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“An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don’t.” Anatole France

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Today our son Victor’s housemate and longtime friend Shane Collins  has been deployed to Iraq for his second tour.   Please keep him and all our other members of the armed forces who are now in harm’s way in your prayers.

President Obama has promised that the war there will be over in August 2010. (read more)

On Wednesday morning, I overslept – slept right through the alarm, I guess – but was awakened 17 minutes later by the ringing telephone.  Bad news: Paul had died.

We got up confused – bumbled our way to readiness for our day trip to Salisbury.   But we finally got on the road.  Once there, we stopped by one of the rail fanning sites and chatted with Steve, another rail fan.  We had the job of letting him know about Paul.  Steve said he’d never seen Bill without Paul (not quite spot on, but you get the idea).

We grabbed a chicken biscuit and went on to the North Carolina Transporation Museum, located in Spencer NC. (Here I digress, Spencer becomes Salisbury along the road.) At the Transportation Museum, we looked at the exhibits in way we’d never seen them before.  There were no crowds, as there always are on Rail Fan Day and in the Bumper to Bumper Car Museum, it was actually cool.  Bill was able to take lots of pictures, including those of the new (not yet finished) exhibit concerning NC Lining Bar Gangs (Gandy Dancers) that was dedicated on Tuesday during Black History Month.  The Museum does a nice job of telling the social as well as the mechanical and economic history of the growth of the railroad.

After we left the museum, we went to the Wye (Salisbury Junction) where we met a couple of rail fans and photographed three trains.

Then supper, and on to Laughing Sky Books, where poet Jenni Russell hosted the store’s first open mic (scroll down).  Jenni’s husband Jack (Poet Jack Anders) acted as MC. A small but appreciative crowd listened to prose and poems.   Jessie Carty was one of the poets who read. Jenni hopes to have future open mics about every three months.

We got home in time to catch the second half of the Duke game.  The stupid Dookies won.

*   *   *   *   *

After that darkness we call nighttime, the alarm rang.  This time I heard it.  And up we got to greet our friend Vic (not to be confused with our Victor, who’s our son), who had planned to drop by.  Good news:  Vic has an extra ticket for the Wake Forest game, and would Bill like to go?  Duh. Vic left,  we ate sandwiches, and Bill went to meet Giles to get his hair cut.

Bill was only back for about an hour when we had to leave for the Founder’s Day Convocation at Wake Forest University, where Anthony Parent, my thesis adviser, was speaking. Weathering Wake: African-American Experience” concerned the history of blacks at Wake Forest. Parent was brilliant, as he always is.

Anthony Parent

(photo Windows on Wake Forest)

We planned to see him at the reception following. We couldn’t find him, so we decided to eat.  After all, Wake Forest can throw a fine party.  Hors d’oeuvre included not only veggies and dip, breads and cheeses, but chicken and shrimp on skewers, and petit fours.    Wine was poured, coffee was brewed.  Caterers gathered empty plates. Bill was going to miss his ride to the game.

Finally, we found Tony, who looked radiant in his doctoral robe and cap.  His smile was beautiful.  Finally, he is getting the attention he deserves.  Tony Parent is the best teacher I ever had.  I love him.  We talked briefly, and Bill and I rushed home.

Phone calls indicated we crossed paths with Vic on Ransom Road, Vic in a car we don’t recognize, a car that belongs to Steve.  We don’t know Steve.   Bill drove to meet Vic to walk to the Wake Forest game.    Bill met Vic then Steve.  They were all in their seats by tip-off.  I watched on television.  The Demon Deacons won.  Wake beat State 65-78.

*   *   *   *   *

Today all we have to do is prepare to go to Mooresville for Paul’s memorial service.  He will be buried in Arlington (in 4- 6 months) but Saturday will include celebration of his life, followed by a service with full military honors, including a 21-gun salute, probably in the rain.

A few weeks ago I posted a prayer request for our friend Paul Cherenzia, who was battling cancer.  After several weeks of seeming recovery, Paul died quickly last night.  Please rememebr Paul’s wife Janice and their son and daughters and grandchildren in your prayers. Memorial services are still being planned but will be held Saturday, probably in Mooresville, NC.

**

The following is a poem for Paul, named by Paul, and taken from my book manuscript of the same name.

Better With Friends
—for Paul

Yesterday three friends sat in folding chairs in front of their cars,
waiting for trains.

So naturally this morning, as the fog bears down
once again on the tree line at the back of the yard,

I’m seeking that perfect phrase,
as if memory weren’t powerful enough for the capture.

A few evergreens—and rhododendron for hope—grow
on the side of a hill with the orange of the berries of the holly.

The train obediently sounded its whistle,
while diesel-smoke rose—drifting above the blue Conrail—

starting where a road crosses the track and a sign says Dendron,
blowing back toward the east, darkening a small part of the sky

like a rain cloud.  We watched the engineer wave, as—
even in January—we came prepared with blankets for our legs.

Our radios talked and cameras clicked.  The train chugged up
the Blue Ridge, the mountain leaf-brown, washed-out,

winter-lovely.

Laughing Sky Books,  located in Salisbury NC (see map for location), will be putting on its first open mic night on Wednesday, February 25th at 6 P.M. Writers of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and those who play acoustic instruments are cordially invited, as well as those who would just like to listen and appreciate! Coffee, tea, and hot cocoa will be served. Jenni and the others are looking forward to seeing and hearing creative work!

This announcement may be copied and passed along.

We all have our secrets: thoughts, memories, feelings that we keep to ourselves. Often we think, “If people knew what I feel or think, they would not love me.” These carefully kept secrets can do us much harm. They can make us feel guilty or ashamed and may lead us to self-rejection, depression, and even suicidal thoughts and actions.

One of the most important things we can do with our secrets is to share them in a safe place, with people we trust. When we have a good way to bring our secrets into the light and can look at them with others, we will quickly discover that we are not alone with our secrets and that our trusting friends will love us more deeply and more intimately than before. Bringing our secrets into the light creates community and inner healing. As a result of sharing secrets, not only will others love us better but we will love ourselves more fully.

Emphasis mine

**

Wonderful thoughts. But are they true?  Will others love us for our confessions?

What do you think?  Do others really want to hear the truth? Or are people happy in their denial?

I think, popularity better not be one’s motiavtion for truth telling.

We like to make a distinction between our private and public lives and say, “Whatever I do in my private life is nobody else’s business.” But anyone trying to live a spiritual life will soon discover that the most personal is the most universal, the most hidden is the most public, and the most solitary is the most communal. What we live in the most intimate places of our beings is not just for us but for all people. That is why our inner lives are lives for others. That is why our solitude is a gift to our community, and that is why our most secret thoughts affect our common life.

Jesus says, “No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub; they put it on the lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:14-15). The most inner light is a light for the world. Let’s not have “double lives”; let us allow what we live in private to be known in public.

Emphasis mine

Be still, and know that I am God . . . —Psalm 46:10

Perseverance is more than endurance. It is endurance combined with absolute assurance and certainty that what we are looking for is going to happen. Perseverance means more than just hanging on, which may be only exposing our fear of letting go and falling. Perseverance is our supreme effort of refusing to believe that our hero is going to be conquered. Our greatest fear is not that we will be damned, but that somehow Jesus Christ will be defeated. Also, our fear is that the very things our Lord stood for— love, justice, forgiveness, and kindness among men— will not win out in the end and will represent an unattainable goal for us. Then there is the call to spiritual perseverance. A call not to hang on and do nothing, but to work deliberately, knowing with certainty that God will never be defeated.

If our hopes seem to be experiencing disappointment right now, it simply means that they are being purified. Every hope or dream of the human mind will be fulfilled if it is noble and of God. But one of the greatest stresses in life is the stress of waiting for God. He brings fulfillment, “because you have kept My command to persevere . . .”

( Revelation 3:10 ).

Continue to persevere spiritually.

From My Utmost For His Highest

My Utmost For His Highest Cover
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Emphasis mine

**

Thanks to God for my Redeemer,
Thanks for all Thou dost provide!
Thanks for times now but a memory,
Thanks for Jesus by my side!
Thanks for pleasant, balmy springtime,
Thanks for dark and stormy fall!
Thanks for tears by now forgotten,
Thanks for peace within my soul!

Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered,
Thanks for what Thou dost deny!
Thanks for storms that I have weathered,
Thanks for all Thou dost supply!
Thanks for pain, and thanks for pleasure,
Thanks for comfort in despair!
Thanks for grace that none can measure,
Thanks for love beyond compare!

Thanks for roses by the wayside,
Thanks for thorns their stems contain!
Thanks for home and thanks for fireside,
Thanks for hope, that sweet refrain!
Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow,
Thanks for heavenly peace with Thee!
Thanks for hope in the tomorrow,
Thanks through all eternity!

To be able to enjoy fully the many good things the world has to offer, we must be detached from them. To be detached does not mean to be indifferent or uninterested. It means to be nonpossessive. Life is a gift to be grateful for and not a property to cling to.

A nonpossessive life is a free life. But such freedom is only possible when we have a deep sense of belonging. To whom then do we belong? We belong to God, and the God to whom we belong has sent us into the world to proclaim in his Name that all of creation is created in and by love and calls us to gratitude and joy. That is what the “detached” life is all about. It is a life in which we are free to offer praise and thanksgiving.

Emphasis mine

**

Perhaps strangely, it is for this very reason that I support governmental help for others, especially the poor.  It is because life, not belongings,  is the gift.  We are God’s.  The world is God’s. If God owns everything (and we are mere stewards), the term “other people’s money” loses it meaning. It’s all God’s – all people and all things.

Oh, I AM my brother’s keeper.

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