Monday, September 24, 2012

Pray4America (part 4) - It's a Wonderful Life, America

It's a Wonderful Life
 - Clarence & George

I know ...

Christmas is three months away, and it's a bit early to talk about a great Christmas movie classic from the 1940s  ...

** It's a Wonderful Life **

But I will anyway.

George Bailey represented every man - a decent man, loving his family, living a good life, helping those he came across, making sacrifices, putting others first  And life was not easy as he came of age during the roaring 20s, struggled with a business during the Great Depression, and was left behind as his brother went off to fight in World War Two.  George's story has much of the flavor of Dickens' Christmas Carol from the Bob Cratchit point of view.

(For a great summary, check out - It's a Wonderful Life (1946) on Reel Classics.)

Then one Christmas Eve, everything in George's life went so wrong.  His nemesis, Henry Potter - the richest and meanest man in the county, seized a careless moment to set George up for bank fraud.  The bank auditors as well as the Sheriff were on George's tail.  Financial ruin, disgrace, and jail seemed inevitable.  Feeling despondent, believing he was worth more dead than alive - an idea planted by Mr. Potter, George contemplated suicide.

Heaven help George Bailey!

And heaven did.  At the end of his rope, George Bailey prayed.  And help came in the form of a guardian angel, Clarence, shown in the picture above.

Thwarting George's suicide attempt, Clarence granted George Bailey his wish - that he had never been born. Then the angle allowed George to see what life would be like without him.  I'll give you hint if you haven't seen the movie.  The lives of his family and friends as well as the town went to  ... erm, it rhymes with swell ... but life didn't turn out so swell.

Below is a scene of life without George though George seems a little slow realizing that he got what he had wished for and his does not exist in this universe.

Strange, isn't it.  
Each man's life touches so many other lives.  
When he isn't  around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?

The same could be said for a nation, which is just made of people multiplied by millions.

It's a Wonderful Life, America ...

When I was growing up, I had a sense that America was a noble nation.  Now, that notion seems shaken, especially watching the 24/7 news cycle, listening to commentators, pundits, propaganda.  It seems life in the world would be so better if America did not exist.  Right?

No guardian named Clarence materialized in my world.  But I do have a computer connected to the internet, and there is a wonderful site called  And I found this gem, imagining what the world would be like without America.

And of course, this video got many "dislikes" and snarky responses.  But it does pose an interesting question.  What would the world be like without America?  We can speculate.  Yet, I think the world would be much worse off.

Now, back to George and his wonderful life ...

To continue with the lessons of the movie, when seeing the world without him, George Bailey realized he really did have a wonderful life.  And in face of the difficult days ahead, he was grateful for the blessings he had and resolved to face his problems instead taking the final, irrevocable solution of ultimately abandoning everything and everybody - by killing himself.  (Way to go, Clarence!)

As a nation we may be in the same place as George Bailey. Difficult days are here and more are looming ahead.  Troubling times can shake us up and move us to humble ourselves and pray.  Like George Bailey's prayer - may the Good Lord show us the way.  May we learn not to trust in our own wisdom nor our might nor our wealth nor even our allies for help.

Such a call for prayer is made in this video, below.

In the Spring of 2012, this call came for the National Day of Prayer.

In the Fall, more calls continue as we go through another election cycle.  One such is from Max Lucado and the special site he set up -

40 Days of Prayer for the USA
Starting September 28, 2012

His website can be found her  -

Continue to pray for the nation for

Actions in Heaven 

begin when someone prays on earth ....


Previous posts in this series:

Pray4America (part 1) - National Day of Prayer (2012)

Pray4America (part 2) - FDR's prayer on D-Day (2012)

Pray4America (part 3) - FDR's Flag Day prayer - June 14, 1942  (2012)


Previous posts on similar subjects:

New Years 2012 - the Good worth fighting for! (2011)

America in Decline?! (2011)

A Royal Inspiration (2011)


Photo from Clarence, the Guardian Angel

Friday, September 21, 2012

Signs of the Times (part 1) - Camping in the Parks

Our camp site at Wallowa Lake State Park with a deer

Camping in the Parks ...

It has always been popular.  Even more so in these tough economic times.  And those observations during recent camping trips has inspired another series -

* Signs of the Times *

The second week of September - after Labor Day, but before everything shut down for the season - seemed like a great time to travel.  The kids were back in school.  The traffic, we hoped, had thinned down - and it had.  And for enjoying the outdoors, most of the pesky bugs had died off.

This late summer our destination was the Wallowas in Oregon.  My husband had visited the area in the 1970s, and it had impressed him with its beauty.  But I had never seen it before.  So the visit was a treat and a new experience for me.

Wallowa Lake behind our tent
At our site - you can see in the photo above - our REI Habitat tent had caught the attention of one of the deer denizens of the Wallowa Mountains.  We camped near the lake at the Wallow Lake State Park  - which can be seen in my photo to the right.

It was economical.   Sharing a campsite with a friend, all three of us stayed in two tents in these gorgeous environs for $20 a night.  And there were facilities nearby with flush toilets, running water, showers, and coin operated laundry.  At the sites were picnic tables, fire pits, and paved driveways for our vehicles.  The area were patrolled and provided a level of security.  Near this park were stores and restaurants with local character.  So roughing it was not so ... rough.

There were unique areas of interest and activities.  Near the lake, we went up the Wallowa Lake Tram and toured Joseph, which about five miles away.  At historical sites, we learned more about Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce Native American Indian tribes.

No need  for cooking - though we did build a campfire and gave a try at Jiffy Pop popcorn.  (Got half the kernels to pop, but it was fun and the popped kernels were tasty.)  In the morning, we had a marvelous breakfast at the Wallowa Lake Lodge.  Below is a picture of the lobby.

Wallowa Lake Lodge Lobby
Anecdotal evidence indicated an increase in the camping these last few years.  People were still going on vacations - visiting the parks and enjoying them, but opting out of staying at the more expensive lodges.

Camping has been popular as ever. At the park, the first to fill up were the RV sites, then the tent campsites.  An employee at the Wallowa Lake Lodge confirmed this observation in the area -  nearby, people were staying at the camps, but eating at the lodge.

 Later in the trip, we chatted with one of the locals, a young man working at a city park.  He said he had camped with his family that summer as a way to have a great vacation on a budget.  And this makes sense.  We had done that on previous trips.

Milky Way at night
Earlier in the summer, we had camped at a more remote area in Idaho - the Spruce Tree Campground.  The campsite was free, but there were limited amenities - just pit toilets, a water pump, and picnic tables.  But the remote site quickly filled up - even in the middle of the week.

Using the facilities was less convenient than having a motel room available.  But walking to the pit toilet in the middle of the night did have an up side.  In the back woods with a clear moonless night, away from the the light pollution of civilization ...

Holy Cow!

What a view!

The Milky Way shines on nature's black dome ceiling displaying the glories of the heavens.

Camping trips were not unique for us.  We had continued the trend from last year's late summer adventures -

Camping and eating at the Lodges ...

In 2011, we had camped in the National Parks - Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.  But we ate at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel and the Jackson Lake Lodge.  Likewise moving east to Custer State Park, we camped at Sylvan Lake and ate at the wonderful Sylvan Lake Lodge.

Lodges typically started over $100 per night on the low side and can be much higher than that in the well known parks.  For the National Parks, rooms needed to be booked more than a year ahead. They still fill up fast.

Kind of takes the spontaneity out of life, doesn't it?

But camping was relatively cheap - about $20 per night in the national and state parks.  We had no trouble getting a site that morning we arrived - no reservations required.  And we shared the same multi-million dollar views as those staying in the more pricey lodges.

Interesting how we have come full circle on this camping thing.  Growing up in the 1960s, my most precious memories were camping with my father and brother in the mountains during hunting season.  And in the 1930s, my mother-in-law described during the Great Depression how her family had enjoyed the parks, perhaps much like this silent video below.

During the Great Depression, families had fun and camping was an economical way to do so, as suggested in this article:  Calisphere - Everyday Life in Hard Times  And during hard economic times today, people are still enjoying themselves, spending time with their families, experiencing the beauty of God's creation, as their parents and grandparents had done.  And this can be a good thing.

We've come full circle and the surge in camping is one of the 

Signs of the Times....


Related article:

10 Benefits of a Recession | Michael Hyatt


smithsk (me)  - tents, lobby lodge - Milky Way at night

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Culture 101 (part 5) - Blue Bloods and 9/11

Remember the 1980s?

Ronald Reagan was president (1981 - 1989). And during most of the decade (1980 - 1988), Tom Selleck starred in Magnum, P.I.

Magnum PI stencil
If you missed the show when it was first on the air and/or its reruns (I have all 8 seasons on DVD), it was story of a hunk, Thomas Magnum - a Vietnam vet, a former Navy SEAL, who had suddenly resigned from a promising career in the Navy.

His reason?

"I woke up one day at 33 and realized I had never been 23."
(reference: Magnum, P.I.)

But Thomas Magnum landed in a sweet spot as a security consultant at a millionaire playboy's Hawaiian estate while working on the side as a private eye. He solved mysteries and stopped crimes (mostly for beautiful women) in the paradise of the Aloha State.

And Magnum's boss Robin Masters, highly successful writer of lurid pulp fiction and provider of Magnum's cool pad on his estate Robin's Nest, was hardly ever home. And Magnum got the keys to Robin's red Ferrari (not exactly inconspicuous for a private eye to be driving.) What a deal!

The character of Thomas Magnum was a free spirit and at times a little immature. To balance this "boy" in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts was Jonathan Quayle Higgins III, the caretaker of Robin's Nest. Higgins was the father figure, veteran of World War Two, master of law and order, the consummate Englishman and British soldier, who adored Queen Elizabeth II and admired General Bernard "Monty" Montgomery.  The two balanced each other - like yin and yang.

World War Two and Vietnam vets together in one series ...

And this series was unique in that it may have been the first to celebrate the "Greatest Generation" and World War Two veterans in the character of Jonathan Higgins with the Baby Boomers and Vietnam veterans in the characters of Thomas Magnum and his comrades-in-arms "Rick" Wright and "TC" Calvin.

This series reflected the pop culture of the 1980s and here is the opening scene of this 8-season show:

This series rocketed Tom Selleck to major stardom and later more plum roles. Among them, Quigley Down Under (1990), Monte Walsh (2003), and a favorite TV movie series of mine - Jesse Stone (2005 - 2012).

And as Magnum, P.I. ended in 1988, so did the Reagan years in 1989.
Reagan prepares for farewell address

On the more serious side as the 1980s drew to a close, President Reagan's farewell address sounded a warning for America's future, which included the pop culture. Here are some key excerpts -

"An informed patriotism is what we want. And are we doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world? ...
The movies celebrated democratic values and implicitly reinforced the idea that America
was special. TV was like that, too, through the mid-sixties."

I blogged about this as I kicked off the Culture 101 series - Reagan's Challenge.  And the President gave some advice on how to pass on American values to the following generations:

"And let me offer lesson number one about America: All great change in America begins at the dinner table. So, tomorrow night in the kitchen I hope the talking begins. And children, if your parents haven't been teaching you what it means to be an American, let 'em know and nail 'em on it. That would be a very American thing to do."
(reference: Farewell Address to the Nation)

Old fashioned?

And how does President Reagan's warning and advice tie in with Tom Selleck as we approach another anniversary of 9/11 in the 21st century?

Thirty years after Magnum P.I., Tom Selleck now stars in another TV series - Blue Bloods (2010). And he took on the character of Frank Reagan, who comes from an Irish-American family with a long tradition of being police officers. Frank Reagan was a Marine, a Vietnam vet, and an NYPD officer, who rose to Police Commissioner of New York City.

The Reagans on the show seem to heed President Reagan's advice in his 1989 farewell address. The extended family often gather around the dinner table on Sundays having meaningful discussions and debates while reinforcing American values. They are also regular church goers and, when they mention the Name of the Lord, it's not in vain, but with reverence as saying grace.

The scene below, Frank Reagan's father Henry had suffered a heart attack before Thanksgiving. As the patriarch recovers, the family gathers at the hospital for Thanksgiving dinner. Foremost, Henry leads the family in giving thanks to God for His many blessings.

Some camera shots show a picture of the Twin Towers in the background of Commissioner Frank Reagan's office. One of the stories revealed that Frank Reagan with his partner John McKenna were the first responders to 9/11, and they were in the North Tower -  getting people out - when the South Tower collapsed.

Statue of Liberty and WTC at 9/11

The episode - "The Job" - dealt with the cancer death of Frank's former partner, Chief John McKenna, who may have gotten ill from complications of breathing the air at Ground Zero. Frank has survivor's guilt and has trouble sleeping. He reluctantly talks to a psychiatrist about his experiences during 9/11 ...

Where were you on 9/11?

Later, Henry talks to Frank about faith in God and God's work in their family, though they may not always understand it. And Frank later gives a moving eulogy for Chief John McKenna and mentions his partner's bravery during 9/11. Then Frank visits to the September 11 Memorial as closure.

Below is the audio from this part of the episode with some still shots. It's worth a listen and is a wonderful tribute to all the first responders on September 11, who saved many lives, as well as those who wonder why bad things happen to good people. (The episode can be watched here: "Blue Bloods" The Job (2012))

Why God?

This very question was asked by Job. And the Apostle Paul gives a response that we often don't understand why - For we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7 KJV )

The TV series, Blue Bloods, takes up President's Reagan's challenge as it reinforces American values and culture as well as faith in God and remembering September 11.

And, Lord willing, American culture will continue to be reinforced in this series ...


Previous posts in the Culture 101 series:

Culture 101 (part 1) - Reagan's Challenge (2012)

Culture 101 (part 2) - Easter Eucatastrophe (2012)

Culture 101 (part 3) - Paul Revere's Ride (2012)

Culture 101 (part 4) - Gold Diggers and the Great Depression (2012)


Related posts on 9/11:

September 11, 2001 - A Survivor's Faith (2011)

Dancing on Top of the World Trade Center (2010)

One Tuesday in September, eight years ago ... (2009)


Photos from:
Wikipedia: WTC and Statue of Liberty, Prep for Reagan's farewell address Magnum P.I. stencil