Thursday, April 21, 2011
REMINISCING ABOUT DEUTSCHLAND: STAND UP
It really is good to be home. I had such a wonderful time in Germany. The Rhineland-Palatinate area is simply gorgeous! The landscape is stunning--even as you travel at speeds that would earn you a fat ticket in the states. Everywhere I went was so clean. No trash or garbage. Everyone was so polite and friendly. It was so peaceful. I still remember just watching out of the window as auburn colored squirrels chased one another through the yard and played in the treetops.
I'm so proud of the Agape Christian Faith Center family. I pray that God continues to bless the church, school, and everyone who is kind enough to support their efforts to share the love of God, and provide an excellent, and safe educational environment for children. Agape really is a jewel in their Ramstein community.
I so enjoyed meeting people from all over the world at the services on last Saturday and Sunday, and it was amazing to see the progress the church has made. The last time I was there, one could only imaging what the building and sanctuary would be like. Today, it is a testament to hard work, faithfulness and leadership.
I really like Germany. I enjoyed window shopping in Landstuhl, and had wonderful meals at The Hotel Merkur and my new favorite Chinese restaurant "Shangri-La". Even the McDonalds at Am Koehlwaldchen 5 was a treat. The McCafe was very impressive, and I don't think I'd ever seen a filet of fish so neat! I did manage to get one delicious Fanta orange soda before I left, too. We had Mexican fare on Sunday after church, and the salsa and chips were so good, I barely touched my chicken. Romano's Macaroni Grill didn't disappoint, either.
The presentation of "The Living Last Supper" at Kaiserslautern Assembly of God was fantastic (and so was the hot chocolate a kind lady took the time to make for me there. It was a pleasure to meet Pastors Chuck and Marilyn Kackley. It's so nice to know that real ministry--real religion is a reality.
My very gracious hosts treated me to the movies twice during my week-long stay. The first time, we went to see "The Eagle" (directed by Kevin McDonald and starring Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell and Donald Sutherland. It was a great tale of loyalty, trust and honor.) I'd settled in my seat, ready to watch the previews when "The Star Spangled Banner" began to play. Everyone immediately stood up with precision--except me. (It reminded me of my first time attending a Catholic mass at St. Thomas More church as a 6th grader. I didn't know whether to stand, kneel or sit.) No theater usher shouted, "All rise!" There was no flashing sign on the screen to alert everyone to get up. The music started to play and, on cue, I could hear the sounds of folding chairs retracting. It wasn't some new thing. It was a custom. Habitual. Expected. Embraced. Automatic. No one groaned or complained. Everyone was serious. Compliant. I, on the other hand, had to scramble to my feet-- and make sure I didn't drop my precious, fresh-popped popcorn. (Everyone who knows me, knows the importance of popcorn that has not been shoved in huge plastic bags, trucked in and deceitfully dumped in cold, lifeless machines, but transformed from kernel to fluffy goodness right before my very eyes.) I was the lone slow poke, making the lone noise with my chair. I was looking around, looking confused, and finally got the message by the time "...what so proudly we hailed..." rolled around. GET UP. Yes. You're at the movies. No, it's not your favorite Frankie Beverly jam, but SURELY you know what to do when you hear THAT song, American person, DON'T you? I felt like an idiot.
When people suddenly bolt out of their seats like that with no warning, your first thoughts are, "Is there a mouse?", "Is there an emergency?", "Should I duck? Take cover?". You wonder,"Who is the Running Coordinator? How fast can I run, and which exit should I use?" "OMG, WHAT'S GOING ON?"
EVERYONE, young and old, from the front to the rear, rose and listened to the prerecorded music, and watched the patriotic montage in silent reverence. I had NEVER stood for the National Anthem in a movie theater in my entire life! This movie theater, however, was not in America, but at Ramstein Air Base --where people are keenly aware that they are not at home, and that their safety can be compromised at any minute. They're remembering home all the time. It's for home that they serve. It's not difficult to long for home when the freedoms, choices and lifestyle you have are altered, different, or gone. It's easy to be at ease at home when someone else is staying awake.
Someone with authority had to secure a pass for me to enter the base. One day, one pass. Someone with responsibility had to then say that the credentials I presented were legitimate. There are a lot of someones at the gates of the base with visible, high powered weapons to make sure I was who I said I was, and there to do no harm. Once inside, I was subject to the rules, regulations and practices established. Access is a privilege, not a right. I could either enjoy the privilege and respect the culture, or forfeit the access. As an American citizen in a foreign land, as safe as I felt everywhere I went in Germany, there was an added layer of security each time I stepped foot on Ramstein Air Base.
I didn't know the drill at the theater, but I still felt a little ashamed. Sure. I'd stood for the singing of the National Anthem numerous times. I'd also sung it as others stood! But there was something about that customary act of patriotism, in a movie theater on a U.S. military base in another country, that made me realize how seriously some people take their role as defenders of a nation's people and interests. I realized how much they cherish home-- even when they are not presently there--and even while engaged in the simplest of activities.
The second time we went to the movies, I was ready--drink in the holder; popcorn and Milk Duds secure. ("Arthur" starring Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Greta Gerwig, and Jennifer Garner was the flick of the evening. It's a VERY funny tale that explored conformity, control, responsibility, decision making, patience, love and freedom.)I was determined that I was going to be up and at 'em on "Oh, say can you see", this time, and not still trying to juggle my snacks while wiggling out of my seat "by the dawn's early light". This time, I knew to stand, WHEN to stand, wasn't caught off guard--and was feeling proud to be among people who served, currently serve, or have loved ones who serve so faithfully to protect us all.
Sometimes we take for granted just how blessed we are to live in the United States of America. People who aren't safe and sound at home have more affection, respect and gratitude for the liberties, rights, and perks that we enjoy than we do.
We often talk about what other countries do, and what we should embrace without knowing the back story or cost. The USA really is a blessed nation. Sure, there's lots we could complain about, but if we only knew what others had to endure each day, we'd show a lot more gratitude and a lot less attitude. if we only knew, we'd salute the flag and stand for the National Anthem every chance we got--not because we worship inanimate objects or people, but because the principles upon which the nation stands are good, honorable ones--whether the founding fathers or contemporary lawmakers and leaders fully intended them for ALL citizens or not. In the land of the free, some exercise their right not to be patriotic. On Ramstein Air Base everyone exercises the privilege to be a patriot--even at the movies.
There's a time to stand up for your rights, FOR right--even for yourself. It's so great to know when and how.
Now. Time to get readjusted to Eastern Standard Time, and ponder some decisions....: )