Sunday, April 30, 2006

Root Digging Near Wilbur

Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

My children and I joined extended family members to dig white camas and bitterroot on historic digging grounds near Wilbur. We follow this practice every year after centuries of tradition handed down from our elders. It feels amazing to participate in something so ancient and alive. This practice connects us to the past, but also provides a link to the living spirit of our faith.

All My Relations

Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

The best part of digging roots today was working along side my extended family; all the aunts, uncles, yayas, seelahs, cousins, nephews, and nieces. My children had a wonderful time digging and playing. I feel so grateful to give my children this kind of traditional experience.

Old School House

Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

One of our traditional root fields sits just beyond Wilbur, Washington, near an old abandoned school house. The kids dug roots for a while and quickly decided to hike across the field to get a closer look at the school. I followed a while later and took some intriguing photographs, like looking through a window to the past. It seemed strangely fitting to dig roots in the shadow of an old school; in our way the roots are the teachers, and the wide-open field is our school.

Whitney and I saw a great horned owl in the school, but unfortunately, we didn't get a good picture. I could feel someone watching me, and when I looked up, I saw the owl gazing impassively from her nest in the tower.

Saturday, April 29, 2006


Letterbox Book at Bowl & Pitcher.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

My sister Michelle occasionally takes me to look for letterboxes hidden in natural areas around the Spokane area. Letterboxing combines scavenger hunt intrigue with homemade rubber stamps. Participants find clues online, and when they find the box, they leave their own unique stamp. We found this one near the Bowl and Pitcher.

Spirits of Nature

Sunflower at Bowl & Pitcher.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Churning water below Little Falls Dam.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Lonely Tree at Bowl & Pitcher.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

The Spirits of Nature reveal themselves on my soul and remind us they still love the people. They are like our ancestors and care for us in every season. I feel grateful and blessed to live amid such natural beauty.

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Bowl and Pitcher

The "pitcher" is visible toward the left.
Which one is the "bowl?"
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

A suspension bridge crosses the rapids.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

The Bowl and Pitcher is one of the most striking geological features of the Spokane area. The massive basalt formations give evidence of a distant volcanic past and form a spectacular set of white water rapids along the Spokane River. The rocks are said to resemble a giant bowl and pitcher (hence the name), though I could never tell which of all the rock formations most resembles a bowl. The pitcher is obvious.

My sister and I spent several hours hiking through the various trails and photographing the beautiful scenery. I have to say this area is one of my favorite places to see in Spokane.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Campbell House

Formal Dining Room at the Campbell House.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

During College Night at the MAC, Dakota and I got to tour the Campbell House, which Dakota has been dying to see ever since he found out I about my internship at the MAC. I've seen the Campbell House a dozen times or more during my life, but I learned something about it I never knew before. The main portion of the house is adorned with ornate paneling made of fine imported wood. In contrast, the servants' portion of the house is decorated with cheaper, local wood. I know people from that time period placed heavy emphasis on the separation of class, but I would have never imagined the class division was reinforced by the architechture. The very walls reminded common people where they stood in relation to the rich and powerful!

College Night at the MAC

Dakota holding the basket he made.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Starting the basket...
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

My basket on the left, Dakota's basket on the right.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Yesterday, Dakota and I visited the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture for "College Night," a free event featuring presenters, crafts, refreshments, and free tours of the museum. During our visit, we made baskets in the art room, which we both enjoyed very much. We also saw the work of indigenous basket-maker Bernadine Phillips.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Steve Merchant Headstone

Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

A couple days ago, my family went to the cemetery to see Steve's newly installed headstone. It was beautiful, though I still feel incredibly sad every time I think of his passing. I cried when I saw the names of his children on the stone. Afterwards, we spent some time looking at the other stones in the LDS section, and I was surprised by how many people I knew personally. I left feeling somewhat sad for the shortness of life.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Earth Day

Earth Day 1990...
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

On April 22, 1990 I celebrated Earth Day in Washington DC with more than 40 other Native American youth from tribes across the nation. We performed an ancient Lakota ceremony adapted for modern times and thereby affirmed our commitment to care for the environment. A photograph of the ritual appeared on the front page of the Washington Post. Also during our visit to the nation’s capitol, we attended various government functions and met a handful of important people. For example, we observed a hearing at the United States Senate regarding water rights on Indian reservations across the country; we attended a banquet with the Secretary of the Interior and the Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs; and toured the White House and met First Lady Barbara Bush. We attempted to meet Senator Slade Gorton to discuss environmental issues in our state, but not surprisingly, he refused to meet with us.

Sixteen years later, I observed Earth Day again, but this time with much less fanfare and spectacle. My children and I attended a small celebration in Spokane’s Riverfront Park where we perused a variety of booths representing a strange mix of environmental organizations and social causes. Some of them I recognized, like the Spokane Interfaith Council and Washington’s Green Party. Others were less known to me, such as a group representing Pagans in the Spokane area.

After all these years, I still appreciate the purpose and intent of Earth Day, but my approach to environmentalism changed. I feel no inclination to rally and protest; I would much rather teach my children to observe the spirits of nature and enter into relationship with the mountains, rivers, forests, and animals. Viewing the forces of nature as a beloved grandparent does more to inspire care for the environment than viewing the earth as simply a resource to be used and subdued.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Whitney Pierced Her Ears

Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Whitney pierced her ears in honor of her seventh birthday, and I have to say, she was the bravest seven year old little girl I ever saw. She didn't even flinch when the earing gun shot through her skin. In fact, I think her brother and sister were more upset by it than she was. She is, after all, a cutie patootie:)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Warm Weather Returns

Dakota ventured out onto the rocks.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

The tempurature rose into the 70s today and my children finally looked like they were going to survive whatever illness kept them out of school for the last several days. We took the kids down to the river, not necessarily to swim, but to just enjoy the warm air and the refreshing environment near the water. It was delightful.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Forgiveness and Triumph

Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

How shall I describe this day? I was home sick again with my daughters, and yet the most amazing things happened:

1) I forgave someone who hurt me deeply.
2) A friend saw my deepest vulnerability and felt inspired.
3) I shared personal visions with a friend.
4) I took a stand for my life and dignity.
5) I released many years of pain and fear.
6) I experienced a triumph of spirit.

You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well. ~Lewis B. Smedes

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Let us dare to do our duty...

I stayed home sick today and slept, so unfortunately, I have very little to report in regard to my daily happenings. I did receive a quote I always admired from Abraham Lincoln: "Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us to the end dare to do our duty as we understand it." This quote gives me strength for every challenge I face in life.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Suzuki Method

Rhonda and I accompanied our son Dakota for an introductory piano lesson with Karlyn Brett, who I respect as one of the greatest musicians I've ever known up close. We sang under her direction for years in a variety of choirs associated with the LDS Church. I love how she always demanded excellence from me as a vocal performer, and I'm honored she now teaches my son.

During this introductory lesson, she spoke of the Suzuki Method, created by Dr. Shinichi Suzuki (pictured above). I will not attempt to recount that method here, except to say children learn best by listening before attempting to master theory. Her words inspire me to reconsider how I teach my children in other areas. Do I lead by example, or by precept only?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday commemorates the beginning of life after the long night of winter and death, whether we speak of the ancient indigenous rites of spring, or the resurrection of Jesus. In the ancient Jewish tradition, this season marks the Passover, when the Angel of Death literally passed over of the Israelites and delivered them to life. It seems all traditions honor new life and awakening during this time of the year.

My children remember this time because of candy, colored eggs, and new Easter clothes, but through our traditions and prayers, we also demonstrate love for one another and appreciation for life. During these last three years, my family passed through a dark season of grief and pain. As this new season bursts upon us, I pray for new life and joy. I have to believe Life is stronger than death; Hope is stronger than despair.

On a more practical level, Rhonda's brother and his family joined us for dinner. Afterwards, Paul and I enjoyed a wonderful conversation about religion, traditions, and accepting differences.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Frank Heinkel

Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Frank Heinkel first heard the didgeridoo, an aboriginal instrument from Australia, while listening to the kitchen radio in his native Germany. The sound inspired him to seek out the didgeridoo and learn to play. Since then, he travels the world to share this gift with others and make important spiritual connections.

My friend Edward invited me to hear Frank this afternoon at Heart Song near Tum Tum, Washington. Only a handful of people attended, but the performance was amazing. I'm not sure I ever heard anything quite like this; the sound literally reverberated from our bodies as we listened. He played a number of other unusual instruments and performed what he called "throat singing." The sound was haunting, producing several tones at once.

Near the end of his performance, one of the other listeners convinced me to sing with Frank. I sang several of my father's songs while Frank sang with me. As our voices blended, I felt my spirit as though it were leaving my body. Something quite unexpected and unexplainable happened to me.

Frank's website can be reached by clicking HERE.

Little Falls Dam

Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Dakota and I drove over the bridge at Little Falls and saw great amounts of water spilling over the dam. It was an amazing and powerful sight; one I have not seen in many years. The defeaning sound of the water and the mist against our faces created an experience we will not soon forget.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Spring Flowers Return

Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Some time during my ventures in downtown Spokane, I came across a long-awaited sight: the flowers and leaves on the trees finally returned. I can't tell you how much I miss seeing the green trees when it gets so cold and gloomy during the winter. Welcome back spring!

Scenes From Downtown

Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

I had several meetings downtown with colleagues and friends, and afterwards I enjoyed walking through modern streets lined with old brick buildings. Part of me gets lost in the combination of contemporary life set against the structures of our collective past.

One of the people I saw today caught my attention for reasons I can't explain. I saw him sitting at a bus stop and I literally had to stop my car and meet him. I know this probably sounds funny, but I really want to thank the man with the blue hair for allowing me to take his picture.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Cathy McMorris Visits Colville

Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris visited the community college at Colville this afternoon to lead a panel discussion on the damaging effects of meth on our community. I didn't watch the bullentins, so I didn't even know she was in my building until I walked by the auditorium and saw her standing at the door. I had to stop and listen for a few moments, though I was deeply distressed by what I heard. Meth is such a dangerous drug and causes severe damage to the brain. I pray for those I know and love who use this drug. I ask God to touch their hearts and inspire them to stop.

The Invisible Spirit

Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Some things are closer to the spirit than others. My sister and I stopped to photograph an old farm house in Idaho and came across this amazing little tree. The way the sky seemed to open up above this tree made me feel something beyond this world. Later, we stopped at a strange kind of shelter for wild animals, with a large black bear and a female elk. They looked injured and poorly managed in their tiny little cages. Something about those animals seemed to call out to me. I felt moved to sing for them, like we do in our ceremonies, and as I did, they pushed themselves against the cage, closer to me. For a moment, I felt strangely attached and wanted to cry. I finally had to leave for all the sadness I felt.

The Psychology of Gambling

Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

I had an experience that tells me I would probably be a horrible gambler, if I really allowed myself to fall into that habit. My sister and I made an errand to the casino and while we were there, she convinced me to play the machines. I only played $7 in total on the penny slots, but I can't shake the sick feeling I got every time I watched the machine devour my money. It's only a few dollars, right? But every time I saw the credits vanish on the electronic screen, I thought, "Hmmm...$7 would buy lunch one of these long afternoons at work." And when the last credit disappeared into the ethers, I felt frustrated and determined to get my money back by plugging just a few more dollars. Thankfully, I stopped myself and walked away. The psychology of gambling frightens me.

Don't get me wrong, if people wish to gamble, that's their business. I also support the sovereign right of tribes to own and operate casinos as they see fit; however, I personally don't care to make any more donations via the penny machine or any other gambling device.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Revolutionary Ancestor

My name recently appeared on a blog from someone who is apparently a distant relative, descended from the same family in colonial New York. He briefly mentioned a genealogical question I sent via email requesting more information regarding my ancestor John Coffin. He then provided documentation regarding this man's service in the Revolutionary War.

I quote:

"John Coffin appears to have been a private in the Revolutionary War. "New York in the Revolution as Colony and State" (Albany, NY, 1904) lists a John Coffin on page 136 as an enlisted man in the Second Regiment of the Dutchess County Militia. "Documents relating to the Colonial History of New York" (Berthold Fernow, 1887, Albany, NY), pages 278, 279, and 345, indicate that John Coffin was a private in the Second Regiment, which was from Rombout Precinct."

He then provides other valuable information regarding my ancestors, including a link to images of another ancestor's family Bible records. For more information, click below:

John Coffin on My Coffin Roots.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Rez Cadillac

Chewelah's Rez Cadillac.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Edward sent me on a rather bizarre errand to purchase a carton of non-filter Pall Mall cigarettes. It's weird because I'm not much of a smoker, and it feels a little awkward walking into a "Smoke Shack" and talking to people about smoking. And then every place I looked is out of that brand or wanted to charge me way too much money ($55 for one carton). None of the tobacco establishments on the Chewelah Rez carried any, but I got a great picture of an old Cadillac on the lot. The photo made the stop worth my time.

I should hasten to mention this errand has nothing to do with indulging vain habits or addiction to nicotine. We use tobacco for prayer, kind of like a sacrament.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Bowling at Lilac Lanes

McKenna at Lilac Lanes.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Whitney "throwing" the bowling ball.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Ron after his turn.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Dakota concentrating on his next bowl.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

My family went bowling at Lilac Lanes with Rhonda's father and grandmother. I think the last time I went bowling was more than 5 years ago with Rhonda's dad. I didn't count on doing too well, but I won both matches. More importantly, we had one last chance to visit before Ron leaves town again.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Family Dinner

Grandma Great and Rhonda.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Ron and his daughter Rhonda.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Rhonda's father, grandmother, and niece Mariah came over for dinner tonight before their long drive back to Arizona, and I should say, we had a feast. Rhonda made a delicious roast with potatoes and carrots; and I made salmon baked on a cedar plank, fry bread, and huckleberry pie. I also made a small serving of black moss, which is a traditional food of the Plateau Salish. I told everyone they had to eat at least one bite of moss if they wanted any pie. Mariah won extra points when she praised the moss and also said the salmon was the most delicious she ever had.

After dinner, we looked at old photographs and found grandma's genealogy on the internet. We had such a nice visit; I'm sad to see them leave so soon.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Belated Birthday Lunch

This is my younger sister Michelle ('Chelle Belle).
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

The Paulsen Center in downtown Spokane.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

My sister took me out for lunch yesterday for my birthday, exactly one month late (thanks 'Chelle!). We had Thai food in a restaurant down by the river. Afterwards, we spent about an hour downtown photographing old buildings. It was fun; and after everything, the date doesn't really matter anyway.

I can only imagine...

The heavy rain turns the field green.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

We spent another day at Steve's old house moving boxes, furniture, and other relics from his lifetime. The sky refused to cooperate today as it did before; the rain poured and the spring winds blew as we worked. Once again, emotions ran close to the surface.

When we moved his things the other day, I drove one car and Rhonda followed close behind in the other. I was listening to Christian radio and heard the song, "I can only imagine," where it says, "I can only imagine what it will be like, when I walk by your side. I can only imagine what my eyes will see, when your face is before me.
I can only imagine."

I thought of Steve, grandpa, and everyone who already crossed over to the other side, and I just started crying. When we got back to the house, I was wiping tears from my eyes and saw Rhonda getting out of the other car also wiping tears from her eyes. She smiled through her tears and said, "You were listening to Christian radio, weren't you?"

"Yes," I said.

"So was I. That song made me think of Steve." And then we laughed because of the coincidence of crying over the same song as we drove in different cars.


Edward sweeping around the fire...
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

I saw my friend Edward in my dreams, even before I met him. The dream told me to look for a man who keeps honeybees; that this man would serve an important role in bringing me back to myself after these difficult years. Just a few weeks later this man appeared, a beekeeper, who joins us now every Friday for prayers. I think it's amazing, but perhaps I shouldn't be surprised. The spirit sees the beginning from the end, and every now and then we catch a small glimpse of things to come.

Cleaning the Houses

The hill above Steve's house...
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.


Ever since grandpa great passed away last year, his house sat on the hill alone. Grandma went to Arizona to live with Rhonda's dad, but they returned yesterday to pack up grandpa's last belongings and to give the rest away. The day was doubly sad because Lanith sold the other house after Steve's death, and now all his earthly possessions were also given away. It was hard to stand between those two houses and think of grandpa and Steve; many times I held back tears.

But then I would stop to hear the wind singing in the trees and feel the sun shining warm on my face. Something in the sound of the trees made me feel close to heaven, as though I could almost hear their voices telling me they're not really so far away after all. In the end, all earthly possessions eventually scatter into dust, but the eternal spirit lives forever. It is the great contradiction of life; our loved ones leave us and our physical eyes never see them again, and yet in their spirit form, they feel closer than ever before. It's like cleaning out those old houses. Eventually they'll be sold and we won't visit those places again, but the true HOME lives in our hearts. It lives within us, where ever we go.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Hiding Place

Another powerful book review...

My wife and I have a tradition of reading out loud before we sleep at night. Most recently we read the "The Hiding Place," the true story of Corrie ten Boom in her autobiographical account of survival during the Nazi occupation of her native Holland in World War II.

Corrie ten Boom came from a deeply religious family of Christian watchmakers in old Haarlem of Holland. After the Germans invaded, her faith moved her to risk everything to offer shelter and protection to those in need, especially Jews. She became a leader in the underground movement, but suffered betrayal, arrest, and imprisonment. She was eventually sentenced with her sister Betsie to the concentration camp at Ravensbrück and experienced unimaginable horrors. Yet through it all, she maintained an abiding faith in Jesus.

The power of her story does not come from the historical account of her suffering, but rather from the penetrating force of forgiveness and trust in God.

She miraculously smuggled a Bible into the camp and held worship services among her fellow prisoners. During the height of her misery she read:

'Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?...Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us,' (Romans 8:35-37).

She then commented regarding her reading of these verses: "I would look about us as Betsie read, watching the light leap from face to face. More than conquerors...It was not a wish. It was a fact. We knew it, we experienced it minute by minute - poor, hated, hungry. We are more than conquerors, not 'we shall be.' We are! Life at Ravensbrück took place on two separate levels, mutually impossible. One, the observable, external life, grew every day more horrible. The other, the life we lived with God, grew daily better, truth upon truth, glory upon glory."

Later, as her sister lay at the point of death, Betsie said, "...we must tell people what we have learned here (at Ravensbrück). We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still. They will listen to us, Corrie, because we have been here."

Gladly, Corrie ten Boom survived the war and became a voice of forgiveness and healing. She even had opportunity to forgive one of her tormentors face to face. The power of her testimony comes from the fact that she had every reason to hate, and yet she chose love instead.

Usually we only read one or two chapters, but as we reached the end of her story, we read late into the night. Finally we finished after 2:30 in the morning, and when I placed the book on my night stand, I wept for a quarter of an hour or more. I mean, I literally bawled like a baby. I can't remember the last time a book had this kind of effect on me. Nothing in my life compares to the level of suffering and depravity Corrie ten Boom had to endure, and yet I have felt the temptation to hate and curse God in my pain. Her testimony and wisdom leave no room for unforgiveness ever again.

I leave you with the Bible verse that inspired the title to her book:

Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance (Psalm 32:7).

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Blessing of Water

A still pool of water near the Little Spokane River.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

Some time ago, my wife and I watched the movie “What the Bleep Do We Know?” and were deeply moved by the film’s portrayal of water crystal experiments performed by Masaru Emoto wherein certain words, prayers, or emotions affected the way water crystals formed in a Petri dish. A loving word, a blessing from a Buddhist monk, or a happy thought produced beautifully formed crystals, whereas angry thoughts or attacking words produced unpleasant or deformed shapes. It seemed to confirm what many of us intuitively know about prayer and positive intention.

In a recent Beliefnet article, Masaru Emoto attributes many natural disasters, such as hurricanes, tsunamis, and droughts to human mistreatment of water. “The water is angry at us,” he says, “Even though we can’t live without water, water has given us so much. Water has given us life. But we never tried to learn anything about water, or understand about water. So obviously water was unhappy about it…”

Masaru Emoto’s words resonate with my father’s teaching about water. My father learned from his elders that “water is the most powerful medicine on earth.” In fact, my father’s spiritual mentor Martin Louie used to speak reverently regarding the largest source of water in our ancestral lands, the Columbia River: “Where it comes from never goes dry. Where it goes never fills up.” Water is constant. It nourishes the people and sustains life.

The idea of loving thoughts forming beautiful crystals appeals to my spiritual sensibilities, but not everyone agrees. Thomas P. Sheahen says, “It's always convenient to invoke science to buttress pleasant ideas. In the water case, the bottom line is ‘be positive and the world will be happy.’ It may be true that positive thoughts help make a better planet, but it's not because those thoughts affect water.”

Maybe so.

I respect science and would certainly welcome more study on the issue. However, faith and science have different goals; science reveals how things came to be, whereas spirit provides a deeper, intangible explanation of reality. Whether prayer affects the world around us or simply the inner reality of the supplicant, matters little. That which arises from the heart is what really sanctifies us, and certainly our attitude toward water will ultimately affect the way we treat the environment. If we reverence the planet we call home, we will more likely create sustainable conditions than if we treat the earth as a commodity to use and abuse.

For more information on Masaru Emoto, click HERE.

For more information on Thomas P. Sheahen, click HERE.

A Meditative Walk

A Handful of Juniper.
Copyright © 2006 Barry G. Moses.

I was feeling somewhat agitated this afternoon and decided to take some time alone for a long, meditative walk to the Little Spokane River. It was just what I needed; the fresh air, the sound of birds, the sight of sunlight reflecting on the water, a bald eagle flying overhead. It was refreshing to my soul. At the bottom of the hill I found an old juniper tree and took a few branches for my smudge. It was beautiful.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

My Grandfather's Military Service

After several years of research, I finally discovered the military identification number belonging to my deceased grandfather Gibson J. Eli. According to newspaper reports at the time of his passing, my grandfather enlisted in the United States Army during the Second World War and fought in Germany. With his number in hand, I had great hopes of learning more about his military career on the European Front. I requested his file from the U.S. government, but sadly, they informed me that my grandfather's military record burned in the St. Louis archival fire of 1973.

On the bright side, the government sent an official certification of military service verifying my grandfather's enlistment in 1942 and honorable discharge in 1947 as a corporal.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

And There Was Light

Jacques Lusseyran.

At least a couple years ago, my brother-in-law Paul Merchant loaned me a book: And There Was Light, by Jacques Lusseyran. Sadly, the book sat on my shelf until just a few days ago, and once I started reading, I regretted waiting so long. This book is life changing.

In summary, Jacques Lusseyran was a Frenchman who went blind from an early age and learned other, perhaps more important ways of seeing the world. By the age of seventeen he banded with a small group of students to oppose the Nazi occupation of Paris and personally interviewed potential candidates for the resistence. He rose to a place of prominance in the underground movement, first in Les Volontaires de la Liberté and then in Défense de la France; but he was later betrayed, arrested, and sent to Buchenwald.

The story of courage is remarkable enough, but more importantly, Lusseyran reveals an inner vision of love, life, and light. For example, when his companions tended toward excessive nationalism, he said, "God is neither a German nor a Russian nor Frenchman. God is life, and everything that does violence to life is against God." Much later, in the prisons of Paris and the German death camps, he tapped into a rare source of forgiveness and joy. He said, "There is forgiveness for every misery. And as misery grows, forgiveness grows along with it."

The whole account from start to finish can be summarized as follows: "The first [truth] is that joy does not come from outside, for whatever happens to us it is within. The second truth is that light does not come to us from without. Light is in us, even if we have no eyes."

What impressed me most about this book was Lusseyran's courage and deep spiritual insight in the face of absolute terror and unthinkable atrocities. Nothing in my life compares to the destruction of World War II, but I have also known pain and loss. Lusseyran embodies a quote I once heard from the LDS Apostle Neal A. Maxwell when he said Christ "went meekly forward and partook of the most bitter cup--and did so without becoming bitter!" In fact, my therapist once read that quote to me as I faced the loss of my foster sons and other personal challenges. Can I say the same? Can I say I have partaken of my bitter cup and at once did not become bitter? There is freedom in releasing bitterness and anger.

My uncle Pat says everything happens for a reason, and if so, I have to believe this book came into my life at this time because God is teaching me lessons in forgiveness, acceptance, and light, even when the world falls apart all around me.


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