Monthly Archives: January 2016


It had been a long time since I’d seen our nation’s capital.

During our trip south this fall to visit friends and family, we were able to spend a couple afternoons in Washington, D.C.  We walked among monuments to and mementos of the people, events, and ideas that have shaped and guided our nation.

We saw the National World War II Memorial for the first time and the Vietnam Wall again.  We read the names of countrymen who died in that latter conflict – Karen was moved by the sheer number, but also by that once-controversial memorial’s beauty – and found a Heffron in the directory.  James Brooks Heffron, a Marine PFC from New Jersey who died Aug. 31, 1966.  I don’t know if he was a relative or not, but he was a countryman and gave his life.


At the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of American History, Billy touched a piece of the Berlin Wall, and I taught him what it was.  We saw the star-spangled banner that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that has become our national anthem.  We tried a cotton gin and examined other American inventions, learning about the ingenuity that can make lives better or worse, depending on how it’s used.



We were also able to tour the Pentagon (something I hadn’t known was even possible) and visit the memorial to its victims of Sept. 11.  Most hallways were lined with art and artifacts of the US military’s efforts in wars and natural disasters; one painting portrayed a World War II story I’ve long admired, about a badly damaged American bomber crew mercifully escorted back to safety by a German fighter pilot.  Food courts of KFC and Taco Bell seemed surreal there.  The central courtyard reminded me of a small town’s typical park.  I was glad to see that those fellow Americans who work there – tasked with such stressful, difficult, serious work – are surrounded with beauty, nature, and reminders of what America has been and strives to be.

I would’ve liked more time in Washington, would’ve liked to see more monuments, more museums.  But as we prepare to leave this land of many blessings, hopes and dreams, I was grateful for a chance to visit the symbolic center and summary of what America means – and to share those lessons with our kids.


“God, Bless America”
by Irving Berlin

God, bless America,
land that I love.
Stand beside her and guide her
through the night with a light from above.

From the mountains, to the prairies,
to the oceans white with foam:
God, bless America,
my home, sweet home.
God, bless America,
My home, sweet home.

May God bless our nation and all the world, guiding all of us through our difficulties and doubts with His light and giving our leaders and voters wisdom in all the decisions they make.  May we follow truly and fully what Christ told us were the two greatest commandments:  first, to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and second, to love our neighbors (all of them, everywhere) as ourselves.

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Missing a mother-in-law

Marty was a remarkable woman.

Born in Guam to an Army family, Tracy’s mom was the middle of three girls and often said that her Daddy was made to have daughters.  She always spoke adoringly of his great love for them; it was always clear how well he had raised them to be ladies who could take care of themselves.  She had a tremendous love for her family and her country, and she expressed those loves through loyalty, selflessness, attentiveness, and a passionate devotion to what she believed right for each.  She had an eager laugh and a comfortable humor, and she loved making people feel at home.  One never felt inadequate or low around her, and even when she disagreed with someone, she never insulted or demeaned the person.  She was a wonderful mother-in-law.

It was three years ago today that we lost her.  She’d been living with us for about six weeks, brought home by Tracy right after the cancer was confirmed.  Tracy had known it was terminal as soon as she’d seen the X-ray, but she prayed fervently for healing; God had other plans and brought her home to Him instead.  Her daughters were by her side, giving back the love and comfort she’d so long nurtured in them.

Those six weeks were such a blessing.  Given her devotion to America, it was no surprise that she cared deeply about its politics, and she and I had butted heads often over ideas, ideals, and candidates.  I always felt we disagreed more in degree and application than in outlook, but I could never seem to assure her of that.  In those last six weeks, though, those debates just weren’t important anymore, and I’ll always be grateful for the talks we had instead.

Talks about family, love, and faith.  About how much she believed in and supported our following God’s call to help others in Christ’s name, and how important He was in her heart.  About the peace and joy she had, and about ways that we could offer her a little more, like arranging a gift for someone or simply bringing her a little more broth and rearranging her blanket or pillow.  About how pleased she was by what she saw in me as her daughter’s husband, her grandkids’ father, and her son-in-law; nothing could have been more meaningful or treasured.

Karen was just 7, and Billy was not quite 5 while their grandmother stayed with us.  Karen loved going in and talking to her.  Billy preferred to just take his toys into her room and be near her.  Marty loved the time with them and talked about so much that she saw in each.

It was a cherished time of passing along blessings, easing sorrow, and leaving memories.  What a legacy she left for those she loved so well.



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Long odds

People sure got excited about last week’s Powerball drawing.  I guess a chance at $1.6 billion’ll do that.

It got me thinking, though:  how much of a chance was that?

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Reading the manual

I have a confession to make:  I’ve been reading some manuals.

And they’ve even been … helpful.

I know that reading manuals is almost as bad as stopping to ask for directions, but sometimes it’s just necessary.

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