Guest Blog: At a Loss for Words — Anna Spindler Writes

Like my daughter, Anna, it’s been over a year since I have blogged. Maybe I’ll be back soon, but until then I hope her words (which truly reflect my heart and mind during this last year) will resonate with you and give you HOPE! Please click on her link but if not, I will include the complete text below.

It’s been over a year since I have written anything in this space and longer since I’ve written any kind of blog at all. A year ago when I last wrote, it was Easter and the shock, fear, novelty, and uncertainty of COVID-19 and quarantine was still relatively new. My inner Anne of Green Gables […]

At a Loss for Words — Anna Spindler Writes

At a Loss for Words

Anna B.

It’s been over a year since I have written anything in this space and longer since I’ve written any kind of blog at all. A year ago when I last wrote, it was Easter and the shock, fear, novelty, and uncertainty of COVID-19 and quarantine was still relatively new. My inner Anne of Green Gables heart still thought it would all pass..and really I still can’t understand why it didn’t. Secretly, a year ago, I was actually enjoying permission to never leave my home.

Everything is different now. 

Since then, so much has happened in our world and country: George Floyd, race riots, loss of life to Covid, crushing fear because of Covid, a contentious election, the capitol attack, a bizarre snow storm in Texas, property loss, job loss, friend loss, faith loss…

LOSS. LOSS. LOSS.

Some have suffered on the macro level along with everyone else. And for many of us, there have been micro level every day normal life losses. My dog spent her last hours my arms earlier in the winter. My mom has descended much more deeply into the horrific throws of Parkinson’s Disease after battling it now for most of my life almost half of her’s. A cursory scroll on any social media tells me I’m not alone. 

And I’ve been quiet. 

I have always had all the words…and I just don’t anymore.

I’ve been quiet because I’m processing. I’ve been quiet because it is a new world that tells us we must process publicly and loudly. It is a new lie that tells us a computer screen is the appropriate place to work out our feelings and emotions and heart breaks. And if we don’t, we’re somehow COMPLICIT in the evils of this world.

I’ve been quiet because I’m scared to use my words. I’m scared of more loss, more anger. 

I’ve been quiet because we forgot about nuance, America. 

I’ve been quiet because we forgot about respectful and inquisitive discourse. 

I’ve been quiet because it’s all so loud out there. It’s loud and angry and unforgiving. One misstep, one “wrong” question and you’re canceled, but not after you’ve been completely attacked and maligned. 

I’ve been quiet because I’m weary. My husband always jokingly asks me if I’m weary versus just tired. Because to me, they’re different. Tired can be fixed with some sleep. Weary, is deep in my bones and soul. Weary comes after struggle and wrestling. Weary is what I am. 

I can’t keep up with the new rules and my legs are weak from running after them. Is this what middle age is?

Again, I have a feeling that I’m not alone. 

So here I sit on my yellow couch, staring at new growth outside of my window, wondering why my neighbor chopped down his perfect front yard tree, and snuggling with my naughty awful Beagle. My brain is full of the words I can no longer figure out how to communicate…

And I’m clinging to what I know is true. 

My God.

The only thing that is not shifting for me is God: both mother and father, savior and redeemer. Reconciler. Healer.

The fact is, I don’t have answers right now. I never did. But I do have God. The Holy Trinity. And I know that’s not a popular concept. I saw a Twitter repost the other day, “If you wonder why people are leaving the church right now…..” fill in the blank all the ways the church has messed up. And we have. We have messed up. For the entire life of the church, we’ve messed up. (I mean…have you read all of Paul’s letters to the New Testament church?)

I don’t wonder why people are leaving the church. They always have. They always will. I could write about Biblical illiteracy and the chance that some who talk a real big game never even knew Him. I could say all the things and maybe I will later. The fact is God has never been popular. It’s not my job to make him so. The world crucified his son, bloody and abandoned on a cross. 

But! I’m still clinging to Him. I’m still asking Him to change me. I’m still ever grateful for grace I never deserved, still don’t deserve. I’m still watching him move. I still see miracles…mainly small ones, mainly miracles deep in the crevices of my wicked heart. But I will believe. God is my very breath. And this is not toxic cheap Chrisitianity or positivity speaking. This is desperation speaking. 

Oh friend, this is my prayer for you, me, the collective us, our children and families and churches..that we peel it all back and find that God, Jesus, Holy Spirit is enough. I pray you’ll experience Him in the deepest parts of your spirit. That whatever kind of grief shrouded the last year and whatever hurt you’ve walked through with humans will be mended in relationship with the Divine. 

I’m clinging to the words of Jude to the New Testament church, 

But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.[f]

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! 

Amen.

There’s Within My Heart a Melody

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; Fire and hail, snow and clouds; Stormy wind, fulfilling His word; 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.

“He Keeps Me Singing, Luther B. Bridgers (1910)
A Meadowlark’s song at Green Valley State Park, Creston, IA (3/18/20)

Covid-19: on loving your neighbor and not worrying

My daughter, Anna, shares her thoughts on how we as Christ followers should react and respond the the challenges of COVID-19

Anna Spindler Writes

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.

IMG_1631 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?

Last night as I pondered this…

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Finis, Who Finished His Course

Lt. Finis Ewing Harris, Jr (USAAF)

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.

Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster awarded to Finis Ewing Harris Jr., B-17 pilot

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.

Memorial Plaque, Daventry War Memorial, Dedicated August 23, 2015

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’ marker with a penny, symbolizing the visit of a loved one. (Photo and penny courtesy of Amy Maranto)

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’ marker with sand from Omaha beach rubbed into the lettering. (Photo courtesy of Maranto Photography)

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).

Check out Amy Maranto’s post Veterans Day

Thanks to Our Veterans

Lt Cmdr Charles Spindler (Navy Reserves) on the wing of his North American FJ-3 Fury at Naval Air Station Fallon, 1960

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 20180526-Perryone 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 on20180526-Finis2 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.

Mayflower Heritage Christian School students seeing off Vietnam Veterans as they leave Creston, IA on an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.

Thank you for your service, Veterans!

Fox Family

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._IMG4089-4-1_IMG4092-4-1_IMG4055-3-1_IMG4752-1

Mom always keeps a watchful eye and one evening implied it was time for me to leave!

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Here’s just a little bit of video of their play!

Running to Win

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!

To My Teachers

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As  I looked out my window on this rainy Sunday evening, I saw cars in our church parking lot. No, I’m not skipping services. The cars represent the teachers who are spending another evening in preparation for the students who will be arriving at Mayflower Heritage Christian School on Tuesday. They are a dedicated lot and strive to ensure that their students master their course work as well as develop a Christian worldview.

My daughter, Anna, relates her gratitude to those teachers who made a tremendous influence in her life through their “asks” and affirmations. To all my teacher friends, let me suggest these encouraging words to you at the following link: To My Teachers

Upside Down Photography

After taking a picture of a blue heron on a placid pond, I decided to flip the photo. That caused me to go on a search for others that might appear almost the same whether they were right side up or up side down. Here are a few.

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Blue Heron at Green Valley State Park Lake


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Fall Foliage at Green Valley State Park Lake


Upsidown ISS

International Space Station dashes over Green Valley State Park Lake


Upside down

Summit Lake


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Sunrise at Green Valley State Park Lake

On Partisan Divides, The Supreme Court, and Friendship

Reblogging my daughter’s words…because they’re good, y’all.

Source: On Partisan Divides, The Supreme Court, and Friendship