A stirring edict to write

"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do things worth writing." (Benjamin Franklin)

For more than 15 years, I’ve pondered the idea of writing a creative nonfiction book that addresses how abusive and absentee fathers in our country adversely impact the relational, vocational, and emotional development of young boys. And during that time I have vacillated between “I’m really considering it” to “Who am I to write a book!?”

Up to now, no matter how strong this stirring was inside me, I would try to nullify it with excuses, such as: “I am too busy with work”…“I’m not a good enough to be a writer”… “I need to complete my Master’s Degree”…or “Who am I to write something of value for someone else?” And rather than being snuffed out by these ostensible reasons, with an unrelenting force, the stirring inside continued to implore me to pick up that pen and write.

Then, if that stirring flame within me was not enough, it had found an uncommon ally: cancer. Together, these uncommon comrades echo their pleas that are felt throughout my entire being; piercing the very essence of my soul and whispering “Time is precious” ... “Tomorrow may not come” ... “Let not regret lay beside your gravestone!”

With the driving urge to write within me, coupled with the recent bout of cancer, both have brought me to this point:

today, the pondering…

the going back and forth to write or not to write…

Is over!

If I am, indeed, entreated by these two bedfellows to pick up that pen, then I must. Moreover, if I am obliged to be an aspiring writer, ergo I must write. And so, through a survivor's personal account, along with research, interviews, field work, and the use of Viktor Frankl’s theory of Logotherapy to serve as the foundational bedrock to the book’s core purpose and outline, I hope to skillfully write about how abusive and absentee fathers in our country adversely impacts the relational, vocational and emotional development of young boys.

So, now what?

I feel like a greenhorn hiker (no pun intended), who is about to trek on the Appalachian Trail’s 2,200 miles of rugged paths and foothills that passes through 14 states, from Georgia to the last mile in Maine. But as any smart hiker knows – seasoned or rookie – one must conduct proper planning before trekking on any rugged, long path. With this principle in mind, I’ve developed a writing plan and a draft outline (both are located in the right section on this research blog) to serve as a guide and topic focus.

With my two bedfellows, a writing plan, and a narrative focus…I am about to become that “aspiring writer.” And even though this work may never be published, the process will no doubt allow me to embrace more of who I am - a survivor ♠


AN EVENING PRAYER

(My mother sent me this poem that I wrote when I was a recruit at Parris Island, S.C., in 1988)

 

Marine-prayer
Photo by Dana Point 5th Marine Regiment Support Group, http://www.danapoint5thmarines.com/

 

If I have wounded any soul today,

If I have caused one foot to go astray;

If I have walked in my own willful way, Dear Lord, Forgive.

 

If I have uttered idle words in vain,

If I have turned aside from want or pain;

Lest I offend some other through the strain, Dear Lord, Forgive.

 

If I have been perverse, or hard, or cold,

If I have longed for shelter in the fold;

When Thou hast given me some fort to hold,

Dear Lord, Forgive.

 

Forgive the sins I have confessed to Thee;

Forgive the secret sins I do not see;

O Guide me, Love me, and my Keeper be, Amen.

 

# # #

 


I AM, YOU ARE

 (My mother sent the following poem to me recently. I first wrote it on February 6, 1998)

 

A-helping-hand-cristian-bernal
Photo by iHelping Hand, http://ihelpinghand.org/portal/ihh/


For who I am, but

a man with many hands...

 

Hands that laughed with me

when I was full of joy...

 

Hands that held me,

when I was lost in emptiness...

 

Hands that guided me,

when I went astray...

 

Hands that lifted me up,

when I fall without hope.

 

A precious God given gift indeed;

for who I am is what you are

to me...A Friend.

 

# # #


FACING & GROWING IN LIFE’S STORMS

 

“Life is difficult. Once we truly know that life is difficult—once we truly understand and accept it—then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters” (M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled).

 “The reason we are going through the things we are is that God wants to know whether he can make us good bread with which to feed others. The stuff of our lives, not simply of our talk, is to be the nutrient of those who know us.” (Oswald Chambers)

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Man
Figure 1-The Voyage of Life: Manhood, taken from The Thomas Cole National Historic Site, an affiliated site of the National Park Service. http://www.explorethomascole.org/about

 

I recently nailed up a reproduction of Thomas Cole’s The Voyage of Life in our eating nook, a small recess located at the end of our kitchen. Cole was an English-born American artist, who was born in 1801 and died in 1848. He was known for painting majestic landscapes and historical events. First conceived in 1836, The Voyage of Life consists of four allegorical paintings: Childhood, Youth, Manhood, and Old Age—each one tracing the life journey of an archetypal of man along the “River of Life,” a metaphorical depiction of the human condition that is intertwined with new life, ambition, suffering and death.

        When eating a meal, or reading a book, I find myself gazing up at the four paintings. And as I study each one, my eyes always seem to stay fixedly on the third artwork called “Manhood.” The man is depicted in extreme tempestuous conditions—dark stormy clouds blotting out the entire sky; wild winds and torrential rains assailing the man’s tiny boat; the raging river pitching and reeling his battered craft toward monstrous rocks, with an upsurge of white waters crashing against the jagged boulders. The man is desperate, anxious, afraid. His only recourse is prayer because he realizes that there is no controlling the terrifying elements that are waging war against him. The man is undeniably pleading for God’s mercy and saving grace.

        In all respects, on different occasions and in various circumstances, this man is me today. In this season of my life, I’ve faced my own stormy and wild black clouds that seemed to blot out the entire sky, where there was no hope in sight; the winds hurled against me with turbulent rains from above, which made me fearful that there would be no end to the storms, and the turbulent waters propelled me toward monstrous jagged rocks, forcing me to peer into my own mortality and transient life. But through my storms, regardless of their severity, I’ve learned that the power lies within me, anchored in God’s grace and mercy, to independently choose how to respond to life’s afflictions and hardships. Without question ...

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MARCHING STRAIGHT AND EYES FOCUSED

Marching-marines-9529924

“Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path.” (Proverbs 4:26)

As a new recruit at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, located in South Carolina (and infamously known for its sand fleas and their stinging bites), the two things we had to learn the first day were to march in a straight formation, while keeping our head and eyes straight ahead, continuously locked and focused toward the direction we were marching. However, if one of us moved our head, just a slight bit, or mistakenly looked up or down with our eyes, almost instantly we’d hear a swift and bellowing howl coming from one of the terrifying Drill Instructors: “Recruit, what are you LOOK ’N AT!?. Keep your head and eyes STRAIGHT AHEAD!” Without hesitation, that frightened recruit would jerk his back to its original position – like a stone bust – with eyes staring straight ahead.

Today, I still have vivid memories of those days back in Parris Island. Although I do not have a Drill Instructor bellowing out: “Recruit, keep your head and eyes straight ahead!” (Though shamefully, I admit, there are times that I probably need it again), as a Christian man, I am instructed to follow God’s Biblical principles and loving commandants found in His holy word. In fact, the following principles and commandants help and guide my daily steps on His straight and narrow path (Proverbs 16:9), encouraging me to focus my eyes towards the ultimate goal (Matthew 25:21; Luke 19:17):

  • Letting go of the past. It is okay to look back at those past difficulties which you had to overcome because they serve as reminders of His enduring love, grace, and strength, which carried you through those difficult times. But do not allow past memories or experiences hinder your growth and future purposes. We cannot be of service to God and to others if we constantly look back and become distracted (Luke 9:62). So, let go of the past and continuously and tenaciously strive forward in life (Philippians 3:13).
  • Connecting with wise and seasoned men. There is a wealth of wisdom and knowledge to be found with a godly and wise, older Christian man. Through his many years of hard work, life struggles and obedience to God’s will, his past life is not only virtuous and useful to the hearer but so more a fitting example to embody and live by – for this way of living will surely bring peace and prosperity to you.
  • Renewing your mind and attitude with His truth. In order to negate the harsh and abrasive lies told to you as a child, especially those aimed at you today, you must first know that you’re God’s masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10). Then, you must continuously renew your thoughts and attitude with His truth (Romans 12:2) and Holy principles (Ephesians 4:23), which are good, acceptable and perfect. In short, embrace the truth that you are precious in His sight!
  • Removing sin from your life. Like Achan’s sin (Joshua 7:1-26), our sin prevents us from hearing and experiencing God’s word and blessings in our life; more so, our sin may cause distress and consequences to us and to those around us in our home…in our church…in our work…and in our community. It’s imperative that we always confess our sin to God, asking for His forgiveness, and most importantly, striving to no longer sin again (Romans 6:6).

Reflect:

How are you keeping your feet on the straight path? Are your eyes focused towards that ultimate goal? Do you allow the past to hold you back? Do you engage and surround yourself with wise and seasoned Christian men? Are you filling your mind daily with His perfect Word and other good readings? Are you carrying an “Achan’s sin” in your life that you have not confessed yet to God? As Christian men, we must march on the straight and narrow path, keeping our eyes focused on the ultimate goal. Ask Him to be your Guide, so that one day you will hear Him say, “Well done, my good servant!”

# # #

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A SALUTE TO FATHERS

"Being a father is much more than merely fulfilling a social role. Engaged biological fathers care profoundly and selflessly about their own children; such fatherly love is not something that can be transferred or reduced to the learning of a script" (David Popenoe, Life Without Father, 1996)

To those fathers who commit their entire self for the betterment of sons and daughters..."I salute you!"


SCRIPPS FAMILY LINEAGE BOOKS

After more than a year of conducting research, interviewing family members, collecting photos and writing historical narratives, I completed the first edition of a two-part Scripps Family Lineage books in 2013, to honor the first generation of the Scripps family, who lived and worked in Ford City, Pa. The first generation of the Scripps family were: Carmen Sr. and Carmela (patriarch and matriarch), Angelo, Alfonse, Dominick Sr., Rose, James Sr., Frank, Carmen Jr., and Albert.

Following the completion of the books, I donated them to the Armstrong County Historical Museum and Genealogical Society, Inc. (ACHGS), Dec. 28, 2013, in Kittanning, Pa.

Click on the following titles to view the online version of the books:

IMG_0920
Mary Alice Weckerly, a volunteer librarian, receives two new family genealogy books for the Armstrong County Historical Museum and Genealogical Society, Inc. (ACHGS), Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013, in Kittanning, Pa.

 

 

 


THE DEAD TREES, FIG TREE, AND THE BOY

Tree1
One day a young boy was walking through a wooded area and noticed all the trees were dead along the road. Then he remembered what his grandfather once said a long time ago of what happened to all the trees that are now dead.

"Grandson, always remember that you cannot benefit the world unless you abide in His vine; for if you do, you will bear much fruit. But if you do not, you can do nothing for this world and will eventually die like those trees on the road,” said the grandfather.

Walking down the path the boy could feel the dead trees’ coldness and sordid disposition. He did not like it at all, and felt uneasy as he walked past the dead trees, which seemed to overshadow the very path he walked on.

As he continued walking, he noticed a large tree filled with bright, green-colored leaves, which were raised far above the ground by the tree’s massive trunk. And the boy also had noticed there were many large figs on the tree branches surrounded by beautiful, pure white blossoms that gave forth a sweet fragrance.

The boy walked up to the tree and eyed its beautiful blossoms and was amazed at the size of the figs on the tree’s branches.

Now, the boy was very hungry because he has not eaten yet since the beginning of his journey. He thought to himself, “I would love to have some of those figs.”

Then suddenly the tree spoke, “Little boy, would you like to sit down next to me and have some of my figs to eat?”

With excitement in his voice the boy quickly said, “Yes!”

The boy sat down under the tree and leaned against its massive trunk. Together, the leaves and the trunk provided a large shade to keep the boy cool from the hot sun. Soon after the boy was comfortable and resting, the tree gave up some of its figs for the boy. And the boy immediately grabbed them up and began to devour them quickly because of his hunger.

“Oh, how sweet the taste!” the boy said. “I have never eaten such a fine fruit like these figs.”

The tree was glad the boy enjoyed its fruit and said, “I am happy you are enjoying my fruit. I have prepared them for children like you. Enjoy and rest my friend.”

After the boy ate, he got up, and earnestly thanked the fig tree for allowing him to eat some of its fruit.

“Thank you, Sir. You have filled my stomach and now I must continue down this path,” said the boy.

The fig tree replied, “I am always here, along this path. You only have to stop and ask of me, and I shall give up my fruit.”

As the boy walked away, his hunger satisfied, he looked back and waved to the fig tree. He thought to himself, “I must stop by every day to sit down in the shade and enjoy some more of the fig tree's fruit.”

Now, as time went by the boy always made the effort to visit the beautiful, large fig tree daily, and eat of its fruit, while sitting at the base of the trunk, enjoying the cool shade given by its blossoms that filled the air with their beautiful fragrance.

And while the boy relaxed and ate, the tree enjoyed his company as well.

Indeed, the fig tree loved the boy so; evidenced by the fruit He gave the boy each day, without want and expectancy; giving His blessings freely.
One day, however, the boy visited the fig tree and said, “I am in a hurry today, just give me some of your fruit, and I’ll be gone. I promise, on my next visit, I will sit in your shade and listen to your beautiful poems.”

With understanding, though filled with sadness, the tree gave up its fruit for the boy.

“Here you go my son,” the fig tree said while handing the boy some of its fruit. “Take what I freely give. Enjoy. All you have to do is ask...and I will freely give to you.”

“Thank you, Sir,” the boy responded. “I will make sure to stay longer on my next visit.”

When the boy left, the fig tree began to cry and prayed to His Father in Heaven:

“Father, you are in me and I am in you, may this boy be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me among these dead trees. The beautiful blossoms and figs that you have given me I have given to the boy, so that he may be one with us, as we are one, I in him and you in me, that he may become completely whole, so that he may know that you have sent me and have loved him even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those dead trees around me, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, filled with blossoms and figs, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”

As the days gone by, sadly, the boy did not keep his promise to sit in the Tree's shade and listen to His poems that described His Love and mercy. When the boy did stop by to visit, he only asked for more fruit and quickly scurried away when he received his gift, to go after his youthful passions and ambitions along the path. In his haste, the boy did not comprehend the Tree's poems to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, and to learn to obtain a pure heart.

One day, the boy stopped by the fig Tree, which was filled with many figs, and the vines were adorned with blossoms that gave forth a beautiful fragrance. However, he did not take notice, but only asked for more fruit.

The boy said, “Do you remember what you promised...‘Take what I freely give. Enjoy. All you have to do is ask...and I will freely give to you’...do you?”

“Yes, I do,” said He.

“Then give me some more fruit. For I am hungry and I have to walk a long distance along this path.”

As the fig Tree handed down the fruit to the boy, He said, “Take what I freely give. Enjoy. All you have to do is ask...and I will freely give to you.”


After taking the fruit, the boy quickly ran away, not even a “thank you” from the boy's lips. He only cared about the sweet taste of the figs, and getting to where he was going along the path, and forgetting Who provided the sweet figs in the first place.

With quick steps, the boy hurried down the path. But as he scurried along, he did not notice that one of the dead tree's roots protruded in the middle of the path.

The boy's right foot hit the root.

“Ouch!” yelled the boy, as he stumbled and fell forward on the path, letting go of what fruit he had left.

He slowly began to get up and suddenly he felt sharp, stinging pain in his legs. He turned his head and his eyes widened with fear!

“My legs...my legs!” he screamed.

For the boy's legs were turning into dead branches, just like the ones on the dead trees along the path.

Then suddenly, he began to feel his own coldness and sordid disposition, and remembered, too late, what his grandfather had said:

“Grandson, always remember that you cannot benefit the world unless you abide in His vine; for if you do, you will bear much fruit. But if you do not, you can do nothing for this world and will eventually die like those trees on the road,” said the grandfather, and added with caution, “and with that you will become like their current state” ♠

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WHERE ARE YOU?

Crepuscular_rays_in_the_woods_of_Kasterlee,_Belgium
My eyes are open, unseen you are,

And I look, ne’er a sight;

Pain, loss, and anger nearer than far,

And thine tears glow clear bright.

The earth rejoices at its prize,

A thief stealing you away within;

My embittered hope that you may rise,

And this but a dream that ends.

 

My eyes are open, unseen you are,

Emptiness echoes its striking tune;

The ache never relents, nor abates its roar,

It rises farther than the shadows o’er the moon.

No longer can I retrieve from wisdom’s well,

And be comforted by thy heartening word;

Will there not be ears to tell,

To release the anguish that is my sword.

 

My eyes are closed, and there you are,

A father’s legacy that I see;

Thy soul and memory higher than a star,

And a husband’s love that never flees.

I look one day when we meet again,

You and I, a friend or more;

Together praising Him, the One ordained,

Running and laughing on beach’s shore ♠

 

Dedicated to my dear friend, Steve Haes (1964-2010)

 

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