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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Grandma Privileges

Generations of school children from Berks and surrounding counties have gone on field trips to see Roadside America at Shartlesville, Pennsylvania. It is a miniature village and railway created by Laurence Gieringer that covers 8,000 square feet. The village was first displayed to the public in 1935 and placed in the current building in 1953. The current display is beautifully maintained; exactly the way Mr. Gieringer left it when he passed away in 1963. It is operated today by his granddaughter and her family.
Unfortunately, the building has aged and is in need of a new roof. The business generates enough income to support itself but not enough to pay for a new roof. If the funds are not found, it may be forced to close.
All of our children went to Roadside America on school trips and I thought Grayson should not miss the experience. So I took him to see it today. He was very impressed! I told him we're going to see some trains and when we walked in he said, "Wow!" 

He was fascinated with the trains until he discovered the buttons that make the display interactive. Then he went from button to button, pushing them to see what would happen. Some made trains and trolleys run, turned windmills, rang bells, moved wheels, ran elevators, and all kinds of interesting things.

We circled the display three times before the night show began. Then we sat on benches at the back of the room while the "sun" went down and all the lights in the little buildings turned on. After a period of darkness and stars (while an airplane circled the center), morning came and we returned to daylight. Grayson loved the night show. We circled the display for the fourth time and then he decided he was ready to go. We were there at least an hour or more.
It was lunch time when we left and I decided we should top off our field trip with ice cream. So we stopped at a dairy store and got cones. When we got out of the car Grayson said, "Mommy says I must eat my hot food first." But grandmas operate by different rules so I told him we're going to do it backwards today and have our ice cream first. Grandma Privileges! 
Being a chocoholic, Grayson didn't consider anything other than chocolate and I had raspberry. But you can guess what happened. By the time he had eaten his cone he didn't need hot food when we got home. 

I enjoyed watching him as much as he enjoyed pushing all the buttons. I can remember things that happened when I was four. Did we make a memory today that will stay with him all his life? I hope so. It's moments, not things that usually make the longest-lasting memories.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Hitlerian Thinking

This editorial by Richard Coehn in yesterday's Reading Eagle makes some good points.

The Economist magazine is rarely wrong, but it was recently in strongly suggesting that the casual disregard for truth that is the very soul of Donald Trump's campaign is something new under the sun. The technology--tweets and such--certainly is, but his cascade of immense lies is not. I'd like to familiarize The Economist with Adolf Hitler.
I realize Hitler's name has a distractive quality, and I cite it with reluctance. Hitler, however, was not a fictional creation but a real man who was legally chosen to be German's chancellor, and while Trump is neither an anti-Semite nor does he have designs on neighboring countries, he is Hitlerian in his thinking. He thinks the truth is what he says it is.
Soon after becoming chancellor, Hitler announced that the Jews had declared war on Germany. It was a preposterous statement since Jews were less than 1 percent of Germany's population and lacked the ability to make war on anything. In fact, in sheer preposterousness, it compares to Trump's insistence that President Barack Obama was not born in America--a position he held even after Obama released his birth certificate.
At the time, people tried to make sense of Hitler's statements by saying he was seeking a scapegoat and had settled on the Jews. I know of no instance where Hitler confided that his statements about Jews were, as we might now say, over the top. He remained consistently deranged on the topic. He was not lying. For him, it was the truth.
Just as Hitler's remarks about Jews were deeply rooted in German anti-Semitism, so was Trump's birtherism rooted in American racism--with some anti-Muslim sentiment thrown in. Trump's adamant insistence on it raised issues not, as some have so delicately put it, about his demeanor, but instead about his rationality. It made a joke out of the entire furor over revealing his medical records. I'm sure that Trump is fine physically. Mentally, it's a different story.
In a purloined email, Colin Powell called Trump's birther fixation "racist." But the former secretary of state has never done so publicly and his hesitation about Hillary Clinton is no excuse for being AWOL in this fight. Like some other GOP grandees, he has retreated to a neutral corner. They all have their qualms with Clinton, but not a single one of them can possibly believe America and its values wont' survive her presidency. A Trump presidency is a different matter.
It's a mistake to make the unreasonable compatible with the reasonable--to think, say, that Trump cannot be serious about this birther stuff or building a wall. That was the authentic Trump, a man totally unburdened by concern for anyone else.
There is no lie that cannot be believed. Even after Germany had murdered most of Europe's Jews, allied investigators at the end of World War II found that many Germans believed that their country's defeat only confirmed the power of world Jewry. Germany was not some weird place. At the advent of the Hitler era, it was a democracy, an advanced nation. It had unique history and cannot easily be likened to the contemporary U.S. But it was not all that different, either. In 1933, it chose a sociopathic liar as its leader. If the polls are to be believed, we may do the same.

"When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts" (Romans 1:21-24).

Thursday, September 8, 2016

In Everything

Thirty-eight years ago, on September 8, 1978, we had a stillborn little boy. He was born three months before his due date but died because the cord was wrapped across his chest and around his neck. We knew he would be stillborn because an ultrasound told us he had already died. Today, in such cases they let nature take its course and the baby will be born naturally in about two weeks. But at that time they induced labor immediately and it was a long, difficult 12-hour labor. Before it was over I began to think I would die too. But here we are, 38 years later and I'm still alive.
The grief and period of mourning that followed that baby's birth was not understood very well by others and I struggled for a year to accept what had happened. But eventually I worked through all that and came out on the other side to go on. Not long ago I heard someone say, "You have not fully accepted a situation until you can thank God for it." It took me a year to accept it but much longer until I could thank God for the experience, although I certainly never wished for a repeat.
Today I think about other disappointments I've had in my life and the lives of my children. Doesn't the Bible say, "In everything give thanks"? How can I thank God for hopes and dreams that were not fulfilled? For things that took a wrong turn along the way?  Things that don't seem right or fair? 
Look at that verse again. It doesn't say give thanks FOR everything, but IN everything. In the midst of disappointments and sorrow I can still thank and praise God because of who He is and because I trust Him. He understands what I don't and knows what He's doing. That doesn't mean I don't go to Him in prayer telling Him the desires of my heart. My asking is in itself an expression of faith and trust because I believe His power is unlimited and He can do the impossible in His time and in His way. My faith is not dependent on circumstances; it is dependent on God. I can still thank Him in the midst of every circumstance whether it's going the way I hoped or not.
"Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation" (Habakkuk 3:17-18).