Monday, November 24, 2008

Your Place or Mine?

“There is only one Lawgiver and Judge . . . But you - who are you to judge your neighbor?” ~ James 4:12 (NIV)

The ideas and inspiration for my weekly columns come from a variety of sources, and this week’s idea began with an email story my stepmother Barbara sent me. It goes like this:

A young couple moves into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside.

"That laundry is not very clean," she said. "She doesn't know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap"

Her husband looked on, but remained silent.

Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, the young woman would make the same comments.

About one month later, the woman was surprised to see a nice array of clean wash on the line.

"Look,” she said to her husband. “Our neighbor has finally learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this?"

The husband replied, "I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows."

And so it is with life. What we see when watching others depends on the purity of the window through which we look.


“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.”

~ Matthew 7:1-5 (NKJV)

When we judge and criticize, we're really saying, "If others don’t act, or think, or live like me, then they’re wrong.”

Here’s a poem I wrote one night last week when I couldn’t sleep.

You and I

By Eileen Umbehr

If you like homemade clothes
And I like store-bought the most
And you make your own bread
But I buy Wonder instead
If you like to can jelly
And I like Welch’s as well-y
If you grow tomatoes in a garden
And I buy mine at the market
If you homeschooled your kids
And that’s not what I did
If you hang clothes on the line
And the dryer dries mine
If your house is picked up
And mine, you can write in the dust
If you’re still a size 10
And I’m not nearly as thin
If you travel and roam
And I prefer to stay home
If you have a degree
And, well, me, I’m just me
If you read Wall Street Journal
And I prefer a good novel
If you go to church weekly
And I simply pray meekly

Does that make you better than me?

No, we’re all unique beings
Shaped by our upbringings
And no one is better than the other
So rather than conform
Or try to fit in the norm
How ‘bout we just accept one another?

Then I’ll love you for you
If you’ll love me for me
Although we both have our faults and shortcomings
And I’ll overlook yours
If you’ll overlook mine
Then we’ll all share a joy-filled homecoming

“Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. . .” ~ Luke 6:37

In a way, that poem ties into the theme of Thanksgiving, because while Thanksgiving is a time when families gather to celebrate and enjoy one another’s company, it can also present opportunities for conflict and bickering.

This Thanksgiving and Christmas, be determined to resist the temptation to lash out at your relatives when they rub you the wrong way.

“For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, contention ceases.” ~ Proverbs 26:20

Remember, you’re only together for a day or two, so just zip your lip and let annoying comments roll off like water from a duck’s back. In other words, don’t be a turkey this Thanksgiving, be a duck!

This next passage comes from Romans 14:1-5 in The Message Bible:

“Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don't see things the way you do. And don't jump all over them every time they do or say something you don't agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.

For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ's table, wouldn't it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn't eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God's welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.

Or, say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience.”

In the following verses from I Corinthians chapter 3, Paul addressed the issue of division amongst the church:

“Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not mere men? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.”

My prayer for your family – and mine – is that this holiday season will be one of unity and love rather than division and strife. We have so much to be thankful for, so let’s be grateful and remember to “praise God from whom all blessings flow.”

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him.” ~ Exodus 15:2 (NIV)

Monday, November 17, 2008

In Memory

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”

~ Romans 12:15 NKJV

“The best of men cannot suspend their fate - the good die early and the bad die late." ~ Daniel Defoe

Although I didn’t know the 43-year-old Alta Vista man who tragically lost his life on November 8th, I do know that Michael T. Shepard was too young too die and that his family will forever grieve his passing. I extend my deepest sympathy to Michael’s loved ones. I would like to dedicate this collection of poems and stories to his memory.

Just Beyond
By Gale Rogers

I have gone just beyond
of where you are.
Out of sight of you
sitting beside an evening star.

Watch for me
when flowers bloom in spring
or in the evening
listen as the birds do sing.

A smile for you
as you greet the morning sun
Then in the evening I'll create a sunset
just for you when day is done

I am with loved ones
where time will never cease.
No sorrow now, be glad for me
Forever I will know only peace.


The following two stories were sent to me from a friend:

A sick man turned to his doctor, as he was preparing to leave the examination room and
said, "Doctor, I am afraid to die. Tell me what lies on the other side."

Very quietly the doctor said, "I don't know."

"You don't know?” the patient inquired. “You, a Christian man, do not know what is on the other side?"

The doctor was holding the handle of the door; on the other side of which came a sound of scratching and whining, and as he opened the door, a dog sprang into the room and leaped on him with an eager show of gladness.

Turning to the patient, the doctor said, "Did you notice my dog? He's never been in this room before. He didn't know what was inside. He knew nothing except that his master was here, and when the door opened he sprang in without fear. I know little of what is on the other side of death, but I do know one thing: I know my Master is there, and that is
enough. And when the door opens, I will pass through it with gladness, but with no fear."


In January 2000, leaders in Charlotte, North Carolina, invited their favorite son, Billy Graham, to a luncheon in his honor. Billy initially hesitated to accept the invitation because of his struggles with Parkinson’s disease. But the Charlotte leaders said, "We don't expect a major address. Please just come and let us honor you."

So he agreed.

After wonderful things were said about him, Dr. Graham stepped to the podium, looked at the crowd, and said, "I'm reminded today of Albert Einstein, the great physicist who has been honored by Time magazine as the Man of the Century.

Einstein was once traveling from Princeton on a train when the conductor came down the aisle, punching the tickets of each passenger. When he came to Einstein, Einstein reached in his vest pocket. He couldn't find his ticket, so he reached in his other pocket. It wasn't there, so he looked in his briefcase but couldn't find it. Then he looked in the seat by him. He couldn't find it.

The conductor said, 'Dr. Einstein, I know who you are. We all know who you are. I'm sure you bought a ticket. Don't worry about it.' Einstein nodded appreciatively.

The conductor continued down the aisle punching tickets. As he was ready to move to the next car, he turned around and saw the great physicist down on his hands and knees looking under his seat for his ticket.

The conductor rushed back and said, 'Dr. Einstein, Dr. Einstein, don’t worry. I know who you are. No problem. You don't need a ticket. I'm sure you bought one.'

Einstein looked at him and said, 'Young man, I too know who I am. What I don’t know is where I'm going.'"

Having said that Billy Graham continued, "See the suit I'm wearing? It's a brand new suit. My wife, my children, and my grandchildren are telling me I've gotten a little slovenly in my old age. I used to be a bit more fastidious. So I went out and bought a new suit for this luncheon and one more occasion.

You know what that occasion is? This is the suit in which I'll be buried. But when you hear I'm dead, I don't want you to immediately remember the suit I'm wearing. I want you to remember this: I not only know who I am, I also know where I'm going."

“Our valleys may be filled with foes and tears; but we can lift our eyes to the hills to see God and the angels, Heaven's spectators, who support us according to God's infinite wisdom as they prepare our welcome home.”

~ Billy Graham

I can only imagine
What it will be like
When I walk
By His side
I can only imagine
What my eyes will see
When His face
Is before me
I can only imagine

Surrounded by Your glory,
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for You, Jesus,
Or in awe of You be still?
Will I stand in Your presence
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing Hallelujah?
Will I be able to sing at all?
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

I Can Only Imagine – Words and music by Bart Millard, performed by Mercy Me

Monday, November 10, 2008

Every Life a Story: Joe Romano

"To be a champ, you have to believe in yourself when nobody else will." ~ Sugar Ray Robinson

This week I’d like to introduce you to someone I met at the Presbyterian Manor in Topeka. His name is Joe Romano.

Joseph Rocco Romano was born on July 29, 1924, to Italian immigrants Mariano and Carmella Romano. He is the oldest child from a large Catholic family – five boys and four girls. His parents were originally from Ravenna, Italy, and settled in Ravenna, Ohio, in the early 1900’s. Joe’s father worked in a foundry in Cleveland for some time before purchasing his own coal yard and starting a coal delivery business.

After graduating from high school in 1942, Joe was drafted into the United States Air Force at the age of 18. While stationed in England, he was trained to become a gunner on the B-24 Liberator. He eventually flew in 32 missions over Germany. His crew consisted of a pilot, co-pilot, one nose gunner, two waist gunners (on left and right wing in middle of plane), a ball turret operator (which rotated underneath the plane), a top turret operator (which rotated from the top of the plane), and a tail gunner at the rear of the plane. Joe was the left waist gunner and the top turret operator was also the radio operator.

The guns they operated were 50 caliber machine guns. For protection, they wore flak suits, named for the razor sharp shrapnel that came from enemy shells that exploded at high altitudes. One hit could disable an engine or cause a fuel tank to explode. Although their plane was often hit by flak, they were fortunate to never sustain serious damage or injury to any members of their crew.

During a stopover in Topeka while Joe was still in the service, he met his sweetheart, Clara Nadine Cain, who went by her middle name, Nadine. The couple immediately fell in love and decided to travel to the courthouse in Alma to be married by Judge Victor Hergenreter before Joe had to leave again. Joe’s good friend, Cap McKinsey, stood up for the couple. Cap owned a barbecue place in Topeka at the time, and also ran the Lodge out at Lake Wabaunsee. Joe and Nadine were married for nearly twenty years before their only daughter Jodine Marian joined the family.

Nadine and Joe Romano

One of the most interesting aspects of Joe’s life is that he was a professional boxer. He first boxed in the service and did so well that he decided to turn professional after he got out. Joe weighed 127 lbs. and boxed in the featherweight category under the name “Little Joe” Romano. He trained at the Veterans Hospital gym in Topeka and followed a tough daily routine – running, lifting dumb bells, punching bags (both heavy and light), and jumping rope. Joe said that he boxed without any head gear – only a mouthpiece. “When I got in the ring, I stuck my nose right in there; I didn’t dance around much.” When asked about injuries, Joe replied that he had his nose broken a couple of times and a tooth knocked out once. “I got banged around quite a bit, but never had a broken bone. And my mind is still good – at least I think it is,” he added with a chuckle.

During his boxing career, Joe traveled the circuit throughout the Midwest covering Oklahoma City, Omaha, Michigan, and Indiana. He even boxed on the same card as Sugar Ray Robinson in St. Louis one time. At the close of his career Little Joe’s win-loss record stood at 35-15-2; 35 wins, 15 losses and 2 even draws.

After retirement, Joe worked at the Air Force Supply Depot at Forbes Field operating a fork lift. He also spent about seven years training and promoting other fighters. Nadine was a homemaker and held various sales at their home for individuals who didn’t want to organize their own sales. Earlier in life Nadine worked for the Carpenter brothers' dry cleaning business. She then taught her brother Bob (Cain) how to dry clean, and he went on to start his own business – Highland Park Dry Cleaning. Sadly, Nadine passed away near what would have been their 50th wedding anniversary.

Joe and Nadine’s daughter still lives and works in Topeka. After meeting and talking with Jodine on the phone, it didn’t take long for me to recognize that she inherited her dad’s ambition and feistiness. “Everyone tells me I’m just like my daddy,” she said. “But when that Italian boxer comes out it can get me into trouble!” Jodine has been a makeup artist for the past fifteen years and works on location. About four years ago she started her own make-up and hair business, The Joey Cain Company. Jodine specializes in weddings but also does photo shoots, fashion shows and even did makeup for a movie once. In addition, Jodine is the general manager at Applewood Barbecue and Bistro at Lake Shawnee, Kansas.

Jodine Romano

As for Joe, his hobbies have included golfing and playing poker – and he continued jogging clear into his sixties. Joe is a huge Elvis fan, as evidenced by the pictures of Elvis that line one wall of his room.

The remaining walls contain framed news articles from the Topeka Capital-Journal, along with a photograph of Joe with Frank Sinatra and another one of Joe with Primo Canero, a heavyweight boxing champion from Italy.

Joe with Primo Canero

When asked about his personal philosophy, Joe replied: “Enjoy living. Take advantage of the time while you’re here. Do things you want to do.”

That sounds like good advice coming from a man who has lived life to the fullest – both inside and outside of the ring.

Joe Romano today

Monday, November 03, 2008

Keen Tribute

Keen during rugby game at Singapore American School (around 1974)

“The relationship between husband and wife should be one of closest friends.” ~ B. R. Ambedkar

Keen Tribute

By Eileen Umbehr

This Saturday marks 50 years,
Since you have been on this earth
Do you know how much I love you?
Do you realize your immeasurable worth?

You truly are one in a million
And I thank God we found one another
Even though it took moving half way ‘round the world
For me there was no other

You have put up with all of my quirks
And loved me through thick and thin
I’m sure more than one woman has secretly wished
That maybe – just maybe – you had a twin!

But you are my one and only
And I’m the only girl you’ve ever kissed
There aren’t many men who can say that
So I realize how richly I’m blessed

Life with you is never a dull moment
But I wouldn’t have it any other way
I never know what’s around the corner
Our life is like an adventure bouquet!

Now on this your 50th birthday
I’d give you the world if it were in my power
But instead I’ll just give you all of my love
And pray God’s blessings on you will be showered

I love you, Keen. Happy 50th Birthday!


Ode to Keen
By Eileen Umbehr
July 14, 1998

Lord, You're my best friend in the whole wide world,
Forever faithful and true;
and You blessed me with someone right here on earth,
Someone who's just like You.

He's always there when I need him,
He never lets me down;
And whenever I'm feeling sad or blue,
He turns to a smile, my frown.

You brought us together in Singapore,
When we were only fifteen;
And ever since the day we met,
He has made me feel like a queen.

He never chooses to point out my faults,
He acts as if I don't have any;
And even though I appreciate this,
We both know that I have many.

In twenty years of marital bliss,
Not one unkind word has he said;
I only wish that I could say the same,
But You know I'm the hothead.

But just like You, he's patient with me,
Even when I get stressed;
He helps me stay calm in the midst of the storm,
And says things will work out for the best.

He tells me he's the lucky one,
To have me as his wife;
But I am the one who is truly blessed,
To have him in my life.


A Real Find

By Eileen Umbehr
For Keen on our 21st anniversary - June 10, 1999

I was shopping for a gift,
For my husband, dear;
Something to commemorate,
Our marriage of twenty-one years.

I thought that I would buy him,
A tie tack for the occasion,
And so I headed for the mall,
To fulfill my expectation.

I found so many different styles,
Some were fancy, others plain,
And it wasn't very long before,
My patience started to wane.

But finally I narrowed my search,
Down to two that looked real nice;
The only difference between them,
Was, of course, the price!

In my mind I debated the issue,
Back and forth I went,
Trying to decide which one to buy,
For this blessed event.

Suddenly, it all became clear,
Like a light bulb going off in my head;
So I pointed to the more precious one,
And this is what I said.

My husband is a real gem,
Truly, I do not jest;
For he's one in a million,
Who deserves the very best.

Thus, the choice is simple,
This fine tie tack is now sold;
For my husband's not a gold-plated guy,
He’s 14-karat gold!

Keen and Eileen in Singapore, age 16

Keen and Eileen today