Monday, May 30, 2011

A FAMILY JOURNAL: FATHER TO SON-RE: STAFF SGT. JOSEPH HAMSKI-VOLUME 14

The journal you are about to read is part of an ongoing dialogue.  The words are a conversation between "the family" of the soldier experience.  It's Dads, Moms, Sons,  Daughters,  Relatives and Friends sharing their thoughts of a particular day and/or it could be the soldiers journal entry detailing his or hers.  I believe there are many, many people keeping a journal through the Afghan War.  If you want to share an entry of yours email it to jkmyfathersvoice@gmail.com  Your post will be strictly confidential,  no names will be used.  In addition, locations overseas will not be mentioned for security purposes except the country of origin.  Some editing may be done to further protect the journal participant.

Dear Sonpo:

This day, this Memorial Day is much different than any I've ever experienced.  I think back to the days of marching band in junor high and high school and the long march we had around town to the cemetery.  I remember my sore feet from marching and the lines of people along the parade route.   And the flags.....they were everywhere.  Along the streets....at the gravesites....and the magnificent one with the color guard.

But this Memorial Day is unusual, because of the commitment you made some two years ago to our country's military.  Last year you were here with us.  This Memorial Day, you are far away in Afghanistan.  That alone is pretty hard to come to grips with.

I'm also trying to absorb another aspect of this day.  Friday, we learned  Staff Sgt. Joseph J. Hamski, 28 of Ottumwa, died when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.  A second airman, Tech Sgt. Kristoffer M. Solebee, 32, of Citrus Heights, Calif, also died in the attack.  The incident occurred in the Shorabak district of Kandahar province.

Immediately, my thoughts turned to Staff Sgt. Hamski's family.  What must they be going through?  How are they holding up?  Friday afternoon, when so many in our country were making plans for the long Memorial Day weekend, Staff Sgt. Hamski's family was boarding a plane enroute to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware where they'd meet the remains of their fallen soldier.  I can NOT imagine how a mother could endure such a moment.....not to mention a recently married wife, Staff Sgt. Maria Christian Hamski.  Forever, their Memorial Day will have a whole new significance, albeit a heart breaking one.

 I tell you these things son because they'll mean so much more to you later on.  You're busy right now and I don't want to change what your focus should be.  It seems like you and your troops are taking a mission every day....and if you're not doing that your dodging incoming mortars at night.  Just stay the course.  But put this journal note down for something to come back to.  It will give you a new understanding of Memorial Day.

Why?  Listen to one of Staff Sgt. Hamski's best friends, Gabriel Stoffa as he shares some thoughts.  "And for Joe's friends and family, I wish we had all had more time with him.  I wish we had gotten to say goodbye to Joe in old age as he complained about any of the far-reaching topics he would so gladly bitch about over drinks with friends.  He would have made a great crotchety old man; hell, he basically was one, just without the old age".  Despite all the hurt inside by his loss, Stoffa hit on a comment with a great sense of humor.  His comment will be a reminder of the ultimate sacrifice, his best friend, Staff Sgt. Joseph Hamski made.

It wouldn't be to far fetched to think Hamksi's friends and family will be telling stories of the one that helped others put a face on Memorial Day...the reason we need to hold this Holiday with the utmost respect.   Staff Sgt. Joseph Hamski, we salute you, now and forever.

Hamski is survived by his wife, Air Force Staff Sgt. Maria Christina Hamski, and his mother, Mary Ellen Winston, of Ottumwa; two sisters, Hensley of Shakopee, Minn., and Nicole Friedman of Blakesburg; and a brother, Thomas Hamski of Nevada.

U.S. Soldiers place lit candles to mark Memorial Day 2011 in Afghanistan
To add further proof of a much different Memorial Day, this came from the FoxNews wires late Sunday night.

"Kabul Afghanistan-Nearly a decade later, after more than 1,400 killed in combat, some U.S. troops paused for a moment Sunday to remember what brought Americans to Afghanistan and to honor the lives that continue to be lost.  Blackhawk helicopters churned through the night sky as a strong wind coming over Kabul's surrounding mountains blew against the flickering candles that case an orange glow on those gathered for the ceremony at the U.S. Army Corps of  Engineers' headquarters".  How awesome is that??

And then this.  I watched "60 Minutes" tonight.  CBS had a good portion of the show dedicated to Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta and the episode that led to his being awarded the Medal of Honor.  I was impressed with the Staff Sgt's "humbleness" in what he did in saving several soldiers lives on October 25, 2007.  But what stood out for me was the mention of the loss of two of his fellow soldiers, Sgt. Joshua Brennan and Specialist Hugo Mendoza.  "Their names, their faces will always be connected with the Medal of Honor I received", Giunta said.  And now you know why people like David Letterman said, "I like this guy", when he interviewed the Staff Sgt. on his late-night TV show.  Staff Sgt. Giunta is always looking to give others the credit that day.  Something we could all do more of.  It's easy to see why, "Our plans are not always God's plans".

21 Days or 3 weeks to go......Praying for your Safety Son.  Praying for you daily and thinking of you and your fellow soldiers so much this Memorial Day!!

Love,

Dadpo


                                                      -30-

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A SILENT NIGHT WITHOUT CHRISTMAS

We are closing in on Memorial Day, not quite the halfway mark to Christmas.  C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S, the Holiday so many of us are thrilled to see come because of the memories it brings us.  I like alot about that time of year, but my favorite is hearing the old favorite song, "Silent Night".  There has always been something about the tune that really struck a chord with me.  But then came 1984 and a group by the name of Mannheim Steamroller.  The founder of the group, Chip Davis, modernized a number of songs for their Christmas CD.  "Stille Nacht" or more commonly known to us as "Silent Night" was one of those.  I'm not sure I've ever heard a more beautiful rendition of my Christmas favorite.  I listened to it over and over trying to soak in the emotion.  Each time gave me a different thought, a different persuasion. 

Almost 22 years ago my father passed away.  As we made funeral plans, I asked my mom, brother and sister if we could play that song.  Thankfully, all agreed, although I'm sure they wondered where the Christmas theme came into play. That wasn't the point though.  I had wanted to create an image of silence and appreciation and love for the time on earth my father gave me.  He certainly deserved it.

Just last week I was communicating with a former co-worker that I hadn't spoken to in maybe 20 years.  I had sent her a note in regards to a mutual friend whose mother had just passed away.  She said, "You know, just yesterday I was thinking of your Dad's funeral when you played Silent Night.  I still think of your Dad every time I hear that song.  Seriously."  I 'd be lying if I wasn't right there with her.  And that's why, even though, it's not Christmas time, I'm going to share it with you.....as we head into Memorial Day.

Think about our troops.....past, present and future that have sacrificed so much for us. Listen to the eloquence of  "Stille Nacht" along with a poem recorded by Father Ted Berndt.  Father Berndt was a priest at Bread of Life Charismatic Episcopal Church in Dousman, Wisconsin.   Berndt was a proud Marine and a WWII Purple Heart recipient.  The original adaption of the poem was written by Lance Corporal James M. Schmidt in 1987.



video


Is "Silent Night" a song for all seasons?  You be the judge.  In our family it is.  If you've listened to this song today, I challenge you to not think of your appreciation of life and sacrifice in a much different manner.  At least I'd hope you can.......Play it again and again if you WANT.  It doesn't have to be Christmas time to soak it all in.  And may we all remember our Soldiers this Memorial Weekend

YGG,

John

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A SOLDIER'S CALL, YOU NEED TO HEAR

I am amazed how God connects the dots in our lives.  Simply amazed.  And then again, I'm not.  Because that's how he WORKS.  Yesterday, I received an email from a lady, Sue Diaz, that I will share with you.  I'm not sure how she found me, but she sent an email to an account that I use for non-business stuff for the most part.  I think, more than anything, Sue and I connecting was alot about God's letting me know that I am not done.  Not yet anyway.....     

Dear John:
My son is back from the war, but my heart and prayers go out to our troops still there.  If I may, I'd like to share with you a couple of videos related to the war and my family's experience of it......please feel free to post or share them in any way you feel appropriate.

Sue Diaz

The first video I will pass along has to do with her son's deployment.  I'll let her tell the story.....  

video


Well...did that hit home?  Have you had that same type of a conversation in your household or over the phone with your soldier?  We have.  And it is not a particularly enjoyable subject to discuss.  At the Prayer Vigil on May 15th for our Iowa National Guard Soldiers deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, one of speakers, Ed Vos made a point much like Sue Diaz has.  Speaking from his 22-year military career, Vos, eloquently questioned the crowd, "how many other jobs are there were you fill out a will as part of employment paperwork".  My gosh, did that hit home.

We ask alot of our soldiers, who in turn ask much from family.  It's a give and take proposition.  Some of you will never have to experience that.  But if you do, you will learn more about yourself and your soldier than you ever knew possible.

YGG,

John

P.S. If you'd like to see more of Sue Diaz's work go to http://www.minefieldsoftheheart.com/

Sunday, May 22, 2011

AS IOWA TROOPS "COUNTDOWN", EYES TO SEE, EARS TO HEAR

I've got to ask you a question....and I hope you'll be honest with yourself.  I'd like to inquire of all the soldiers, the families, the relatives, the friends.....all of you, collectively, How ya doing?  How ya doing knowing that days are dwindling down in the deployment of your soldier with the Iowa National Guard Troops that deployed to Afghanistan in October.  How ya doing with any news item that hits the wires?  How ya doing after you hang up the phone talking to your loved one?  How ya doing after a Facebook correspondence runs dry and there is nothing more to say.  How ya doing with those restless nights of sleep not to mention any bad dreams you have along the way?  How ya doing during the waking hours, during work time, during activities that used to be of great enjoyment to you......are you finding your mind wandering all over the place?  How ya doing with people you know who don't ask anymore, "how's everything?"  And how ya doing in sharing your struggles along the way with people who have checked out on you.....you know the ones that were supportive at first, but give you the impression that you overreact far too much?  Now, I ask you again, "How ya doing?"  And don't tell me the stock answer..."fine".

I'll share with you where I am.  Maybe that will help.  I'm tired, I'm wore out and I'm exhausted.  I can't wait to get our son off the soils of Afghanistan and on his road home.  My wife feels the same way.  We just want him home.  I'm sure leaving Afghanistan  is a pretty common mind-set amongst the troops as well, at least what I've been able to view from general attitudes of soldiers I know.  They're exhausted too.

So how about joining forces?  You, me, our soldiers our friends, our family, etc.  When I said I was exhausted and you could be too, that doesn't mean were down for the count.  We're still breathing and operating in this universe.  Here's my suggestion to you.  You can take it or leave it....hopefully, you'll take it.

Even though I'm exhausted doesn't mean I can't pray.  I've prayed more in the last six months than I might have in my entire life.  And that's been a good thing.  In addition, I've found out how to pray better.  That's been awesome as well.  Last Sunday, we held a Prayer Vigil for the Iowa National Guard Troops deployed to Afghanistan and their families.  I saw another way to pray.  Rosemary Giunta, mother of our Medal of Honor recipient, Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta,  provided that eye-opening moment.  If you've come to my blog recently, you've seen this prayer.....but I'm going to re-run her video.  I'd like you to listen.....then listen again with your eyes closed.  Tell me if she doesn't involve nearly every aspect of your soldiers concerns.  It's all there for you and yours.  And then after you do, encourage your soldier to listen to it, and share it with his friends and "buddies".  I can pray, you can pray, we all can pray for our troops.  This past week we had four soldiers from the 133rd, my son's unit, injured in another IED blast.  Did the prayers from the Prayer Vigil make a difference?  Would the injuries those four soldiers endured have been more serious had we not been fervent in prayer?  I don't know....but I do know prayer is a mighty force.  Pray that you can see and hear the message in Mrs. Giunta's voice for you in these last days and for our soldiers.  We're that close to getting the troops home.  We're exhausted, no doubt.  But we're not done quite yet, we can all keep praying.


video
                 

The four soldiers involved in last week's IED incident are Sgt. Chisum Frisch, 23, of Cedar Falls, Iowa; Spc. Jacob Hutchison, 21, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Spc. Benjamin Ward, 26, of Rowley, Iowa; and Private 1st Class Tanner Williams, 18, of Tama, Iowa.  Three of the four are either on their way home or will be in the coming days.  One of the soldiers will be returning to Company C, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry.  Pray for their recoveries.  Wouldn't it be awesome to one day meet them and say, "How ya doing?"  And most importantly know that your question was not just a passing thought.

YGG,

John 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

STAFF SGT. SAL GIUNTA'S MOTHER, ROSEMARY, PRAYS FOR U.S. TROOPS

It  was November 23rd, just a couple of days before Thanksgiving Day.  But I remember it like it was yesterday.  And I'm sure I will for the remainder of my life.  That particular day was to be Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta Day in Iowa.  A day for honoring the United States first living Medal of Honor recipient in more than 40 years at the State Capitol in Des Moines.  I recall asking my youngest son, Jordan, if he'd like to go with me being that his two older brothers were now both in the military.

I'm not sure if Jordan understood the significance of the day.  Not to say he didn't know there was some importance, but how much, I'm not sure.  After the ceremony, I said to him, "let's go meet the Staff Sgt's mother".  "Uhh, why?, he said.....why do we want to do that"?   "Because", I responded in my fatherly voice that men do when they don't want to go into a long explanation.  "I feel I'm supposed to connect with her".  So we did.

From that encounter has come some great healing moments for our family.  Rosemary Giunta has been an encourager along the way of our oldest son, Kristopher's, deployment to Afghanistan.  She knows....she's been there....and she has the discernment in how to deal with military life, prayerfully.  And how!!

Rosemary and I have had many a conversation molding our relationship to God and the tie we have in our compassion for our soldiers and their families. We weren't certain where this would take us.  But all along God had a plan.  Last Sunday, Rosemary was part of an awesome group of people who lent their "gifts" in a prayer vigil for the Iowa National Guard Troops deployed in in Afghanistan and their families.  I need to thank Bret Culbertson for videotaping the vigil and providing his enormous talent in editing the piece you are about to see and that is now on YouTube.  Rosemary's prayer was a stoppage in time, literally.  Take a listen.  But let me ask one other thing of you.  Make some time and watch....then click on the video again and close your eyes and listen to Rosemary's words.......and then ask yourself it that is God led.


video

Last Sunday we prayed for the safety and protection for the Iowa National Guard Soldiers specifically, but in general terms Rosemary's words were for any serviceman or woman and their families.  Her soothing words have the calming voice of a mother to a son or daughter.  They are spoken with such truth and boldness.  And just think......I reflect back to November 23rd and think how easy it would have been to blow off attending the Capitol function of the Staff Sgt.  How easy it would have been to say, don't have the time or any other excuse I could think of for not going. 

Yup, I could have said all of those thoughts and convinced myself not to go.  But there was a whisper inside me saying I needed to connect with Rosemary.  And now I know why.  All along, God wanted to use us and other people we knew to pray, sing and speak for our troops and to show others the power of that prayer.  For you soldiers that watch her video, hang onto her words.  Watch it each night and know the strength and comfort that resides there.  But most importantly, know SOMEONE IS PRAYING FOR YOU.

UPDATE (story from Iowa National Guard released at 2:20 p.m. on May 20th):   

Four Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Iowa Army National Guard, were wounded when their vehicle was struck by an Improvised Explosive Device while conducting combat operations in Afghanistan on Wednesday, May 18.

Sgt. Chisum Frisch, 23, of Cedar Falls, Iowa; Spc. Jacob Hutchison, 21, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Spc. Benjamin Ward, 26, or Rowley, Iowa; and Private 1st Class Tanner Williams, 18, of Tama, Iowa, were transported to medical facilities at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan. Frisch, Ward and Williams were members of Company C, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry, while Hutchison belonged to the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Brigade Special Troops Battalion.

The Prayer Vigil on Sunday and the 24/7 Prayer Calendar are for you fine gentlemen and for your fellow soldiers.  As I said above....KNOW SOMEONE IS PRAYING FOR YOU!!

YGG,

John

Monday, May 16, 2011

SEEDS HAVE BEEN PLANTED FOR IOWA NATIONAL GUARD TROOPS

Your physical senses are incapable of judging whether a seed is alive or not. You cannot see, feel, hear, smell, or taste the life in a seed. There is only one way to prove a seed is alive -- plant it.

The words above speak so much truth, but as human beings we often times get in the way.  How do you know the power of the seed you plant?  You don't.  You might not ever know in your lifetime....but that doesn't mean you don't plant it.  I have a myriad of thoughts from Sunday's Prayer Vigil that was held for the Iowa National Guard troops and their families.  Foremost, though, is this.  We heard God Ask....We Obeyed.....and We Planted Seeds.  And those seeds will multiply.  I think of the thousands who heard and saw the radio and television reports of the event.   And then I think of the outreach we can have in placing parts of the vigil on You Tube.  That's where we're feeling directed.  Yes, our seeds can have far reaching effects.  But it takes us to act on those promptings. 

Our Nations Colors Provided The Foundation of the Prayer Vigil

Case in point, this morning, I'm coming home from picking up my son, Jonathan.  We pull in the driveway and get out of the car as our neighbors are leaving their house.    "Saw you on TV last night", wow, that was great", the husband said.  I could say I was taken aback by his comments, but that would not even begin to put the proper wordage to it.  I was blown away.  For over two years now, we've lived next door to these people.  They hardly ever say anything to us...or any other neighbor for that matter.  When they come home, it's in the garage and down with the door, immediately.  We've tried to connect with them despite some outbursts....like our dog venturing into their yard, one of our cats killing a bird near their bird feeder and our teenage kids noise and cars.  Not once have they mentioned the yellow ribbon around the tree in our front yard, around the mailbox or on a post at the front door.  Not once, since our son deployed to Afghanistan in July of 2010.  Not once.

And then there was this.  On top of that, neighbor man, says, "my son here (helping dad and mom this morning), flys for a commercial airlines and he takes soldiers back and forth to Kuwait. When will your son get back?".  And the dialogue was off and running.  Coincidence?  not hardly!!!

There have been others and I know there will be more.  That's the neat thing. 

I had a reporter ask me after the event if I thought it was a success.  "It's not up to me to say that",  I said.  I know the people that God wanted to be there, were".   Maybe I can put it into an even better perspective.  Sunday, May 15th we invited people to come to a session...kind of like a recording session.  People sang, they spoke, they prayed.  I do know the ones that attended the vigil were moved deeply.  I had more than one of the performers mention the "longing" expression of comfort many in the crowd displayed.  Yes, the Holy Spirit was there front and center.

 Now, the message is being taken forward through those that experienced the day firsthand, those that heard and saw it on the radio and television news and then the ones that will see it on YouTube and on Facebook and through My Father's Voice. 

Back to a comment I made at the head of this post.  There is only one way to prove a seed is alive -- plant it.  So what's next? 

The seed of the word is planted in our heart, then the water of the word keeps it alive.  In the Bible, 1Corinthians 3:6 says "I planted, Apollos watered, and God's life makes it grow.  For our soldiers, know that people are loving on you big time.  You are in their thoughts and prayers.  Just know that there are more today than yesterday and they'll be more tomorrow than today.  Rest in that.

YGG,

John
 

Friday, May 13, 2011

THE CALM.....THEN COMES THE PRAYER STORM

The final arrangements are just about complete for the Prayer Vigil set for this Sunday at 2 p.m. on the west side of the Iowa State Capitol.  The day has been set aside for the 2,800 Iowa National Guard Troops who deployed to Afghanistan some nine months ago. And it's for their families, the ones who have worried, sacrificed, and prayed for their safety.

Soon, it will be time to turn over the event to some tremendously talented and gifted people. God has used me as an instrument in getting this project off the ground.   Now, you'll see their gifts at work.  My gosh, they are SO gifted.

Put Any Name You Want Here...They All Apply
I'll give you a rundown of the who and what without letting you in on the entire program. The prayer vigil emcee will be Brooke Bouma of WHO-TV Channel 13 in Des Moines.....we are so excited to have her directing our steps, especially considering the short turnaround time we were under.  Our three speakers, Chaplain Michael Crawford, Rosemary Giunta and Ed Vos will provide great insight with their perspectives of military life either on the inside or out. Chaplain Crawford officiated Spc. Don Nichols funeral in Waverly, Iowa several weeks ago. His experiences in seeing community come together will be part of the sharing.

Rosemary Giunta, mother of Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta will sketch a prayer profile she and her family and church followed while her son was deployed, while he was shot and then events leading up to his eventual Medal of Honor recognition. Vos served our nation for over twenty years, completing multiple deployments with the United States Marines and the Air National Guard. His final deployment was to Afghanistan in 2008, where he provided "outside the wire" tactical security for Air Force, Navy and Army Chaplains to villages and outposts. A portion of his words will touch on reintegration of troops as they return to American soil.

Musically, I can not think of a better lineup locally to offer. Patricia Payne-Wiggins will sing "Somebody's Praying". She couldn't have picked a more appropriate song. Linda Juckette and John Cheatem are going to offer a couple of numbers....which I'm not at liberty to say by name. You'll just have to come and listen. During prayer time, Matt McNeece will provide the proper mood with his acoustical talents....and then there are a couple of our state's youth stepping up.

Brothers Jonathan and Jacob Demastus will lead the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. Jonathan is Battalion Major and Jacob is Sergeant 1st Class in Batallion S1 in the Central Campus JROTC in Des Moines. And last....because that's where she always performs, is Bugler Kelly Kilbride of Sac City, Iowa. Kilbride, 14, is the youngest female bugler in Buglers Across America.  It doesn't take much imagination to know what she'll perform.

I said weeks ago in my mention of this prayer vigil becoming a reality...that it's purpose was for "prayer". Why?  Because "PRAYER CHANGES EVERYTHING".  Come Sunday and see "why" for yourself.

YGG,

John

I've had several people mention PSALM 91 to me this week for prayer. I think it's rather fitting.

You who sit down in the High God's presence, spend the night in Shaddai's shadow,
Say this: "God, you're my refuge.
I trust in you and I'm safe!"
That's right—he rescues you from hidden traps,
shields you from deadly hazards.
His huge outstretched arms protect you—
under them you're perfectly safe;
his arms fend off all harm.

Fear nothing—not wild wolves in the night,
not flying arrows in the day,
Not disease that prowls through the darkness,
not disaster that erupts at high noon.
Even though others succumb all around,
drop like flies right and left,
no harm will even graze you.
You'll stand untouched, watch it all from a distance,
watch the wicked turn into corpses.
Yes, because God's your refuge,
the High God your very own home,
Evil can't get close to you,
harm can't get through the door.
He ordered his angels
to guard you wherever you go.
If you stumble, they'll catch you;
their job is to keep you from falling.
You'll walk unharmed among lions and snakes,
and kick young lions and serpents from the path.

If you'll hold on to me for dear life," says God,
"I'll get you out of any trouble.
I'll give you the best of care
if you'll only get to know and trust me.
Call me and I'll answer, be at your side in bad times;
I'll rescue you, then throw you a party.
I'll give you a long life,
give you a long drink of salvation!"

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

IOWA TROOPS AND FAMILIES AWAITING YOUR PRAYERS

My wife, Joanne, has a friend we'll call Mac.  She has been a wonder to behold in recent days....and here's why.  She's been  praying like a woman on a mission for the prayer vigil for our Iowa National Guard soldiers and families this coming weekend.  Most prominent in her prayers are the words "Miraculous Turn of Events......Miraculous Turn of Events".  She's been praying those words and has them taped up at various locations in her house.  That's the power of prayer!!!!  Lets' have Rick Warren share some other thoughts about Prayer.  Perhaps you'll be able to relate.

Do you ever wonder if prayer really works?  You're praying about something and Satan whispers to you, "This is a waste of time.  Forget it!  Who do you think you are?  What do you think you're doing?  Don't waste your time."  Prayer works because God is in control.  The basis of all miracles is God's sovereignty.  Why does He do one and not another?  Because God is in control.  We have to trust His wisdom and His goodness .  Ephesians 3:20 says, "God is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of, infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires and thoughts or hopes."

Prayer can do whatever God can do.  His resources are available to you.  Twenty times in the New Testament it says, "Ask".  It's encouraging to know that things that are out of my control are not out of God's.  I may not be able to change a situation, but I can pray and God can change it.

Those are some powerful words.....and oh so truthful.  That's why I'm sharing them with you as we approach our Sunday Prayer Vigil at the Iowa State Capitol.  Come and be a part of it.  It begins at 2 p.m. on the west side of the Capitol in the area they call the West Capitol Terrace.  In a day or two, I will share with you the people who have offered their gifts to this day.  You'll be amazed how God has moved in bringing the right people to us.  So, you're invited, the picture below is your ticket to the event.  Realize I don't have time to send you a formal invitation, but know you're on my list.  And by the way, if you have some reservations or you don't know how you'd get there, check with your friends or neighbors.  They've got the same invitation.  So, why not come together?    


To the Prayer Vigil at the Iowa State Capitol this Sunday

Today and in the coming days, You and I may be the only message of God's love, grace, and forgiveness that people hear and see.  Remember that.   And remember that....simply because our troops and their families are so, so deserving of this day, where as one, we can stand and raise our hands to the heavens in appreciation and asking for their safety and protection.

Say it with me...." A Miraculous Turn of Events....A Miraculous Turn of Events.  Hope to see you Sunday....cause we're praying you'll be there.


YGG,

John  

Monday, May 9, 2011

I'M QUITTING FOR THE LAST TIME

Did the headline catch your attention?  Were you curious what the heck I meant?  I know I was when I first saw the headline forwarded to me by my new motivational friend, Rick Nielsen.  He has uncanny timing.  Or with the help he gets from God, he'd tell you, it was right timing.  

It's no secret I've experienced about every emotion imaginable trying to put together the prayer vigil for this coming Sunday for our Iowa National Guard troops and families.  I've so wanted this to be an event the entire state can take part in.  And I've hoped for a big crowd to pray and pray and pray.  It might happen and then again, it might not.  And that's why I'm quitting.  Because it's the right time. And the time is now. I've had this prayer vigil as a vision for several weeks.  I've made a run doing some of the work, but now it's God turn to show me the way.  Here is the message Rick shared with me. 

"God, there's just not enough room for the both of us to be in charge of my life.  It's not that I haven't taken the job seriously, mind you!  I have fretted, laid awake nights, and worked out the most detailed and wonderful schemes.  The problem is not with the planning and scheming.  It's with the "control" thing.  Or perhaps I should have said, the lack-of-control thing.   

Oh, I know.  You have repeatedly told me that You are competent to be in charge and that putting You in charge would relieve me of worry.  But I seem to enjoy it.  The fact I'm worried about tomorrow seems to tell my sick soul that I somehow have a semblance of control over it.  But I don't.  I just don't.  

Then there's the mess I make of things.  The worried-over plan begins to be put in motion, one of those things or people I can't control comes into play and the bus runs into the ditch!   I try to press on.  I try to force outcomes.  The ditch gets deeper, and the pain begins to come. 

Even so, You show up and offer to take control.  You ask me-without ever forcing things-to turn loose of the wheel and trust You to steer.  Sometimes I want to let you have control.  I really do.  Then something wells up inside me that makes me push You away-to tell You I can do it all by myself.  Truth be told, I'm often thinking that just as soon as I get this thing out of the ditch, then I'm going to ask You to drive.  Unfortunately, I never do. 

Then there are the people on the bus with me.  They are always the people I love most and for whose welfare I care about most passionately.  When I drive, then wreck, then push You away, I sense their disappointment.  Even that, however, hasn't been enough to this point.  It kills me to know I'm hurting them, but I still want to steer.  I want to be at the controls.  I want to be in charge. 

The time has come to try another approach.  Oh it's not that I want to be heard saying that Your way is the way of last resort for me.  Or maybe it is?  But I'm just so tired.  And banged up.  And You and I both know things aren't getting any better with me in charge.  So that's why I've made up my mind .  

God, I'm quitting.  No more Mr. Know-It-All.  No more having to be in charge.  No more playing like I know more about myself than You do.  You're in control from this point forward.  Heart and mind and body.  Family and personal.  Career and social.  Thursday as well as this coming Sunday.  It's all yours now."  

Because I quit.  At least I'm going to quit trying to have control over things that I can't..  

So in the matter that I can, here is a song I'd like to share with you from Avalon.  It's about our freedoms and our troops.....and it's a tune you're liable to hear come Sunday, May 15th at 2 p.m. at the State Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa.  Cue the song...

video

YGG,

John

Friday, May 6, 2011

THE PRAYER VIGIL IS ON...GET READY

I drove by the sign on Highway 141 west of the Wooward, Iowa exit  for the second time in my life, at least that's what I recall.  It's not a very big billboard, if that's what you want to call it....and it's about as simple as there is.  The letters stick out on the white background, but oh, how they make their point.  "Prayer Changes Everything" is the message.  Short, simple and right to the point. 

A Powerful Message
This second viewing caught my eye Wednesday as I made my way to Manning for the funeral of Staff Sgt. James Justice.  I had a number of thoughts going through my head as I driving westward, but the sign changed it all.  Not only did I forget what was on my mind.....I started thinking about the Justice family and the support and  prayers they needed.  So I prayed.  Did that change the fact that I was headed to a funeral......no.  But I think it played a large part in the 2,000 plus people that showed up.  I'm sure there were others praying for that same result. 

Which leads me to THE PRAYER VIGIL.  I've talked about a prayer vigil for several weeks now. Quite frankly, there have been some disappointing times as I've tried to rattle the bushes and make people aware of the need.  And then there have been the victorious times where people have offered encouragement or support.  Through the highs and lows, I've received an education that helps put frustration into its proper perspective. Have you ever heard the phrase, "I'm a slow learner?"  Living proof...I am.   Where I'd like everyone to support this vigil or attend, it's just not going to happen.  God will direct those that he wants to help in the event's success and those that he wants to show up.  No more and no less.  I'm only helping deliver that message.  So here goes with the details to date.

Location:  West Side of the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa
Date:        May 15th, 2011
Time:       2:00 p.m.       

You might be asking yourself, why should this prayer vigil matter to me?  Well...it's not just for the safety of our soldiers in their "countdown" days, it's for the deployed families who are struggling with a myriad of emotions.  Let me put it way.  Last summer when the 2,800 troops deployed there were tears and much more.  That lasted for some time.  Then a numbness emerged where acceptance of the mission became more real.  But now, its back to the emotional stage.  Phone calls and door bell rings are taking on a different set of tones.  Should I answer that?  Does it carry bad news?  Let's pray not.    

May 15th is also a day where you can individually learn how to pray specifically for our troops....and what to pray for in regards to the end of deployment and family concerns.  It's also about taking the messages heard on May 15th and returning to the communities around our state.  Some just need direction.  I think you'll see that in evidence a week from Sunday. 

Next week, I will be placing a link to a 24/7 calendar on the MFV blog where you can register for a one-hour block of time to pray specifically for our troops/families.  No matter your situation (short/tall/old/young/disabled) you can pray and hold yourself accountable by reserving a time slot.  Our hopes are to extend that through July 4th.....and maybe beyond, if the need is there.  Visitors from over 60 countries have come to "My Father's Voice".  We want you to pray as well.  Your reasons for coming to the blog and praying might be overwhelming in itself.    

So you see, the event on the 15th is only one little part of the whole picture.  All I know is....the Holy Spirit is moving and he is asking us for PRAYER like we've never seen before.  Does Prayer Change Everything?  Come next Sunday and find out.

YGG,

John      

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

WE WILL REMEMBER YOU, STAFF SGT. JUSTICE

There was plenty of sun and even more wind in Manning, Iowa today at a packed IKM Manning gymnasium of family, friends and military personnel  who paid their last respects to Staff Sgt. James Justice.   

Justice was killed on April 23, 2011 and was 32 years of age.  After completing a routine security patrol at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan, word was received of a downed OH-58 Kiowa helicopter in the neighboring Kapisa province north east of Kabul.   Justice and some of his fellow soldiers from the Iowa Army National Guard’s Alpha Troop 1st Squadron 113th Cavalry boarded a UH 60 Black Hawk helicopter to rescue the two man crew of the downed helicopter. After their craft landed the group came under small arms fire. 

Staff Sgt. James Justice

Three good friends of Justice, Major Jason Erb, Jeremy Vennick and Tyler Christianson reminisced of their days of growing up in small town Iowa.  All three spoke highly of their decorated friend, the one with an infectious personality.  Each offered a little different look at Justice.  I couldn't help but think of the difficulty it had to have been for them to stand in front of a room of hundreds of people minus their best buddy.  Strong, yet full of emotion, humorous yet factual, they told stories only a select few knew of before.  When they were finished with their rememberances, the three made their way off the stage and hugged Staff Sgt. Justice's wife, Amanda and other family members.

Jessica Fine, a co-worker of Amanda's, described Justice as a special friend despite knowing him just a short time.  “And I am honored to have known James because of the husband, father, son, brother, uncle and friend that he was,” Fine said, “he died serving a country that he loved, and I can’t wait until the day when I can tell Caydence (his daughter) about what a hero and honorable man her daddy really was.”

Without question, it was a day to remember.  Vocalist Anya Paulette added further evidence to that theme in singing a song by Sarah McLachlan, "I Will Remember You".  It was the perfect song delivered perfectly.......

I will remember you
Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by
Weep not for the memories

I'm so tired but I can't sleep
Standin' on the edge of something much too deep
It's funny how we feel so much but we cannot say a word
Though we are screaming inside oh we can't be heard

I will remember you
Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by
Weep not for the memories

I'm so afraid to love you, but more afraid to loose -]
Clinging to a past that doesn't let me choose
But once there was a darkness, deep and endless night
You gave me everything you had, oh you gave me light

That I will remember you
Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by
Weep not for the memories

I will remember you
Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by
Weep not for the memories


At the conclusion of the ceremony, more than 50 pair of military personnel made their way to Justice's coffin for the traditional salute to the fallen soldier.  That alone was something to remember.....yet, there was a whole lot more.  We will remember you Staff Sgt. Justice.

Rest in peace.

Justice is survived by his wife Amanda and three-year-old daughter Caydence of Grimes; parents Larry and Lillian Justice of Manilla; brother Kenneth Justice of Manilla; sisters Denise Christensen of Manilla and Christina Lingle (Kevin) of Manilla; and parents-in-law Bill and Sue Sand of Eau Claire, WI;

YGG,

John

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"U.S.A." FOR SURE, BUT DON'T FORGET "US"

The chants could be heard any number of places around the world...at a baseball game between the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies.....in front of the White House....on college campuses.....with our troops in Afghanistan and most certainly, at Ground Zero.  U.S.A.!!  U.S.A.!!   The chant of those letters echoed strongly.  It appears that justice, at least in some sort, had been served.  Osama Bin Laden, the man responsible for thousands of deaths on 9-11 was killed, shot in the head and perhaps another one to the chest by Navy Elite Seal Team Six forces.

Now, we must consider what amount of of retaliation we'll see from Bin Laden's faithful.  Much like the analogy of cutting the head from a snake, what will be the reaction of these extremists.  Are Americans around the world prime to another set of terrorist acts?   And what will our military experience?  To catch a glimpse of potential situations, I'll let you in on a conversation between father and son of an experience the soldier suffered yesterday.

Son:   So on the plus side, Osama is finally dead thanks to the Navy Seals, that could be good and bad but only time will tell.  On the downside... The truck I was riding in today hit an IED... it was such a big blast that it picked the 7.5 ton truck off the ground spun it in a 180 degree turn and blew off the whole front end.  We found the motor and front end minus one tire 300ft. in front of us and the other tire was 600ft. to the west in a river and there were parts that were even further away than that.   Good news is that I'm safe, just have a headache the size of Texas and I'll probably be sore tomorrow. The soldier in the passenger seat got medevac'd out on helicopter, messed up his back and the gunner had some cuts on his face but other than that we are all good.

Father:  Praise the Lord!!  Just the 3 of you in the truck?

Son: Yea, no kidding....it had to happen the day Osama dies out of all days.

Father:  You have no injuries other than your headache? Do you go have a doctor check you out?

Son:  Nope I'm all good.  I had to go have a traumatic brain injury test with the medics and I passed so they let me go.

Father:  How many trucks were part of your group?

Son:  5 U.S. trucks and 3 ANA trucks. After it happened we had to wait for about 3 hours until EOD could come do a post blast analysis and they brought a wrecker so we could tow it back.

Father:  Say any prayers?

Son:  Oh yeah!!!

IED's do damage, but they are a cowards way in doing battle     

Okay.  Now, I'd like you to re-read this conversation.....only this time read it knowing that the son/daughter is yours and you are the parent.  Read it slower this time and let your mind sense the danger that existed...how close death was.     

Son:   So on the plus side, Osama is finally dead thanks to the Navy Seals, that could be good and bad but only time will tell.  On the downside... The truck I was riding in today hit an IED... it was such a big blast that it picked the 7.5 ton truck off the ground spun it in a 180 degree turn and blew off the whole front end.  We found the motor and front end minus one tire 300ft. in front of us and the other tire was 600ft. to the west in a river and there were parts that were even further away than that.   Good news is that I'm safe, just have a headache the size of Texas and I'll probably be sore tomorrow. The soldier in the passenger seat got medevac'd out on helicopter, messed up his back and the gunner had some cuts on his face but other than that we are all good.

Father:  Praise the Lord!!  Just the 3 of you in the truck?

Son: Yea, no kidding....it had to happen the day Osama dies out of all days.

Father:  You have no injuries other than your headache? Do you go have a doctor check you out?

Son:  Nope I'm all good.  I had to go have a traumatic brain injury test with the medics and I passed so they let me go.

Father:  How many trucks were part of your group?

Son:  5 U.S. trucks and 3 ANA trucks.  After it happened we had to wait for about 3 hours until EOD could come do a post blast analysis and they brought a wrecker so we could tow it back.

Father:  Say any prayers?

Son:  Oh yeah!!!

THIS......is the reason I have stressed the importance of prayer for our troops in the coming months.  We already knew the 2,800 Iowans who deployed to Afghanistan in October were in for heightened activity by the Taliban in these last few months.  With Bin Laden's death, more attacks, ambushes, IED plants and suicidal bombs can be expected.

When I say, don't forget "us", I say that in full honesty and sincerity for our troops.  I'm well aware people think of our soldiers sacrifice throughout the week.  Some are even praying about.  But we NEED to do more.  Like praying daily.

You could very well tire of me continuing this message.....and if you are, I'm sorry.  No...... on second thought, I'm not.   I'm not going to stop.  You see, the conversation above is between my son, Kristopher and I.   I won't sugar coat any of this.  This is downright scary stuff.  It's taken me to my knees in prayer for  his safety and God's armor of protection all around him.  But I'm not selfish.  The conversation my son and I had could just as easily have been between any other soldier and family member.  I know how close Kristopher came to serious injury or even death......and he is not alone.   He has 2,800 other men and women looking around for something to hang on to.  And I'm sure in moments of being alone, they glance to the Heavens for strength and comfort.

I pray all our soldiers are looking upward, but what about the rest of us?  I believe our message is, WE CAN HELP IN THAT COMFORT.

YGG,

John