Larkin Spivey Finding Faith In War

Sunday, September 30, 2012

This I Know

I attended church today in East Greenwich, Rhode Island and heard the minister mention Karl Barth, the famous Swiss theologian (1886-1968). Barth’s most famous work was his thirteen volume, 8000 page, Church Dogmatics. In 1962 Barth was asked by someone in the U. S. to summarize his theology in a few words. After thinking for a moment, he reportedly said: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” This quote is from the old, well-known children’s Christian song by Anna Bartlett Warner. This song goes back to my own childhood and was the subject of a series of the stories for my upcoming book, Stories of Faith and Courage from the Korean War, titled: "Crawl Before You Walk"

“Lord, if the mortar didn’t kill me, the shooting didn’t kill me, and the beating didn’t kill me, you must want me out of here. But I can’t walk. How can I get outta here?” As Pvt. Ed Reeves lay helpless on the frozen ground beside the now abandoned and destroyed truck convoy, he continued to pray. Suddenly, God seemed to answer him as a thought came to his mind: “You must crawl before you can walk.”

Painfully lifting himself to his hands and wounded knees, Reeves started crawling over snow-covered fields in the direction he hoped would take him to friendly lines. He passed more Chinese troops who somehow made no effort to stop him. Darkness fell, and he continued his slow, painful journey. He began to sing over and over, “Yes, Jesus loves me!” Finally, he felt the hardness of ice underneath him and knew that he was on the Chosen Reservoir. His hands and feet slipped frequently, causing him to hit the ice painfully. Each time he fell it took a greater effort to straighten his arms and get back to his knees. Exhaustion and the mind-numbing cold were almost overwhelming. Amazingly, the song of his childhood faith kept coming back to him: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

Finally, almost a week after being first wounded, Ed Reeves was spotted on the ice by a Marines patrol. He was taken by jeep directly to an airstrip and loaded with other wounded men on a C-47. As the aircraft lifted off the rough runway, Reeves pondered how God never answered his prayers as he expected—but nevertheless: “He answered. Every time I asked God, He answered.”

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes; with your right hand you save me. ~Psalm 138:7

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fourth of July

On July 4, 1776, Samuel Adams rose in the Continental Congress to announce, “We have this day restored the Sovereign, to whom alone men ought to be obedient.” Thomas Jefferson voiced the same theme in the Declaration of Independence:  “. . . that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” On this day, our Founding Fathers took one of the greatest steps of faith in history—severing the ties of royal authority, representing centuries of tradition, and putting in its place the authority of God. They looked to God as the source and guarantor of their (and our) rights as human beings. At this moment in history a new nation was created with God at the center and individual citizens at the top of the chain of human authority—since it is the individual citizen who has the relationship with God. Ultimate authority came to rest therefore with the private person, not a king, president, parliament, or congress. These are America’s spiritual roots and what has distinguished this nation from all others ever founded.

The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power. ~Alexander Hamilton

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Darkness and Light

During the Vietnam War a Special Forces camp at Duc Co was manned by a few Green Beret troops, several hundred Vietnamese soldiers, and a small artillery unit. It was located about six miles from the Cambodian border and far from other friendly forces. Life in the remote outpost was always tense, but especially so at night:

As the last helicopter fades into an unidentifiable dot and the sun kisses the sky its golden goodbye, you know you’re in for another long night at Duc Co. Though the night has fallen, work has not ceased. For Duc Co and the men of A Battery, Duc Co is a synonym for work, 24 hours a day. The Duc Co world is a small one. Bunkers, homes, fortresses and recreation rooms are all one (and) the same. Last night PFC Baker was bitten by a rat. The night before was scorpions’ night. What will tonight bring? Sunrise is a pleasant sight. For a new day brings relief not only from the things that kill in the night and bite in the dark, but also offers the hope of some mail from home.

Fortunately, most of us associate darkness with rest. We get our much-needed sleep at night and know we couldn’t do without it. We also know, however, that night time can be a time of fear—fear of the unknown and the unexpected. Bad things stalk the darkness, whether insects, enemy soldiers, drunken drivers, or drug dealers. There is nothing worse for a parent than a late night phone call.
Interestingly, the opening verses of the Bible describe the prevalence of darkness in the universe until the moment God introduced light. He then separated the light from the darkness, creating in effect day and night. In the last verses of Revelation, we learn that, when the end time comes, darkness will be finally and totally eliminated. Evil will be purged and, with it, fear of the unknown and unexpected. We are promised that we will live then in the pure light of God’s eternal love. What a promise, and what a future to look forward to!

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. ~Genesis 1:3-4

The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. ~Revelation 22:3-5

(This devotional is from Stories of Faith and Courage from the Vietnam War)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day was special to Sgt. Edmund Sheldon. On that day in 1968 a Viet Cong mortar round landed five feet from his tent in Vietnam and completely destroyed it. It so happened that he was not in the tent, having been called away a few moments before to take a radio message. Sixteen years earlier, his unit in Korea had been hit by enemy mortar fire on February 14, marking the start of a four-day battle. ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’ has had a special meaning to this soldier ever since these events.

Valentine’s Day, as we now know it, has vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman traditions:

One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men—his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day around 498 A.D. Through the ages since then, the day has became ever more associated with romantic love and the exchange of affectionate notes and letters. Printed cards came into vogue in the 1800’s, leading to the billion cards per year industry that we know today.

Although some of us have a certain cynicism about the blatant commercialism of all our holidays, including this one, Valentine’s Day still presents a golden opportunity to focus our attention on the ones we love. If cards and flowers advance certain romantic relationships, that’s a good thing. If well-established couples rekindle a spark, that is even better. I believe that God smiles in heaven when a man and woman nourish the love that brought them together and, in the process, nourish and strengthen their families.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. ~1 Corinthians 13:4-7

(This story is the February 14 devotional from Stories of Faith and Courage from the Vietnam War.