognition on days like today and beyond. I try to go out of my way to make sure I thank a person wearing a “Vietnam Veteran” cap. I contribute to the Honor Flights that allow veterans to travel to the War Memorials in Washington, D.C., enabling them to find a honor and closure. We owe them the continued support to help them with the wounds, visible and invisible, that many have sustained through their service to our country.
I’m indebted to a friend who lives a few miles out in the country for alerting me to the news that a fox family had taken up residence in a roll of round hay bales. He observed the kits (pups, cubs) frolicking around the area. I’ve been rewarded with some fun pics and memories as I’ve watched this litter of three grow.
Mom always keeps a watchful eye and one evening implied it was time for me to leave!
I mentioned in my previous blog about our trip to Fort Worth, and that I wanted to tell you about an event we watched transpire in front of my daughter’s home. The Cowtown Marathon course runs right through her neighborhood. The residents were up early, preparing water, bananas, band aids, and even beer (for carbs) for the runners. It is quite a festive time for the spectators who use it as a time to “party” while cheering on the runners.
What caught my attention was the transformation of individuals from the first runner to the last ones who passed this 17 mile mark of this 26.2 mile run. The first runner ran by us with just over a five minute per mile pace. The last ones came strolling by four hours later (a 19 minute per mile pace) with an obvious “eat, drink and be merry” attitude, apparently imbibing in every treat that was offered along the route. Appearing out of shape, improperly dressed and walking, these last ones were a stark contrast from the disciplined, serious leaders.
It reminded me of the spiritual pace of which Paul spoke in 1 Corinthians 9:24-26: Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim.
While only one may win an earthly race, every Christian can win the eternal race for we don’t compete against each other. The man of faith fights against the devil, the flesh and the world. He wins as they lose—A.W. Tozer. Our heavenly reward will be awaiting us if we run with a commitment to overcome these tempting foes!
Warren Wiersbe said: Of course, it is much easier to be a spectator than a participant—except when the event is over and they give out the prizes. Then we will wish we had gotten out of the stands and joined the team. It isn’t too late to start running.
How are you running the spiritual race? Is it with an aim for the finish line or a leisurely stroll, imbibing in all the world has to offer? Let’s make sure we are not just spectators, but participants in the most important marathon of our lives! Let’s cheer one another on is this race!
Today is the third anniversary of the death of my brother-in-law, Dr. Marvin Leibovich. Because I was the only boy with four older sisters, the addition of each new brother-in-law was a welcomed event. He and my sister had three sons, whose ages closely mirrored my own daughters. Consequently, there was a close connection between our families. Here is my oldest daughter’s expression of her special memories of Marvin on the day of his death on October 5, 2015.
My uncle died early this morning, and while I said my tearful goodbyes to him in August, still nothing can prepare you for the finality of life.
I’ve been thinking on his life for the past month as we knew the end was near and even though his obituary is FULL of his amazing accomplishments on this Earth, it is the little things that I will miss and cherish and learn from, as his niece.