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Shh. Don’t tell anyone. We haven’t gotten any meaningful amount of rain in Seattle for at least a couple of months and have been stricken by a heat wave. It’s supposed to be nearly 100 tomorrow and will climb over 90 today. We want out-of-staters to believe that it rains all the time here so they don’t move here.

Some of you might laugh at us being miserable in 90+ degree weather, but that is abnormally hot for us this time of year. We’ve been breaking records right and left. Despite the broiling temperature, many people made it out to what’s long been one of the best local parades this side of the Cascades. Although Bothell has decided to reinvent itself and the downtown area looks like a meteorite slammed into it as high rises sprout out of the debris, the parade retains most of the hometown America feel it’s always had.

Attendance was not what it was in the other years I’ve been to Bothell’s event. It might have been the heat; it might have been the shock caused by recent Supreme Court decisions that will restrict our freedoms even more. Some people feel confused about whether to celebrate our country or not right now. But in Bothell, you’re not likely to be scrunched in next to a drunk guy yelling things he believes are cool and clever as his $50 too-tight tee sweats some nauseating designer fragrance. There’s room to breathe and the vast majority of people are polite and personable. They cheer, they clap, they have fun, and they celebrate America.

This group of veterans from the local American Legion post carried the colors at the front of the parade. I was so impressed when a mother in front of me asked her teenagers to stand that I had to thank her (and then forgot to take off my hat).

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Yes, we love our firefighters. This is Bothell Fire’s vintage engine.

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Lights and sirens and firemen, oh my!

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It’s a longstanding tradition for the families and friends of Fire employees to ride on the engines as well.

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The American Legion vehicles and floats are always flamboyantly festooned with flags.

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I missed getting a shot of the muscle-bound O2 superhero guy that preceded Community Transit’s bus, but he knew how to work the crowd.

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The Masons brought the Washington Monument– and George Washington or a close relative.

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People from around the world visit my blog, so it might not be normal for them to see a dancing clam in their town. In the Northwest, it’s been very normal for a long time. We don’t even blink. It’s just “one of Ivar’s clams.” Local businessman Ivar Haglund was involved in all kinds of shenanigans like The Great Syrup Spill and underwater billboards. Click on his name for a good laugh.

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The Knights of Columbus always lend a regal air to the procession.

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Americans: we like cars. Enough said.

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Several Boy Scout troops marched in the parade.

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People do crazy things with their vehicles in Fourth of July parades– and I love it!

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There are always some real vintage beauties…

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This group didn’t carry a banner, but the crowd applauded loudly for these vaqueros and their dancing horses. The horses were gorgeous and highly trained. I got a kick out of them being stopped in front of the Ranch for a few minutes until the parade got moving again.

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Paddle sports are becoming increasingly popular in our region. You’ll see paddle boarders on our local lakes a lot.

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The Cub Scout on the end was a hoot to watch.

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The Bothell Sons of Norway are always present to spread hearty Viking cheer.

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Thankfully this Viking knew to use his non-sword hand.

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“Hail to the king, baby.” -Bruce Campbell

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Scottish pride! It’s not a parade without the pipes and drums.

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Our local Sikhs had one of the livelier groups, drumming and dancing.

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The Yakima Fruit Stand is to Bothell what the Empire State Building is to New York City. It’s inextricably linked.

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Hydros of all sizes are part of summer in Seattle.

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I don’t know if this was the woman running for City Council or one of her supporters, but I heartily approve of her outfit.

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The Kenmore Shooting Range entry had a ram in the back that made me do a double take… it was fake. And yeah, let freedom ring, people!

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This was one of the smallest vehicles in the parade. If it were up to the Seattle City Council, we’d all be driving vehicles this size.

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The original American patriots.

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This British soldier was calling out to the crowd, telling them, “Join the British Army! See the world!” He was the sole redcoat present.

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This might have been the smallest horse in the parade, but he was definitely the coolest. And most patriotic.

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This might be my favorite shot of the day. Many sports teams participate in the parade. Many soak spectators with water. Today that was very, very welcome, and they were having a blast, pun intended, doing it.

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A local Muslim group chanted, “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”

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Who ya gonna call?

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Fred Flintstone made an appearance. I think Barney was covering the Kirkland parade.

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This really is a fun antiques store if you’re ever in downtown Bothell.

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Bothell did a great job putting on this parade. One question on everyone’s minds, though, was “where are the Seafair pirates?” We all heard the Moby Duck’s mortar at the start of the parade; I couldn’t believe the guy next to me brought his dog because not only was it too hot, but that boom can be heard for miles. No one knows where the boisterous, booming pirates were. That was a bummer.

There needed to be more music and marching bands. There were some long stretches in-between parade entries. But kudos to Bothell for keeping this wonderful local tradition alive. Happy Fourth, all! Now onto the next stop…

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Sure I wave the American flag. Do you know a better flag to wave? Sure I love my country with all her faults. I’m not ashamed of that, never have been, never will be. -John Wayne

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©2015 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

May we turn back towards Him swiftly so we don’t lose our many blessings. No nation on earth has ever been as blessed as we have.

From KOMO

From KOMO

Not again. Residents of central Washington are still picking up the pieces from the Carlton Complex Fires less than a year ago and since Sunday Wenatchee, Washington has been in flames.

Last I heard, 4000 acres were on fire or had been burned, two fruit packing plants had been destroyed, and 28 houses– primary residences, not vacation homes– had been obliterated. Embers were dropping all over downtown in the 100+ degree heat and there had been an ammonia leak at one of the plants. A thousand people had been told to evacuate. As of tonight it sounds like the fire is under control but the danger continues.

If you haven’t seen the photos already, you can view 70 photos taken by a photographer at KOMO’s site, Photographer captures heart-breaking scenes of wildfire’s rage.

People and animals could use your help. One report said the escaped and displaced animals were overwhelming the Humane Society. According to KING 5:

Several groups are helping aid families affected by the Wenatchee wildfire and are accepting donations.

The Community Foundation of NCW has established a fire fund to help support firefighters and displaced families and animals affected by the fires in the Wenatchee Valley.

The “Sleepy Hollow Heights Fire Support” will provide food and other needs. Monetary donations can be made online here or at the Community Foundation office at 9 S. Wenatchee Ave., Wenatchee, WA 98801.

American Red Cross Serving the Greater Inland Northwest

Wenatchee Valley Humane Society

The Wenatchee World will continue to post updates. They also have Photo gallery: Aerial view of fire damage.

The weather is hotter and drier than normal here in western Washington this year. We’ve had a major lack of rain. To avoid tragedies like the Wenatchee conflagration, please consider forgoing the fireworks this year. Many cities ban them anyway. You can watch them at many public celebrations.

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©2015 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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I long to be in the Field again, doing my part to keep the old flag up, with all its stars. -Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain,  20th Maine Infantry

On a recent Saturday in late May, Boy Scout Troop 100 from Ballard gathered at the Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery in Seattle to clean up the grounds and grave markers. Having previously inquired who maintains this sacred site, a member of the Friends of the G.A.R. Cemetery invited me to the work party.

Most Seattleites know where Lakeview Cemetery is on Capitol Hill. It is a popular tourist attraction because it’s where martial arts legend Bruce Lee and his son Brandon are buried. Many don’t realize that just next door is the final resting place of 526 men and women, most of them Union veterans of the Civil War. You can see the G.A.R. Cemetery through the wire fence on the north side of Lakeview.

The Grand Army of the Republic, G.A.R., was an organization comprised of Union veterans, the last of whom died in 1956. The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW) website tells us more:

Men who had lived together, fought together, foraged together and survived, had developed an unique bond that could not be broken. As time went by the memories of the filthy and vile environment of camp life began to be remembered less harshly and eventually fondly. The horror and gore of battle lifted with the smoke and smell of burnt black powder and was replaced with the personal rain of tears for the departed comrades. Friendships forged in battle survived the separation and the warriors missed the warmth of trusting companionship that had asked only total and absolute commitment.

With that as background, groups of men began joining together — first for camaraderie and then for political power. Emerging most powerful among the various organizations would be the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), which by 1890 would number 409,489 veterans of the “War of the Rebelion.”

Founded in Decatur, Illinois on April 6, 1866 by Benjamin F. Stephenson, membership was limited to honorably discharged veterans of the Union Army, Navy, Marine Corps or the Revenue Cutter Service who had served between April 12, 1861 and April 9, 1865.

At some point in the 1890s, a number of Union veterans who had moved to western Washington decided that they wanted to be buried together. Some of the first Jewish settlers in Seattle, Huldah and David Kaufman, donated the land for the cemetery in 1895. According to HistoryLink, guardians of our local history, the City of Seattle acquired the title to most of the land in 1923, but I’ve been told that the matter of who, exactly, owns what is still legally murky. Seattle Parks and the Friends of the G.A.R. Cemetery jointly maintain the property. HistoryLink also tells us that the Coast Artillery Corps used the site for an anti-aircraft search light battery and barracks in World War II.

On hand during Troop 100’s cleanup were some very knowledgeable experts on the cemetery and the Civil War like Lee Corbin, Jim Dimond, and reenactor Peter Coulton of SUVCW, who honored his ancestors with his Prussian blue uniform. Although it was on my mind the entire time, I failed to note the name of the female historian and genealogist who guided me around the cemetery and was brimming with amazing facts and anecdotes. I would like to be able to give proper credit if someone could remind me.

In this first photo is the resting place of a member of the U.S. Colored Troops– U.S.C.T., which you can see at the lower right. As many Americans know from the 1989 film Glory, starring Matthew Broderickblack soldiers served in separate units. The G.A.R. Cemetery did not make this distinction.

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Here Troop 100, after planting flags at the central monument, begins to clean the multitude of grave markers. Note how they are all lying down but their shape and style indicates that they should be standing up. This was because of vandalism– there are those with no respect for the dead who find it entertaining to knock their headstones over. Unfortunately, this might have caused the wording to wear off of them more quickly. Many markers are in poor shape and barely readable. Some have already been replaced with newer styles. Per federal protocol, the old markers must be destroyed. IMG_4047

On the lower left you can see an authentic cast iron marker that was placed at many Union graves. Peter Coulton explained that you will rarely see these anymore because they are stolen, particularly by metal thieves. As we in the Puget Sound area know, there are plenty of drug-addicted opportunists who have no respect for the living or the dead.

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On each of these freshly washed weathered stones you can see the unit the veteran served in and which state they’re from. The markers were not intended to be this dark but have aged as the decades have passed. The scouts placed an American flag at each grave to honor their service.

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Clifford Hervey served in the Colored Infantry (C INF).

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This man, whose name I’d have to look up in the directory because the stone’s so far gone, served in the Mexican-American War which began 14 years before the Civil War in 1846 (M.W. is Mexican War). This is when the U.S. gained the American Southwest. I probably wouldn’t have noticed this except for my nameless guide who seemed to know each soldier personally.

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Here you can tell that this marker once stood upright on the square base, but like the others, it has either been broken off or laid down to keep that from happening.

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Yes, there is someone buried here. According to my notes, this might have been John Ryan Smith, who died in Issaquah alone and forgotten. Evidently he had Civil War memorabilia in his house but no one’s been able to prove he was actually a veteran. His temporary marker disintegrated.

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From 1921 to 1972, this is the style of marker that was used for veterans. Theron Lane’s family placed this in the 1940s.

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The Friends placed Jacob Davidson’s marker in 2001. We speculated about what might have been intended for the top as there’s some significant blank space there.

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Here’s an example of a marker in bad shape. I’m fairly certain I was told that the War Department issued this style prior to 1921. They were made of Vermont marble and came in several different widths. The 10″ width markers were ordered before 1906.

Despite the weathering, do we trust that it is who the marker says anyway? Evidently some of these veterans were originally buried across the way in Lakeview and the crew that transferred their remains to the G.A.R. Cemetery didn’t read or speak good English. It is said that a few of the coffins might have been mixed up in transit. Additionally, there are five “unknowns” in the cemetery although the Friends seem to know who they are.

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Okay, this is a good story… These markers had just been cleaned by the Scouts but one clearly stood out from the rest. We discussed whether Griswold’s was made of a different type of stone and what sort of resilience it might have that the others don’t. I was quite intrigued by the condition of Griswold’s marker. It was dazzling.

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So the next day, after a two-hour tour of the Kirkland Cemetery, where the Parks Department had marked veterans’ graves with flags and white crosses, I was talking to the historian conducting the tour about a cleaner he uses to brighten headstones. As I was told at the G.A.R. Cemetery, well-meaning people can do horrific damage to them by using the wrong kind of cleaner. Some people use whatever cleaner makes the marker the lightest and shiniest only to see it fall apart with a couple years. The National Parks Service even has a Best Practice Recommendations for Cleaning Government Issued Headstones.

When the historian, Matt McCauley, heard that I’d been at the G.A.R. Cemetery, he asked, “did you see Griswold?” I knew exactly who he was talking about. “Why yes,” I said. “There was a lot of discussion about why his marker looked so different than the others.” It turned out that Matt had used his special order, $70 a gallon cleaner from back east on Griswold’s marker. So Matt– it was you! We had a pretty good laugh about this. Check out Matt’s Kirkland Historical Foundation page and his fascinating book A Look To The Past: Kirkland: From wilderness to high-tech – Kirkland history in 50 vignettes.

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This monument was placed by the Woman’s Relief Corps, an auxiliary of the G.A.R. organized in 1883.

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Here lies Medal of Honor recipient Frank Bois. As you can see, he served on the ironclad U.S.S. Cincinnati. You can read about him and the 19 other Medal of Honor recipients living in Washington in the early 1900s here. At Vicksburg the Cincinnati had been shot to pieces but tenacious Quartermaster Bois stayed on the sinking, burning ship and nailed the American flag to the broken mast to keep the colors flying. Interestingly, the Cincinnati had been sunk and raised once before and would be raised again. Sadly, Bois later died in a Skid Row flophouse. (Side note: dish soap can’t be used on all types of markers, mild as it seems.)

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The hardworking scouts of Troop 100 were very efficient at placing flags. They worked in teams, with one creating a hole in the ground and the other placing the flag. Their leaders obviously knew what they were doing and I was amazed at what they were able to get done in a relatively short amount of time.

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More awesome and heartfelt work by Troop 100.

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Seeing row upon row of clean markers with the stars and stripes above them created a warm and reverent ambiance.

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Hundreds of graves received the royal treatment.

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See the skinny marker on the lower right? There are many Union wives buried here too. The 75 veterans’ widows in the G.A.R. Cemetery are generally on the flanks but there are some buried with their husbands. While I don’t know if this particular stone is an original, I was told that the narrow ones were the original markers. Some are hopelessly worn. Some families bought civilian markers to replace the originals.

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This appears to be one of the family-purchased, civilian style markers. It obviously used to stand upright.

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A directory and pertinent information is contained in this kiosk at the entrance of the cemetery. It’s fascinating to read through the list and discover just how many states and units are represented. These veterans came to the Northwest from all over the country.

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This quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. is engraved on a large boulder facing the cemetery. It says, “In our youth our hearts were touched with fire. We have shared the incommunicable experience of war. We have felt, we still feel, the passion of life to the top.”

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A job well done: Ballard Boy Scout Troop 100 poses for a group photo.

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Here a couple is buried together. Fred evidently outlived Kate, which was not typical. Someone had already placed flowers on their grave.

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This is the layout of the cemetery as posted in the kiosk. My mystery guide said it might have been designed to resemble a lodgeroom. Evidently there used to be a ceremonial stand here as well with a temporary rostrum on either side.

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You’d think people would already know this. But the first time I visited the cemetery, someone was walking their dogs through it. Every time, I see people with dogs there, and it’s just not okay to see a dog urinating on someone’s grave. I love dogs dearly but it shows respect to steer them around graves instead of over them.

And would you believe that in the not too distant past the city was talking about turning this property into a dog park?! We do love our pooches here in Seattle but that would show total disrespect for these men and women and our past. Open space for dogs to play in is becoming increasingly rare in this region, but cemeteries should always be cemeteries and that should never change.

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These young men knew how to fold a flag and I was thrilled to see their expertise.

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While I recognized these cobblestones as vintage the first time I saw them, this time I learned that they were salvaged from Seattle city streets. The flagpole at the east end of the cemetery (not pictured) came from the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair and was dedicated on May 5th of that year. My tour guide was present at that event.

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The finished product. Thank you Troop 100 and Friends! It was beautiful, and they planned to hold a formal ceremony there on Memorial Day proper.

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The grounds are serene and beautiful. The irises reminded me of a Van Gogh painting.

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Peter Coulton explained the authentic memorabilia in this case, which included a medal of General John A. Logan’s as well as his signature. Logan was a Commander-in-Chief of the G.A.R. who served in Congress and helped found Memorial Day (originally called Decoration Day).

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As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, like many Americans, I have both Union and Confederate ancestors. At the time of this writing, more than a month after the G.A.R. Cemetery cleanup, anti-Confederate fervor is at a high not known in decades after the Charleston church shooting. I hesitate to include these photos because I’m concerned that some historically-ignorant or bigoted person will take it upon themselves to deface this piece of history. It will cost some wonderful staunchly non-racist women at the United Daughters of the Confederacy dearly out of their own pockets if something bad happens. This has already been vandalized in the past, but probably not for anti-Confederate reasons.

There were a number of issues driving the Civil War, namely the role of the federal government, states’ rights, preserving the Union, and economic issues. Ultimately the South believed it should have the right to break away. Slavery was certainly a prominent component of all of these issues, but many people didn’t take up arms to end or defend slavery. They asked why the federal government had the right to force them to be part of a union they felt they should be able to choose to secede from.

Similar questions are being asked in light of Supreme Court rulings this week both by those who agree and disagree with those outcomes– does the federal government have the right to dictate to the states? Or does the Constitution allow the states to make most decisions for themselves? In that context, it’s easier to understand why Southerners took up arms. Of course some were adamant about maintaining the ungodly institution of slavery, but it’s ignorant and offensive to suggest that all Confederates and/or Southerners were racist. My Confederate was multiracial and like many, a grandson of a Revolutionary War veteran. Many Southerners probably saw their cause as very similar to that which created our country in the first place.

Destroying Confederate memorials is only gasoline on the fire. Broad generalizations will only deepen the rifts vandals claim to be fighting against. While I absolutely condemn slavery and repeatedly remind people that the ground is level at the foot of the cross– no man is above another– I also choose to honor my Confederate ancestors and to preserve their history. We can show respect for the people who fought for what their home turf thought was right without agreeing with any erroneous ideologies. The Union and Confederate troops are part of our history and to erase the Confederacy from our memory will come to no good end. We must teach our children the whole story.

After my tour of the G.A.R. Cemetery one of the Friends was kind enough to guide me around Lakeview and show me the graves of Civil War veterans buried there. There is a large memorial to Confederate veterans placed by the UDC in 1926. The UDC came into being as an offshoot of the associations and auxiliaries that formed to take care of the Confederate veterans and perpetuate their memories. They have dedicated themselves to the preservation of many historical documents and places and educate others about our country.

In public school we are not necessarily taught that many Union and Confederate organizations like this came together by the early 20th century and worked together. Congress and certain presidents even asked them to collaborate. They did not ask the Southern organizations to disband, they respected that the various groups existed and asked them to unify on particular projects and causes. Should things be any different in a free country today?

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More “you weren’t taught this in public school”: Robert E. Lee was an accomplished, longtime Army veteran who was offered one of the Union general positions but turned it down. His wife was the great-granddaughter of Martha Custis Washington and so the step-great-granddaughter of our first president. He and his wife inherited slaves and granted most if not all of them their freedom earlier in the war. There was much about the man to admire and the more I read of his writings, the less convinced I am that he was all for slavery. Like many Confederates, he asked, “How can I draw my sword upon Virginia, my native state?”

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These are some of the veterans who are buried near the monument. Like their Union counterparts, many of them went on to successful careers and helped others.

America is finally starting to say thank you for Vietnam veterans for their service even though many of us disagreed with American intervention in Vietnam. We are now wise enough to honor these men and women for their sacrifices independent of their orders. I similarly choose to show respect for Confederate veterans.

Some will be offended by this comparison as these were two very different wars; it’s not the same thing. My point is that we don’t have to agree with the cause to honor the individual. In both cases there were soldiers trying to do what was right and serving to the best of their ability whether they had a say in it or not.

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I don’t know when these markers were created but the font used is beautiful. This veteran, Joseph Pritchett, lived a very long time– until the year World War II ended. He loved his country so much he offered to serve in World War II (his offer was declined as he was in his 90s). He wanted to live to see all the American soldiers come home and his last thoughts were of them. On his 94th birthday he said, “I don’t yield to anyone in my love, devotion and loyalty to America. But if feeling a tender sentiment for the flag of our lost cause makes me an unreconstructed rebel, I guess I am one.”

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James Gilmer lived in Seattle 31 years and is one of many veterans who entered public service after the war. He was active in his church and in veterans affairs. The men who survived the war often lived 50 years or more afterwards; The War Between the States marked them forever but chronologically constituted just a few years of their youth.

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Next to the monument is some intricate stonework belonging to the neighboring plot.

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Farther back in the cemetery I was introduced to Gilbert Meem and his family. Meem was a Brigadier General from Virginia who resigned his commission in 1862, then went on to serve in the Virginia Legislature. After moving to Seattle in 1892 he was appointed postmaster by President Grover Cleveland. Gilbert’s peeking out from behind the tree.

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Sympathies for the North and South still run strong in us Americans 150 years after the end of the conflict. It was hell on earth to have brother fighting against brother, sometimes literally, and the same political disagreements that influenced the Civil War are still very much alive today. I hope that, in memory of all of our people, we can remain united as a nation and true to our Constitution rather than allowing divisive forces to tear us apart. As Lincoln said, alluding to Matthew 12:25, a house divided against itself cannot stand.

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But, nevertheless, the generation that carried on the war has been set apart by its experience. Through our great good fortune, in our youth our hearts were touched with fire. It was given to us to learn at the outset that life is a profound and passionate thing. While we are permitted to scorn nothing but indifference, and do not pretend to undervalue the worldly rewards of ambition, we have seen with our own eyes, beyond and above the gold fields, the snowy heights of honor, and it is for us to bear the report to those who come after us. But, above all, we have learned that whether a man accepts from Fortune her spade, and will look downward and dig, or from Aspiration her axe and cord, and will scale the ice, the one and only success which it is his to command is to bring to his work a mighty heart.

Such hearts–ah me, how many!–were stilled twenty years ago; and to us who remain behind is left this day of memories. Every year–in the full tide of spring, at the height of the symphony of flowers and love and life–there comes a pause, and through the silence we hear the lonely pipe of death. Year after year lovers wandering under the apple trees and through the clover and deep grass are surprised with sudden tears as they see black veiled figures stealing through the morning to a soldier’s grave. Year after year the comrades of the dead follow, with public honor, procession and commemorative flags and funeral march–honor and grief from us who stand almost alone, and have seen the best and noblest of our generation pass away.

But grief is not the end of all. I seem to hear the funeral march become a paean. I see beyond the forest the moving banners of a hidden column. Our dead brothers still live for us, and bid us think of life, not death–of life to which in their youth they lent the passion and joy of the spring. As I listen , the great chorus of life and joy begins again, and amid the awful orchestra of seen and unseen powers and destinies of good and evil our trumpets sound once more a note of daring, hope, and will.

-Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., An address delivered for Memorial Day, May 30, 1884, at Keene, NH, before John Sedgwick Post No. 4, Grand Army of the Republic.

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Lee Corbin provided these additional materials about the G.A.R. Cemetery:

MOHAI program (video)

KIRO podcast (audio)

He also pointed me to the well-researched related databases on Rootsweb (just one is featured here).

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Apologies to those who provided the wonderful detail for this article for not posting it sooner. I appreciate your understanding.

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©2015 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

Bergen Church by Conor MacNeill

Bergen Church by Conor MacNeill

Be protective of your sheep because the wolves are coming.

-Jimmy Meeks, police officer, minister, and owner of Sheepdog Seminars

Five days ago a 21 year-old walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina and murdered nine people. He reloaded his weapon five times during his killing spree. Friends say Dylan Roof wanted to shoot up a nearby university but couldn’t get past security, so he decided on the likely gun-free church instead, taking advantage of their warm welcome and inclusiveness.

As is always the case when a mass shooting happens, there were red flags ahead of time. Roof had told friends of his hatred toward black Americans and about some of his plans at least a week before. He posed in pictures highlighting his bigoted interests that were shared online. His aspirations were not a secret. In a move that is atypical of related acts of violence, he spent an hour in the church before opening fire, which could be another indication of advance planning.

Is America a free country? Yes. So reporting everyone who has biases or passionate opinions to the authorities isn’t called for. We are a land of diverse beliefs and freedom of speech is protected by our Constitution. But if someone you know is threatening to go kill others, discuss it with the authorities. Who knows what horrors you might prevent if they take it seriously. See how this killing spree was averted by an alert father, Father Tips Off Police to Son’s Alleged ISIS Sympathies, Authorities Say.

A common response to this tragedy has been, “I can’t believe something like this could happen!” I understand the feelings of shock, horror, and disbelief. No one wants to believe this could happen to them, or their family, or in their church. Start believing it. This is the world we live in.

Hundreds of people have lost their lives in church violence in America and Christian persecution is rampant around the world. This is not by any means the first time this has happened, and it is far from being the last. Given the volatile state of our planet, and increasing animosity towards Christians and Jews, I expect to see more of the same and worse.

For some graphic examples of what is happening to Christians in other countries, see the Gatestone Institute’s recent report Jihad on Christians. Some will protest that I’m drawing a parallel to Islamic terrorism, but reality is that this rabid intolerance of other belief systems is universal. There are millions upon millions of human beings today who think they are justified in violating and killing others because they’re different.

Going back to, “I can’t believe something like this could happen!”, this is a wake up call to all churches in America. You should have a security committee. You should have a security plan. You should be ready for natural disasters and emergencies. The church should be the most prepared private entity in any given community as community members will look to you in times of crisis. You’re also responsible for the well-being of a lot of those same people. Stop worrying about being nice and start thinking of how to save lives.

Jimmy Meeks again, from Church security: need highlighted by S.C. shooting:

“The biggest obstacle for churches is just not believing that [a violent attack] could happen at their churches,” said Jimmy Meeks, a Southern Baptist police officer in Hurst, Texas, who presents church security seminars across America. People “don’t listen to what needs to be done until they believe it needs to be done.”

The popular WWJD campaign years ago always depicted Jesus as doing “something sweet” and often overlooked Christ’s cautious or protective actions, Meeks said. “What about John 2:24b-25 — Jesus ‘knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man’? What’s wrong with not trusting people you don’t know? Be watchful of them.”

Some church leaders say, “we don’t have the money!” You can increase security and be better prepared without money. You just need to start with a few good men and women willing to sit down and develop some standard operating procedures. Ask the obvious questions–what if there’s a fire? Active shooter? Earthquake? Tornado? Controversial guest speaker? Bomb threat? Kidnapping? Domestic abuser who keeps showing up at the church threatening his ex-wife?

Discuss how you would ideally handle such events and draw up a plan. Consider that some of the biggest threats might come from or have to do with your church family itself. Domestic violence often becomes workplace violence– similarly, an abuser usually knows where their ex goes to church and might want to take her out among others in a blaze of glory. A noncustodial parent might try to remove their child from a nursery. Protesters could show up and try to disrupt an event.

Brainstorm. Take notes. Don’t consider any question or scenario too outrageous or unlikely. Consider all events at the church, not just large services. Involve your local law enforcement agency to get their insights. They will often do security assessments or consultations. Some offer security training for churches. There are also private security firms who provide these services. Obtain copies of plans other congregations or agencies have written up and work from them. Train your staff members and volunteers in basic emergency protocols. Got CERTs? Got parishioners who carry firearms? Got first responders? Know your assets. Don’t require people to disclose, just ask for volunteers.

This mass murder has caused the age-old debate about firearms to flare up again. I’ve reviewed countless news articles about this story and people are either saying, “This is why we should ban firearms!” or “We need to increase armed security in church.” If your church already has one or more uniformed police officers on hand during Sunday services, then you already know the value of meeting any threat with an appropriate level of force. You acknowledge the value of having someone with certain training and skills standing by.

The fastest way to take down an active shooter and keep him from reloading five times can be an armed good guy. The use of firearms in a crowded room is obviously risky, but chances are not many people, on zero notice, are going to want to rush a gunman even though statistical chances of surviving such an incident are greater the more quickly the threat can be neutralized. Let’s not forget what one armed off duty cop was able to do in Colorado, Colorado Springs vs. Charleston: The Church Massacre That Ended Differently.

There is intense interest in church security right now, particularly in the presence of guns in churches. Time just featured Why Some Pastors Bring Their Guns to the Pulpit. This church in Colorado has 100 volunteers trained as security guards. In North Carolina, one pastor had good reason to assemble an armed volunteer security team known as the Watchmen (a nod to the story of Nehemiah). Pulse O2DA Firearms Training, Inc. is hosting a free webinar, Five Immediate Steps To Enhance Church Security, on Thursday, June 25, 2015 at 12:00 CDT.

How each church protects itself is up to its leaders. Some leaders are not anti-gun but are concerned about what might happen if uniformed police officers run into a building and see “regular” people with guns drawn– they don’t know who the criminal is. No matter how you feel about guns, now is the time to learn, to prepare, to train. A storm is coming and there is no reason to be caught unprepared. Churches, unfortunately, are for the most part soft targets, or to put it another way, sitting ducks. They have all sorts of unsecured entrances and exits and windows and activities, and most people present will have their backs to the myriad ingress and egress points. Those who don’t, like priests, rabbis, and pastors, will be absorbed in their duties. People often have their eyes closed. Consider limiting ways into the building once services start.

From First Coast News, Pastors consider beefing up church security:

“There are lot of critics that feel that pastors or even parishioners don’t need to have certain protection in places,” said Jefferson. “That is totally wrong.”

The former Jacksonville Sheriff’s officer is a member of the security detail at Impact church. He said he has served in that capacity 13 years.

“You have to have eyes that are watching people as the come in,” he said. “Watching their body language, watching what they’re carrying.”

Jefferson alludes to a practice that has kept the Israelis safe for years, behavioral profiling. Ushers, greeters, and others can be trained to watch for and report suspicious behavior. The sergeant quoted here says that everybody’s responsible for church security– “We train our members that if something looks suspicious, it is.” At his church they have an aptly-named Ministry of Defense. 

As I told callers to the police department for many years, we’d rather have you report something and have it turn out to be nothing than not do anything and have it be something. Everyone at church should be comfortable reporting things and should know who to report those to. People also need to know it’s okay to call 911 in emergencies– you’d be amazed at how many people call places other than police and fire dispatch because they “didn’t think it was important enough.” Then they’ll call 911 to ask what time it is.

In today’s world, it’s madness not to prepare for acts of violence and other emergencies. They happen to someone, somewhere, every day, and the more we talk about what could possibly happen, the more likely it is that we will be able to respond to these events rather than react. So have an emergency plan like school districts do. Take advantage of Community Emergency Response Team training. FEMA recently had a webinar titled Preparing Houses of Worship for Emergencies. They have other relevant webinars archived, and other great material about preparedness. You can have code words to put the church on lockdown, install security cameras and alarm systems, change your cash-handling procedures– there are many actions you can take to improve security right now.

This video was recommended to me by a trusted friend in law enforcement, Run. Hide. Fight. You can easily find other online videos and resources, like church security expert Carl Chinn’s website. It’s packed with useful information. In western Washington, the ADTA, Armed Defense Training Association, is an excellent place to learn practical self-defense and firearms skills. Again, tap your local police and fire departments for pointers and plans.

As an aside, please do not limit your security committees and security team members to uniformed personnel. There are members with other valuable skills and insights, and women in particular can often contribute a different perspective than the sometimes black and white thinking of professionally trained men. Psychologists and teachers and nurses are just some of the people who can enhance your committees and teams.

Again, a storm is coming. Around the world, terrorists and zealots and criminals and bigots are storming the house of God. We can and should pray for peace and divine protection, but God also requires us to do the best we can with what we have to protect our brothers and sisters. Last March in Pakistan, suicide bombers attempted to murder Christians in church but were stopped by volunteer security guards who were killed in the explosions.There would have been many more deaths if it weren’t for their preparedness. As I regularly review reports of Christian persecution and church security issues from around the world, I become increasingly impressed that the churches usually doing the most to protect their people are the ones with the fewest resources.

As a survivor of domestic violence that involved specific firearms threats, for years I considered that I might be endangering others simply by going to church. In that time I learned to consider all the angles of how a possible attack would take place and have become passionate about teaching others to– and please listen to my words carefully here– be prepared, not paranoid. We are not given a spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). We should not be “nice” about looming threats against the church and human life and be overly concerned about what the rest of the world thinks. We should take a bold stand knowing an infinite power is behind us, and by protecting each other we are fully in line with His principles and character.

There is something each of us can do to improve church security. The “I can’t believe this could happen to us” and “we hadn’t really thought about security” mentalities have to go. Watch. Pray. Volunteer. Give. We are a body. We should function as a body. It’s time for that body to put on the armor of God and take a stand against the forces that come to rob and destroy. We need some literal armor too, whatever form that takes. Don’t be caught naked and helpless when the wolves come to your church. They might already be inside.

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The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it. –Albert Einstein

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This is a hot topic right now so I want to add some more thoughts:

-Some churches say “we have a security guard outside.” Okay, so who do you have inside? Having a visible off-duty officer is great, but it’s time to think about recruiting and training some not so obvious church members who will be in the services. There might be no communication between the person outside and the people inside. Something bad could happen inside before the person outside would ever know or be able to respond. Security should not only be roaming the perimeter, but mingling.

-An interesting suggestion from a few articles I’ve perused: Once the service begins, limit the number of doors that can be opened from the outside so you can keep a definite eye on the one or few doors still open. The point is limiting access to the building once people are inside, absorbed in the service, with their backs to the door.

FEMA Webinar Library – someone needs to update the page’s content in places, but you will some both older and newer material on here

-Some pastors are being very open that their churches won’t be messed with and trying to harm others there would be a very dumb thing to do. Don’t be a soft target. While you don’t want to show all your cards, it’s not a bad idea to brief the congregation on what to do in an emergency (like don’t all run out the same door) and make it known your church takes security seriously.

-In Fiji, they include churches in their National Security Strategy.

-As an aside, it’s offensive to me that being from the South or being at all associated with the Confederacy means you’re racist. There is an overreaction going on when those energies would be better focused on healing rifts rather than hammering on generalizations that will only widen them. Millions still believe that the Civil War was fought over slavery and therefore everyone who fought for the South was a racist in favor of slavery or a slave owner.

There were a number of issues driving the Civil War, namely the role of the federal government, states’ rights, preserving the Union, and economic issues. Ultimately the South believed it should have the right to break away. Slavery was certainly tied to all of these issues, but many people didn’t take up arms to end or defend slavery. I also resent the suggestion that my Confederate ancestor was racist when he wasn’t all white.

-Don’t forget about all the other events that go on during the week besides your main services– Bible studies, classes, kids’ events, piano lessons, weddings, the average workdays for the pastoral staff. Be prepared all the time, not just for your big services or events. Some criminals or terrorists strike when they’re least expected or will meet the least resistance. They might want to target a specific individual and attempt to harm them when there’s few to no one else around.

-There are security systems that can be viewed from smartphones at all times and other useful technology. It’s not a substitute for a security team, but it can be a major asset.

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©2015 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

Lost Lake

The weather in Seattle was perfect this weekend and it was an ideal time to reflect upon sunbeams, dreams, and dragonflies at this Snohomish County lake… You can sense all three in this photo, with the latter perched nimbly upon a reed in the center.

Copy of IMG_4237

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Today I saw the dragon-fly

Come from the wells where he did lie.

An inner impulse rent the veil

Of his old husk: from head to tail

Came out clear plates of sapphire mail.

He dried his wings: like gauze they grew;

Thro’ crofts and pastures wet with dew

A living flash of light he flew.

The Dragon-fly, Alfred Lord Tennyson

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©2015 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

Acts of Service

Service 3Serving others. Community service. Volunteering. Donating our time. Giving back. Paying it forward. There are many ways to describe the act of giving of ourselves and our time for others’ benefit. Why do we do it? And what do we hope to get out of it?

This is a topic that’s weighed heavily on my mind lately. Volunteering is in vogue right now. Whether or not you have a full-time job that is primarily about serving others, it’s fashionable and in some cultures or churches even expected that you serve others even more than that, to the point that people neglect their own families and relationships to fulfill these expectations.

Central to my Christian faith is the idea of serving others. Jesus did it; so should we. It is in attending to the needs of other human beings and creatures that we model what Christ did for us. He didn’t stay in His little corner and hope everyone got their problems figured out on their own. He jumped in with both feet and asked, “how can I help you?” We are His hands and feet on this earth and are to continue in this way.

But, as is the tendency of us fragile and inherently self-absorbed human beings, we often expect certain rewards and recognition to come along with these supposedly selfless acts. In recent years I’ve become increasingly concerned about the number of awards ceremonies, dinners, Facebook pages with pictures of volunteers, and other means of recognizing those who give. Should volunteers be recognized? Absolutely! But sometimes the pomp that accompanies these celebrations threatens to exceed the glory that accompanied the original act. Are we going overboard?

Of particular concern to me is the growing practice of volunteers taking selfies and other photos of the great work they’re doing. Do I appreciate what they’ve accomplished? Very much. Do I want to see selfies of the same people over and over with those jaws-dropped, wide-open-mouth-see-my-tonsils smiles people only do when a camera’s around? No. It would be more humble to allow others to recognize us and not self-promote every time we do a good deed.

The Jewish carpenter from Nazareth talked about self-promotion in Luke 14:

“When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Am I saying to never take a selfie when you’re donating your time or to keep cameras away? I’m not saying that. I’m asking others to consider how excessive amounts of that appear in the wrong forums. On your personal social media site or LinkedIn, where you’re trying to land a much-needed job, who cares. When you’re representing a nonprofit or other organization, consider how many, many photos of the same people, especially those who like to photograph themselves, might come across. Is that a group you really want to work with? Is it a clique or is it open to all?

Another issue I’ve been pondering about volunteering and giving of yourself is how people who don’t publicize their efforts can be treated as if they’re not doing enough. Some of the most magnificently giving people I know are those who will never, ever receive a public reward and most people outside of their orbit won’t ever know the amazing commitments they had. This is why a lot of the Hollywood-style awards shows just crack me up– is it really giving if the point is to laud the deeds of the “mighty” with all the glitz and glamour?

Service 1

I see teachers, cops, nurses, firefighters, and others routinely recognized for their service to the community. That’s awesome. We need them, we appreciate them. I also know some very old people who’ve taken care of generation after generation of their families without much of a thought for themselves. How is their service any less? They will never have a certificate to frame for a lifetime of unfailing love but persist in putting family first and taking care of their own until the end. Likewise, Batman doesn’t attend an annual superhero awards ceremony. Most residents of Gotham will never know just how much he’s given to keep their world safe.

I know people whose jobs that seem more about profit than service, but they use those profits to make life better for others. There are also those whose jobs are just that, jobs, a means to pay the bills, and their personal lives are very focused on service, but those who think job titles are everything look down upon them. No matter what our paying job is, there are very valuable ways to serve through that and outside of that. Titles and degrees and professional qualifications don’t make us better givers; it’s about what we do with the time and resources we’ve been given.

In Christian circles, I’ve often heard how the “people who are really serving God” are those who are missionaries and ministers. Yes, those are challenging jobs that require a lot of sacrifice and many of them will have high stations in eternity. But God did not design all of us to be missionaries and ministers. We can serve God in a multitude of ways, and none of them should be considered less important than the others. We are different parts of the same body. I’ve seen some very selfish and even wicked people occupy these “higher”– meaning more visible– positions in the church and yet still be lauded as saints simply because of the position they hold.

Recently, when I suggested that someone become involve in an organization I enjoy, they scoffed as if the very notion was ridiculous. This was a good reminder to me that we might think someone else isn’t serving unless they’re serving the causes we support and on topics we like. Some are passionate about education, others history, others medicine, others clean water, others holding drug-addicted babies at the hospital, knitting hats for cancer patients, veterans, animals, music, native plants, wildlife, whales, or wombats. If you are a lawyer who volunteers your time to those who can’t afford legal services, are you better than the high school graduate who is passionate about preserving history? No. You’re not. We are have unique gifts and therefore we serve in unique ways. We all have a purpose. We all have a place.

Finally, I sometimes wonder if the people who get the biggest and most public awards for their countless hours of high profile volunteering have healthy home lives. I wonder if their children wish their parents were around more or if their spouse feels abandoned. I can’t judge, I know. I just puzzle over this, because while I’m a firm believer in supporting various causes, I feel that family should come first. And there are activities you can do as a family to help others.

In a similar vein, married people should not disparage singles for filling up their time with service rather than cruising bars to find a mate. One of the best ways to find a lasting relationship is to meet like-minded people through acts of service. If you care about the same things, you will do more together. The reverse is also true. Service-minded singles shouldn’t thumb their noses at those who serve God through caring for their family members.

Really, the bottom line in this train of thought is this question: are we serving for the right reasons? Are we doing it because:

1) It’s trendy

2) It’s expected

3) Everybody else is doing it

4) Other parents/friends/churchgoers/coworkers will look down on us if we don’t do it

5) We’ll get our picture in the paper/be able to make a t-shirt/*selfie!*

6) We have something to prove

7) We crave the attention that comes from it

Or are we doing it because:

1) We truly believe in the cause

2) We want to see others succeed

3) We want to live an authentic version of our faith

4) We are passionate about the topic

5) We want to advance the kingdom

6) We act out of love and genuine concern

7) We want to give back/pay it forward

Some would say, “Who cares what their motivation is! I’m just glad they’re volunteering.” They have a point. But to truly achieve joy through service I argue that the second set of motivations is infinitely more powerful and effective than the first.

God is keeping score. He knows our deeds. None of them are hidden from Him. So while sometimes we have to sell ourselves and what we’ve been involved in to land jobs or higher positions in organizations we volunteer for, we don’t have to be constantly crowing about what we do for others. There are also ways to promote the organization and mission without looking self-absorbed.

In the end, I guarantee we’ll find that some of the people who have given the most are the ones we never knew were giving at all. They were playing to an audience of One.

Service 2

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©2015 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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