Lessons from the 1940s – Never Forget

Today, we commemorate the 66th anniversary of the D-Day landings. On June 6, 1944, the Allies landed on the beaches of Normandy to liberate Europe from Nazi power.

In August 2007, I was privileged to stand on Omaha Beach on a misty, overcast morning not unlike the men faced that historic day. As I stood on that long stretch of sand and gazed at those high bluffs which once bristled with machine guns, I was moved deeply. We’ve all seen the movies and watched the footage – men dashing with rifles in hand, stumbling in the waves, beckoning their buddies onward, sheltering against debris – falling to the sand. But being there and feeling that sand beneath my feet gave me another level of understanding.
Today the Normandy beaches bristle with people on holiday – those who come to remember, and those who come to play. Children laugh and chase the waves and build sand castles. Tourists stand in silence, wipe tears, take pictures. This is as it should be.
Sixty-six years ago, 155,000 American, British Commonwealth, and Free French troops landed in the biggest amphibious operation in history, along with free people from many other occupied nations. Take a moment today and remember those who risked their lives, who gave their lives so we can live in freedom.

Chasing the Light

Meet Daisy. Daisy is a retriever. She thinks she’s a hunter. Her favorite prey…light.

Daisy chases after laser pointers and flashlights and random blinking lights. And this time of year, the morning sun shines through the sliding glass window in my kitchen and glances off the face of my watch. The Magic Light. This is her favorite thing in the world.

While I’m assembling school lunches and my three kids are making their breakfasts, I have an 80-pound yellow lab dogging my steps. Pun intended. She frantically searches the floor around me for a glimpse of the Magic Light. And when she sees it, she pounces, nips at it, and follows wherever it leads.

In the morning, Daisy won’t leave my side because she knows I’m the source of the Magic Light.

She drives me bonkers. But she makes me think.

I have a Source of light in my life too. Do I crave the Light of the World above all else? Do I stick close to Jesus’ side, dogging His steps, searching for glimpses of His light, pouncing on it, and following wherever His Light leads me? I want to stay as close to my Master as Daisy does to me.

Lessons from the 1940s – Discretion

During World War II, posters like these decorated storefronts, train stations, and other public places. Spies were present. An innocent conversation in the barber shop, the grocery, or a phone booth could be overheard and passed to the enemy. Information about troop movements, sailing schedules, and strength of the armed forces was especially guarded. One careless comment could lead to thousands of deaths.

Free speech is one of the cornerstones of American society, but during the war, limits were accepted in order to protect lives – and ultimately those very freedoms. Citizens understood that free speech without discretion could be harmful.

Lives may no longer be on the line, but a lack of discretion causes a new realm of problems unimagined seventy years ago. The speed of Twittering, Facebook, and blogging, coupled with the popularity of full self-expression, can lead to great hurt and damage. In the past year, I have seen on-line…

  • Spouses trashing mates or ex-mates.
  • Employees griping about jobs and bosses – on work time.
  • Parents posting pictures from Disneyland – when they called the children in sick from school.
  • Comments about hangovers and getting wasted.
  • Students sniping about teachers by name.
  • Unpublished writers lamenting the drivel on the bookshelves – published by houses they’d like to write for.
  • People requesting prayer on very personal matters for other people.
  • Citizens wishing harm or failure to politicians or celebrities.

Perhaps a return to self-censorship is warranted. Before hitting “share,” if we all took a few seconds to consider the possible impact of our posts, a lot of damage could be prevented. I run through a mental checklist – would I want these people reading this post – my husband, parents, children, boss, pastor, neighbor…and the person I’m writing about (even celebrities have feelings)? I have failed. I’ve posted things I regretted and removed. But if we all tried, civility could replace anger on the Internet.

Loose lips may no longer sink ships, but they can sink families, reputations, and careers. Thoughts?

Bent but not Broken

“She was bent over and could not straighten up at all” (Luke 13:11). For this crippled woman in ancient Israel, walking was awkward and slow. Looking people in the eye required painful contortions. Carrying burdens was difficult. People pitied her, ignored her, mocked her. For eighteen years she could see little but the ground in front of her. If her family didn’t help her, she had to beg. Depression and hopelessness darkened her spirit.

My grandmother suffered from osteoporosis, which almost doubled her over. It slowed this energetic woman down and threw off her balance, making her prone to falls. When standing, she had to twist her head or lean on her walker to look you in the eye. But she had a supportive family, a walker, a determined spirit, and faith in the Lord. Although sometimes discouraged, she never gave in to hopelessness.

Jesus laid his hands on the crippled woman and healed her. She stood straight and praised the Lord. Jesus took my grandmother home, where she stands straight and sings His praise.

In hopeless situations, Jesus is the key. Sometimes He brings physical healing, sometimes He comforts us in our painful circumstances, but He always gives hope. “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” 1 John 1:5.

How has the Lord helped you in dark situations?

Lessons from the 1940s – Liberty and Justice for All?

On the morning of December 7, 1941, Mess Attendant Second Class Doris “Dorie” Miller (pictured in the poster) was collecting laundry on board the USS West Virginia in Pearl Harbor. The Japanese attacked. The alarm for general quarters sounded, and Miller reported to his battle station, an antiaircraft battery amidships. It had already been destroyed. A heavyweight boxer, Miller carried wounded sailors to safety, aided the mortally wounded captain, and manned a .50 caliber machine gun – a weapon he’d never been trained to use – and was credited with downing a Japanese fighter plane. For his bravery, he received the Navy Cross on May 27, 1942. Sadly, he perished when the USS Liscome Bay was sunk by a Japanese submarine on November 24, 1943. (Source: http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq57-4.htm)

Dorie Miller was the first African-American hero of World War II, and not the last. There would have been even more if the US armed forces hadn’t been segregated, with black troops in separate units under white officers, usually assigned to the mess or to manual labor behind the front. The reasoning was that black men weren’t capable and that integrated services would “offend the sensibilities” of white Southerners. Both justifications are appalling.

Racial tension came to a boil during World War II due to unprecedented mobilization that introduced northerners – black and white – to conditions in the south, and exposed the cancer of racism in American society. Race riots erupted in Detroit, Philadelphia, Birmingham, and many other cities. Black troops fumed when German and Italian prisoners of war received better treatment than they did, and they wondered why they should fight for freedoms abroad that they didn’t enjoy at home.

On July 17, 1944, an explosion blew apart two munitions ships at the Naval Magazine in Port Chicago, California, killing 320 men, most of whom were black. The black sailors had been loading ammunition under unsafe conditions and indifferent white leadership. Fifty of the survivors refused to load ammunition again. Instead of being convicted of insubordination, all fifty men were convicted – after eighty minutes deliberation – of mutiny, a capital offense. The convicted included two men who had medical excuses for why they refused to work.

The unexpected benefit of the Port Chicago Explosion, the largest US Home Front disaster of the war, was that it opened the eyes of the general public. Outrage grew to such an extent that the US Navy, the most segregated of the services, became the first to become truly integrated. Injustice had been exposed, and seeds were planted that would lead to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and the end of legal segregation.

While World War II showcased the best in the American character, it also highlighted the worst. The war trumpeted our national ideals, and showed where we fell short. We still fall short today. Segregation is gone, blatant discrimination is illegal, but subtle racism exists – often subconscious – in attitudes and thoughts. And in all races. Looking to our past shows us how far we’ve come – and where we have room to grow. I have faith that the US can someday become a land where a person’s race leads to neither discrimination nor special privileges, and where all people can achieve if they have the character, ability, and drive to do so.

Happy V-E Day Anniversary!

Sixty-five years ago today, the Allies celebrated Victory in Europe. People went to church and prayed. Bells rang. Parades rejoiced through small towns and cities.

The cost of victory was high. Tens of millions were killed in battle. More tens of millions were murdered and starved in concentration camps. And more millions perished as civilian casualties of bombing. Many of Europe’s great cities lay in heaps of rubble. The infrastructure of factories, railways, bridges, and roads lay in tangled ruins.

But the cost of defeat would have been even higher. The fascist dictators had conquered most of Europe and ruled with totalitarian brutality. They trampled the freedoms of the occupied lands, freedoms we take for granted – to speak our mind, to worship as we please, to associate with the people of our choice, to keep the fruits of our labor, and even to listen to the radio. They ruled through fear, and it was legitimate fear. Entire villages were emptied and massacred. Dissenters were tortured and executed. Anyone who didn’t fit in the fascist regime due to ethnicity, religion, or mental or physical incapacity, was eliminated with horrid efficiency.

We reap the benefits of that victory today. Despite today’s economic woes and terrorist threats, we live in relative prosperity and peace – and we have freedom. We must never forget what a blessing freedom is – or how much it costs. Use it wisely. Use it well.

Thank you to all those veterans who set aside their individual rights to ensure freedom for the future. God bless you.

Lessons from the 1940s Mother – Work and Play

Today’s parenting magazines trumpet the necessity of playing with your children, and mommy blogs gush about the joys of floor time and entering the child’s world.

If a 1940s’ mom time-traveled to 2010, she would be confused by this. She had work to do. Play was for children. Not that she ignored her children, but instead of becoming a part of the child’s world, the mother drew the child into her world – teaching, shaping, and establishing her authority. In this poster, the mother is showing her daughter how to buy war bonds.

Traditionally, mothers needed all the help they could to run their homes. Children were expected to do their share, which gave them a sense of purpose and taught them skills and responsibility. Play was the reward for a job well done – or a convenient way to keep kids occupied when they couldn’t help. Children played alone or with other children, developing their creativity and imagination. If a mother had time to play, it was a rare and precious thing.

For many moms today, play is a job. If a mom doesn’t spend a certain number of hours playing with the children, she feels guilty. However, I would argue that too much time in play skews the parent-child relationship. The mother becomes a playmate rather than an authority figure. In all playmate relationships, someone takes the lead. If the mother guides the play, the child doesn’t get to use his imagination or figure out on his own how the toy works. And if the child takes the leadership role, he bosses the mother around. Also by making play a high priority, a child may learn that her desire for attention and entertainment is greater than her mother’s needs.

In the 1940s, when a child said he was bored, it was an invitation to do chores. Today, a bored child means the mother has failed in her duty to entertain.

Am I saying a mom shouldn’t play with her children? Of course not. But do so cautiously. Maintain your authority. Make sure your kids know that your need to get work done is more important than their wish to play. Consider drawing them into your work – yes, I know it takes longer, but it’s worth it in the long run. And remember that boredom is a fertile breeding ground for creativity.

How do you handle playtime with your children?

Netflix and Nostalgia Contest – We Have a Winner!

Thanks to everyone who entered the Netflix and Nostalgia Contest – and to everyone who spread the word.

Out of 810 entrants, our random number generator selected one grand prize winner….
Ambar Robinson! Ambar, I’ve sent you an e-mail so I can get your prize mailed to you as soon as possible.
Thanks also to LitFuse Publicity for putting this together!

Lessons from the 1940s Woman – “Grown-Up Culture”

The more I look at this poster, the more I see how our culture has changed. In the 1940s, mother-daughter outfits were popular – the daughter wanted to dress just like her mother. Nowadays, middle-aged mothers dress like their teenaged daughters.

Something has flipped in recent generations. In traditional cultures, children couldn’t wait to grow up and have adult responsibilities, and people hoped to live long enough to have gray hair and the wisdom that came with it. But now we have a culture obsessed with youth.

Youth are held up as the ultimate example in how to dress, how to use technology, and what music to listen to. Youth believe their primary job is “to have fun” – I’ve even heard this from my own children. So why grow up? Where’s the motivation to move into adulthood, where they’ll be obsolete, uncool, and unable to play video games?

But our world needs old-fashioned adults to function. Twitter, texting, and Wii won’t build homes, put food on the table, or heal the sick.

As one person, I can’t change American culture, but I can watch my own attitude. Do I communicate to my children the joys of adulthood? Do I tell them of the satisfaction I get from a job well done? Do I pretend to be a teenager, or am I comfortable in my age? Do I make my children’s lives unpleasant enough that they long for adulthood?

Celebrate your adulthood! Listen to the music you like! Wear your mom-jeans with pride! Know enough technology to get by and don’t apologize about it! Perhaps some day your children will say, “I want to grow up to be just like you.”

Okay, then, so I’m a dreamer. That’s why I write fiction.

How about you? Do you see yourself buying into youth culture? How can you celebrate the wonderful age you’ve earned?


A glance around my living room reveals many mementoes. All right, knick-knacks. But each one has meaning—family heirlooms, travel souvenirs, and gifts from friends. We display them to remind us of where we come from, where we’ve been, and the people we love.

Our memories are flimsy, fickle things, remembering useless trivia and painful occurrences—but able to let the good slip into oblivion. We know that. We fear that. So to trigger our memories, we display objects or build monuments, like Scotland’s monument to William Wallace in the photo.
God knows the weakness of our memories too. When He led Joshua and the nation of Israel across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land, He knew time would pass, generations would pass, and the people would forget. They would think Joshua alone led them. They would think the people found their way all by themselves. They would think that they had always lived in Israel and had never been delivered from Egypt.
So He commanded them to build a memorial—twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan River, built into a memorial at Gilgal to remind them of what the Lord had done.
Isn’t that the best kind of memorial—to remind us of what the Lord has done in our lives? I’d rather forget a trip to Europe, my best friend, and even my own grandparents than forget the wonderful works of God.
“In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them…” (Joshua 4: 6, italics mine).
Do you have anything in your home to remind you what God has done?