Posted tagged ‘American History’

Remembering What Has Been Forgotten

May 27, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           May 27, 2019


There is trivia and then there is truth. Trivia consists of those little morsels of interesting facts that may be known by a small percentage of the populace. Like yesterday’s “Trivia Hive” question: By what name is Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner better known? 

Give up?

Answer: Sting.

Interesting, right? But it does nothing to effect the rest of my day. It’s a trivia fact. Add an ‘L’ to trivia and you have trivial!

But then there is truth. Truth changes the way we live, the way we think, what grounds us. Truth is timeless. It is rooted in the past, lived in the present, and remembered for the future. Truth that is forgotten causes a drifting of our beliefs and life principles.

And yet, in our culture, truth seems to have been minimized. I think about this for three reasons: One, that it’s Memorial Day, a day rooted deep into our history, begun in 1866 following the Civil War and originally known as Decoration Day; two, because I see the disconnection between today’s younger generations and knowledge of the past; and three, because there is a tendency for truth to be distorted by those who either don’t know it or have agendas that seek to challenge it.

When we forget what has been we creep towards the edge of the dangerous cliff that leads to a slippage into old mistakes. When we forget where we have been we risk being careless about where we are going.

My wife and I were recently at the Luxembourg American Cemetery. 5,073 American soldiers, who lost their lives during World War II, mostly during the Ardennes Offensive, better known as the Battle of the Bulge, are buried there. As we gazed upon the rows of white crosses across 17 acres it was impossible to not think about what had happened and why they were here. The freedoms we so often take for granted today were solidified by their sacrifices. 

It is in that realization that I have my greatest appreciation, but it also in that realization that I cringe, for there is a forgetfulness in our midst that blurs the price of the past. The truth we forget gets bundled with the trivia that we tend to disregard. When we forget the principles of our democracy we become vulnerable to the corruption of the powers that be and the self-centeredness of personal privilege.

Never forget where we’ve been, because it is vital to the direction of where we need to be going.

The Inclusiveness of Christmas

December 24, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             December 24, 2017


Our nation has always had a battle over who belongs and who doesn’t, whether it be in certain areas, positions, occupations, or institutions. It goes back to even before the patriots of the 1770’s.

American history is dotted with issues over who could own land and who couldn’t? Who was allowed to vote and who wasn’t (which in many cases was also tied to who owned land and who didn’t)? Immigrants who came into the country in those days, and even for the rest of our existence, were pushed into certain locations. In the late 1800’s Chinese immigrants were viewed with suspicion and often mistreated.

In the early 1800’s many Protestant families in our country didn’t celebrate Christmas because it was seen as being too Catholic! Talk about religiously biased!

When I was growing up the phrase “they live on the other side of the tracks” was an indication of division based mostly on race, as well as economic class.

In recent times the debate about who belongs and who doesn’t has taken different shapes, and the battles have been fought in various venues. Agreement rarely raises her beautiful face. Instead the ugliness of humanity- our amazing ability to mistreat one another- often emerges.

A wedding cake battle in Colorado brings the issue of accepting everyone into the arena to go up against a couple who have deep religious beliefs about same-sex marriage. It has been a case where neither side has yielded.

In another area of life illegal immigrants are being sent home. Higher walls are seen as being part of the answer. Churches have offered sanctuary to those who could be deported. It’s a battle over what is legal versus what is humane? 9-11 will always make Americans suspicious of those who are noticeably different than white middle-class citizens…although Timothy McVeigh was about as white as you could get, and he bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City.

Here’s a hard statement that Christians who are also  Americans have a difficult time hearing: Our Christian faith is not always in line with our American pride and ways. That is never more apparent than at Christmas time when we talk about the birth scene of Jesus. His very pregnant mother and his father couldn’t find any space in the inn so they were pushed out into a stable. The birth was witnessed by livestock. Shepherds may have arrived a bit later, and wisemen from the East came sometime later on, perhaps even months.

The idea of our savior not having a place where infants usually were born is an indication that the gospel is not just for the normal folk, those who are accepted and valued. Shepherds were not to be seen or heard. They were expected to just stay out there and take care of the sheep, and yet Jesus refers to himself as the Good Shepherd.

Christmas reminds us that God welcomes everyone, and that his people are to be welcoming. We may not agree with everyone, their life choices, lifestyles, and opinions, but we are to be purveyors of grace and peace.

Each of us comes into a different arena from time to time where the battle between being a devoted follower of Christ wrestles with our passion for our nation. Those two often become entangled and difficult to discern which is which. What is Christian is often also American, but sometimes that “arm” that we thought belonged to Christ was instead the arm of patriotism that got mistaken for belonging to Jesus.

And the thing is, it’s always been that way in our nation!

Confusing American and Sports History

January 7, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      January 7, 2017


My substitute teaching gig takes a new turn next week. I begin a long-term substitute teaching position at the middle school I have coached basketball and football at for the past 15 years.

7th Grade Social Studies! I’m trying to think what I learned in 7th Grade Social Studies. All I can remember is sitting beside Becky Beckwith, a cute blonde whose brother played on the Williamstown, West Virginia varsity basketball team. I had a hard time focusing on the Civil War with Becky sitting to my right.

Now I’ll be teaching 7th Graders!

I’m using this weekend to bone up on my American History. In the 50 years (Say it ain’t so!) since I was a 7th Grader I’ve pumped a lot of history into my brain…sports history that is! Now I have to untangle the two spools of thread.

When I think of Patriots I go right to Babe Parilli, quarterback of the Boston Patriots of the old American Football League, and graduate of the University of Kentucky when it was coached by Bear Bryant.

If a student asks me how many Senators there are I may correct him and say “were!” The Washington Senators, perpetual cellar dwellers of the American League. One sports columnist made the statement, “Washington: first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.” I’ll be able to tell the student that the Minnesota Twins exist because of the Washington Senators.

When we get to the Civil War and start talking about the Yankees I’ll have to be careful to not talk about the New York Yankees who began playing at the old Polo Grounds in New York. My disdain for the Yankees might emerge. I’m not sure how I got to the point of despising the Bronx Bombers so much. After all, my Topps ’67 and ’68 Mickey Mantle baseball cards were my most valued possessions. I’ll have to be careful when a student asks me about the biggest obstacle for the Yankees to not reply “the Red Sox!”

The subject of “oil” comes up and I may immediately go to the Houston Oilers and their running back Earl Campbell, or amaze the students with the facts that George Blanda played for the Oilers before he became an Oakland Raider. I may even transition into the Oilers transition to become the Tennessee Titans.

The subject of George Washington comes up and I’ll talk about the George Washington University Colonels basketball team and playing in the Atlantic 10 conference with teams like the Richmond Spiders and the Rhode Island Rams.

If we get to the California Gold Rush I’ll easily transition into the San Francisco 49’ers, and the days of Joe Montana and Steve Young, Jerry Rice and Dwight Clark. I’ll probably get caught up in the moment and start talking about Montana’s game-winning TD drive against the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII.

I’ll just have to be careful as I hold the minds of these thirteen year olds in my hands. At the end of my teaching when someone asks them who some of the Trailblazers were of American History I don’t want them to say Clyde Drexler and Bill Walton…although they’d be right!

Inspired By…

December 30, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     December 29, 2015


Inspiration is a special gift underestimated. It is able to cause greatness that has been content to remain hidden to rise to the surface. It causes the paint on the artist’s palette to be moved to the brush and then the canvas to create a masterpiece of beauty.

Inspiration comes in the words of a coach whose heart expresses himself in tear-driven words to a team that doesn’t quite believe in itself. It awakens the potential and puts to bed the doubts.

Inspiration comes from a teacher who says with a sense of certainty to the underachieving student “You can do it!” The student goes forward with a confidence that she has never experienced before simply because the teacher believes in her.

Inspiration is looked for, but never bought. It appears in odd places, as well as frequented auditoriums and gyms.

The thing is…for many of us…the path we take in our life is influenced by someone else’s inspiration. I had a history teacher in high school whose purpose, it seemed, was to make American History as dull and uninteresting as possible. I dreaded the class. In my first year of college, however, I had a history professor for one class who suddenly made U.S. History rise from the deadness in my mind. It was thought-provoking and interesting, and that one professor caused me to change my major area of study to being a History major. Inspiration comes in unexpected places.

The man who was Associate Pastor at my home church in Ironton, Ohio inspired me to be excited about the possibilities of ministry. Jerry Heslinga was a God-send to a tired soul. I was struggling through seminary and he became the ointment for a doubting student. He inspired me to keep going.

Bill Trent was my high school track coach who inspired me to run…and run…and run. Coach Trent was a rough, football-minded kind of guy, who believed that a person rarely rose to the level of their potential, so he pushed us. If we lost a track meet we would practice right after it was over. He taught us that we had the potential to achieve was seemed unachievable. He inspired me to break the school record in the mile run…which would last for one season before Cecil Morrison, an average kid who became an incredible runner, broke it.

Inspired. How many people can you say inspired you to do something or be something? How many people complete their phrase “Inspired by…” with your name?