Tuesday, December 18, 2012

WHERE WAS GOD AT NEWTOWN? RIGHT THERE.

I've been waiting for four days now to hear two little old words.  Words that have seemingly escaped the experts in trying to answer the God questions surrounding the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

Without being completely impractical, how about I list the definition of the words and see if that helps.  "The freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention."  Does that help bring the words to light?  Try "Free Will".

On Friday afternoon, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said, "Evil visited this community".  As great as those words seemed at the time, they only began to offer words of explanation.  They should have been the prelude to much more.......

Today,  I viewed a video piece from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.  Huckabee was talking about that ever present comment when tragedies like this occur "Where was God?"  I agree with the former Governor on many occasion as he seems to put things into easy practical understanding. "We've escorted God out of our culture and off the public square", said the former Governor.  "But as soon as the tragedy unfolded, God showed up".


Hugs and tears and God's presence.....

I'd like to revisit a blog I wrote several years ago and re-post each September 11th. See if this doesn't help...

"You say you will never forget where you were when you heard the news on September 11,2001.  Neither will I.  I was on the 110th floor in a smoke filled room with a man who called his wife to say "Good-Bye".  I held his fingers steady as he dialed.  I gave him the peace to say, "Honey, I am not going to make it but it is okay......I am ready to go.

I was with his wife when he called as she fed breakfast to their children.  I held her up as she tried to understand his words and as she realized he wasn't coming home that night.  I was in the stairwell of the 23rd floor when a woman cried out to ME for help.  "I have been knocking on the door of your heart for 50 years!", I said.  "Of course, I will show you the way home-only believe in ME now.

I was at the base of the building with the Priest ministering to the injured and devastated souls.  I took him home to tend to his Flock in Heaven.  He heard my voice and answered.

I was on all four of those planes, in every seat, with every prayer.  I was in the very hearts of the believers there, comforting and assuring them that their faiths has saved them.

I want you to know that I saw every face.  I was in Texas, Virginia, California and Afghanistan.  I was standing next to you when you heard the terrible news.  Did you sense me?

I want you to know that I saw every face.  I knew every name-though not all knew Me.  Some met ME for the first time on the 86th floor.  Some sought ME with their last breath.  Some couldn't hear ME calling to them through smoke and flames"  "Come to ME....this way......take my hand",  I offered.  Some chose, for the final time, to ignore ME.  But, I was there.    

I did not place you in the Tower that day.  You may not know why, but I do.  However, if you were there in the explosive moment in time, would you have reached for ME?

September 11, 2001 was not the end of the journey for you.  But someday your journey will end.  And I will be there for you as well.  Seek ME now while I may be found.  Then, at any moment, you know you are "ready to go".

I will be in the stairwell of your final moments....

GOD

So, when I listened to Huckabee's comments for the first time, my reaction was to respectfully disagree.  "God was there", I thought. He didn't just show up when the tragedy took place.   He's always there.  Ever present.

I listened again to the former Governor's comments...and again, until I finally made the distinction.  In fact, his  commentary was much like the 9-11 piece.   The good deeds that followed the horrific shootings proved once again, God's presence.  We just don't realize it at the time.

Case in point.....

"Gene Rosen had just finished feeding his cats and was heading from his home near Sandy Hook Elementary School to a diner Friday morning when he saw six small children sitting in a neat semicircle at the end of his driveway.  A school bus driver was standing over them telling them things would be all right.  It was about 9;30 a.m. and the children, he discovered, had just run from the school to escape a gunman.

"We can't go back to school" one little boy told Rosen.  "Our teacher is dead. Mrs. Soto; we don't have a teacher".

For the next several hours, Rosen connected with each childs family through the help of the school bus driver's phone log.  Rosen grabbed stuffed animals from an upstairs bedroom.....something he had shared with his grandchildren over the years.  He gave the six fruit juice and listened to their stories until their frantic parents arrived.  Rosen claimed his training on Friday was from his years as a grandparent.  

"It wasn't clear how the children escaped harm, but there have been reports that Victoria Soto, 27, the first-grade teacher killed hid some of her students from the approaching gunman".

Where was God on Friday?  Right there.  Using people like Gene Rosen....and other teachers at Sandy Hook, First Responders and so on and so on.   And that despite the Free Will we exhibit.

YGG,

John    




Friday, December 14, 2012

JACK TAYLOR'S BOLD RUN TO 138 POINTS


The scene has played out thousands and maybe hundreds of thousands of times in neighborhood driveways in each and every U.S. town and city.  It's a game played one-on-none against an imaginary basketball opponent.  In many respects, it's a dream game.  One where real life and fantasy coincide.   The ball and player are in perfect harmony......scoring at will in every way possible. First, it's driving layups from each side of the free throw lane.....then several ten foot baseline jumpers.  Next comes running one hand scoop shots, followed by stop and pop shots at the top of the key.  Then come the bombs.  3 pointers from every spot on the arc.  When it's all said and done, you walk off the court knowing you've done something magnificent, probably unheard of.  You've broken every possible record in the books.  And people everywhere, know your name.  It's a dream for sure.  At least people say that's what it is.  That is.....unless your name is Jack Taylor.  And the dream becomes REAL.

Where the Dream played out.....Darby Gymnasium

It was the evening of November 20, 2012 when Jack Taylor and the Grinnell Pioneers readied themselves for Faith Baptist Bible at Darby Gymnasium..  Prior to warm-ups,  Taylor and several of his teammates huddled for some pre-game devotions.  In two previous Pioneer games, time had not presented itself for a blessed get-together.  Tonight was the beginning of something different. Matthew 25 was the focus that evening.  The word spoke of using the talents God has given you and more importantly using every moment you're given.  Jack Taylor and his teammates took the message to heart.

Here is the short version of Jack's night courtesy of ESPN writer Myron Medcalf:

"Grinnell's Jack Taylor didn't just amend the NCAA's record books when he scored 138 points--a new collegiate high mark--in his team's 179-104 victory over Faith Baptist Bible Tuesday night.  The Division III star wrote a new chapter.

There was a point during the second half where I hit a number of three's in a row--maybe seven or eight--I felt like anything I threw up was going in", Taylor said.  "I've been in the zone before but I've never taken so many shots."

Bevo Francis of Rio Grande held the NCAA scoring record with 113 points against Hillsdale in 1954.  In the 1953, Francis had 116 against Ashland Junior College.  Frank Selvy is the only other player to reach triple figures, scoring 100 points for Division I Furman against Newberry in 1954.  The previous Grinnell record was 89 by Griffin Lentsch last November 19th against Principia.

Taylor said he entered the locker room at halftime under the assumption he'd racked up 30 points in the first half.  But when head coach David Arseneault whipped out the first-half stat sheet, he realized he was mistaken.

"Coach walked in with a stat sheet and said I had 58", Taylor said.  "you could see the team's eyes light up.  By the end of the night, Taylor was 52 for 108 (27 of 71 from the 3-point line) and he'd established a new collegiate record".
All eyes were on the 5' 10" Taylor that night.....

This week, Jack and I connected for some one-on-one time.  Conversation that is, not a game, mind you.  I purposely wanted to wait a while in talking to Mr. Taylor after the initial onslaught of media attention.  Here is some of our conversation:

MFV::  Was there a point during the game when the significance of what was happening set in?

JT:  Halftime is where I was really surprised.  I had 58 points.  The game plan for the  second half became that I would get a touch every time down the floor.  Not necessarily a shot.  Normally I play around 18 minutes a game, but played 36.  My teammates did an awesome job of getting me the ball.

MFV:  How did you handle the mention of glorifying God during your interviews?

JT:  My first interview was with ESPN.  I'm not sure I even mentioned God.  After all the interviews I did the first night, I started looking back and knew that I had to do a better job in giving God the Glory.  I prayed about that and asked for boldness in mentioning God in each interview I did.

MFV:  What do you feel the importance of your night was?  How is God using you?

JT:  I see a lot of doors opening.  I can influence others and I see that as an exciting opportunity. Especially with youth.  Being able to talk to people back home and ones that know me.  My little sister is in high school and I see that I can be a role model for her and others in her school.  Here at Grinnell, I can share my faith and let others know they don't have to be scared in talking about their faith.

MFV:  Picture yourself talking to a gymnasium full of young people.  What would be your message to them?

JT:  I would share my story of the two loves I have, basketball and the Lord.  Basketball used to be my religion before I tore my ACL in Prep School.  I had a friend that I was speaking  to about being a Christian and he said, "you're not a Christian".  That hit home.  From then on I focused on being a better person and living for the Lord.  I took that as a challenge.  That was the hardest time of my life.....when I had something taken away from me that I loved.  Now I look to be obedient.

MFV:  You took a long road to Grinnell.  First Prep School, then UW-LaCrosse and then Grinnell.  Why do you think that was your journey?

JT:  I often wonder about that.  I could have gone to Grinnell right out of high school.  But instead I decided to go to Prep School hoping I could land some Division I offers.  Then I tore my ACL and transferred to LaCrosse.  It wasn't my plan.  If I hadn't gone to Prep School, I wouldn't have met my friend who challenged me about my faith.

MFV: In talking about Matthew 25 before your big night, how did that have an impact on what took place?

JT:  I knew I was going to get more minutes that night.  I told my parents and girlfriend that our system at Grinnell would mean that I would probably get more shots too.  I think Matthew 25 opened my eyes to be more aggressive and play with the talents God has given me. (laughs)

MFV:  Have you thought about the meaning of 138 in the Bible and sought some words to that number, perhaps Psalm 138?

JT:  Wow, no I hadn't even thought of that.

MFV:  Well, let me get my Bible and look it up for the both of us....:

As Jack pulled up Psalm 138 on his computer, we both read of the provided wisdom.  And this is what jumped out.  "When I called, you answered me, you made me bold and stouthearted-Pslam 138:3

Additionally, Pslam 138 describes those who are close to God live in reality and those who believe in human power live in a world of fantasy.

I must say, for me anyway.....after our 138 exchange, I don't remember a whole lot more about what questions I asked and how Jack responded.  I do know that several minutes later he texted me and thanked me for sharing Psalm 138 with him and encouraging him to walk boldly through the doors God opens.

Hold On....Now that I think about it, I do remember a final question.

MFV:  Who do you want to play you in the movie?

JT:  (Laughs).  I hadn't even thought about that (laughs again).

Someday, yes someday, there might be a Taylor boy or girl out on the driveway playing imaginary hoops.....playing out the game of their life.  The difference is, someday, Jack will be able to tell them all about it.  And knowing kids, that might be a hard sell.

JT:  One time I scored 138 points in a game.  And it was the biggest single game point total in collegiate history.

Young Taylor:  You scored 138 points.  Right Dad.  Come on!!!!!  Game On.....

****  As a side note:  Jack has played 6 games since November 20th.  He has scored in succession, 21,18,39,12,36 and 37 points.  His highest minute total in any of those games is 18.  For the season, the Black River Falls, Wisconsin native is averaging 38.7 points per game.

YGG,

John

Sunday, November 11, 2012

BEST VETERANS DAY SPEECH EVER?

I looked around for something special to share this Veterans Day.  Something that would show appreciation to and for our Veterans.  After some time, I felt compelled to see if I could find a speech that hit the mark.

In 2007, Coulby Dunn offered these thoughts.  Which I find.....and I hope you do to, package the who, when, where, why and how of it all.  Dunn had the distinct privilege of serving in all three Airborne units while with the U.S. Army Paratroopers.  He served with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky in 1967, with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in 1968-1969 and with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam in 1969-1970.  Coulby delivered these words as part of the Veterans Day program at the Wallenpaupack, Pennsylvania Area High School with over 1,500 students, teachers and parents present.

"Good evening ladies and gentleman....and than you for joining me this evening as we recognize our veterans for their unwavering service to America.....

Across this great country.....and throughout the world....Americans will pause today to honor our brave fighting men and women.....who for more than 230 years have underwritten our freedom by their duty.

We recognize that all our veterans have given something of themselves to this country....and some have given all...laying down their lives to defend the freedoms we hold so dear.  This evening, as we reflect on the blessing of our liberty we ask our Heavenly Father that we may be faithful stewards of the freedom we have been granted.  Let's us never forget that we cannot rightfully celebrate the joy of our freedom...without remembering the great price paid for that freedom.

 We stagger at the eternal debt we owe...to the untold number of American Veterans who chose to set aside their personal ambitions and dreams to assure the well being of our great nation.  We, the living are indeed the beneficiaries of those who made tremendous sacrifices for the advancement and surety of our liberty.  May we always be humbly grateful to those brave American patriots who suffered and sacrificed for the glory of God and for the freedom of all Americans.

It's truly an honor to Honor you!!!
For those soldiers who have stood guard in peacetime and to those who have seen the terror the horror and the inhumanity of combat and to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice...Let it be said that our soldiers have been there for America, defending the Constitution of the United States.

To all our veterans, we have a simple yet heartfelt message-Thank You-thank you for your unwavering service in peacetime and War here in this nation and throughout the world.  For all veterans regardless of their service and the era in which they have served, they have paid the price time and time again.  They have defended America through both the best and worse of times....and they have performed their duties tirelessly with little recognition of fanfare.  They have sought neither fortune nor fame.   It was merely a simple love of America and the freedoms we all cherish so much.

Soldiers know what it is like to stand guard in the chill of the night while others sleep.

They understand the meaning of hardship, standing watch at freedom's frontier far from their loved ones.  It is this devotion to duty that gives us all strength.

Looking out on the world, we see our Soldiers serving in over 100 countries throughout the world and the legacy of our Veterans continues to inspire our American soldiers today to answer the call to duty.

While we pay homage to all American Veterans, I particularly want to thank our Vietnam veterans this evening.  We served in a War that deeply divided our nation, but American is resilient.  We are a country of temperance, compassion and reason and with the passage of time we healed our wounds.

I know many of you have visited the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C.

During the day there, the black granite absorbs all the sunlight of the day then radiates the heat during the evening hours.  If they evening is cool and crisp, you can see a mist coming off the wall.  For me, it's as if the 58,253 names are breathing life into my body and I feel invigorated knowing that these men and women gave their lives so all of us can continue to live the American Dream.

I can tell you a short story of one of my heroes from Vietnam.  He was Dr. Loren Little, our Battalion doctor with the 173rd Airborne.  Our small 2-acre base camp came under attack with more than 60rounds of 82mm mortars and 122 rockets.

We had sustained incredible casualties....more than 90 dead and wounded in a mere 5 minutes....the carnage and horror was beyond description.  

One of my close friends sustained multiple fragmentation wounds so I ran to the aid station to get a medic or Captain Little.....

When I got to the aid station I realized no help would be coming  Men were strewn all over the compound, may withering and screaming in pain.  It was at that moment I saw the greatest act of courage and heroism and valor I would ever witness in my lifetime.

"Doc" Little was bleeding from both ears, and he had a sunken chest wound.  His bare chest was wrapped in gauze pads.  Blood was pouring thru the gauze, but with a total disregard for his own well being, I saw Doctor Little administering aid and he saved the lives of at least 15 or 20 soldiers that night... 

Doc Little practiced triage that evening, a system of treating soldiers according to the severity of their wounds when resources were insufficient to save everyone.  That evening Doc Little's best friend, Major Tedd  Lewis was severely wounded and alive, but died several hours later.  Because of triage, Doc Little could not save the life of his best friend.  Sadly, because of this unbearable experience, Doc Little never practice ever again.  Ladies and Gentlemen, this is true courage, this is a true American Hero. Dr. Little received the nation's 3rd highest award for heroism and valor that evening of January 9th, 1970.

He received a Silver Star, but I can tell you there are hundreds of Doc Littles all across America, as a matter of fact there are probably a few of them right here in this building sitting before you.  May God bless them all.

Lastly, I would like to talk about service to your country and community.  I have always felt it was a honor to serve my country and continue to serve today, not in the military, but in my community.  And all of you should be doing the same.

I know there are many mother and father sitting in the gymnasium this evening where you services and talents are needed.  I encourage all of you to volunteer you services to any number of endeavors.  Your church, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the Little League, the Parent Teachers Organization, your local fire or ambulance association.  We  can all make a difference in our community.  What better way can we as parents show our children how to live their lives, than by serving others.

Thank you all once again for being here this evening, for a celebration with our veterans.  May God bless you, God bless our Soldiers and may God continue to bless the United States of America".

Was this the best speech ever in regards to our Veterans and what the day should mean to us?  You be the judge.

From my perspective, Coulby Dunn hit one out of the park as he spoke to a crowded Pennsylvania High School.  Rumor has it, there weren't many dry eyes that night.  Perhaps you know the feeling.

And as famed commentator Paul Harvey would say......and that's the rest of the story.  Good Day.

YGG,

John  

 



Monday, November 5, 2012

USS ENTERPRISE COMES HOME

Last Friday I was helping some brothers of Project 52 load a container of supplies headed to the Dominican Republic.  There were about 9-10 of us...some in their 20's, some middle-aged and then there was a few older souls.  Afterwards, I struck up a conversation with Kurt about his family and he inquired of mine.  When I told him of two of my sons serving our country I could see his ears perk up.  He thanked me for their service.  He knew what commitment meant.

Kurt proceeded with his "knowing words" as he spoke of his service career.  I could see it in his eyes as he returned to1967, the year he enlisted in the Navy.  That was 45 years ago....but Kurt was right in the timeline.  He talked of his basic training at Naval Station Great Lakes near Chicago, Illinois and then onto his assignment with the USS Enterprise.

Minute by minute, Kurt was reliving his days on the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and I was getting a history lesson.  I'm not sure who came away the better for our conversation that day.  In practical terms, I should call it a draw.

USS Enterprise on the move...... 

"How many days would you go out at a time", I asked.  "Sometimes 60 days", he recalled.  "And how many people were aboard", I questioned.  "Nearly, 5,000", he shot back.  That's when my wheels started churning imagining a small town floating in waters in virtually every part of the world.  And most importantly, providing protection for our country.

Kurt shared a whole bunch more with me, but I knew when I got home I'd have to dig more.  Just what did the USS Enterprise mean in the grand scheme of things?  Well, here's a couple tidbits:

"In October, 1962, only nine months after she was commissioned, the Enterprise was dispatched to its first international crisis.  Enterprise and the other ships in the Second Fleet set up quaratine of all military equipment under shipment to communist Cuba.  The blockade was put in place on October 24th, and the first Soviet ship was stopped the next day.  On October 28th, Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev agreed to dismantle nuclear missiles and bases in Cuba, concluding the Cuban Missile Crisis, the closest the U.S. and USSR have ever come to nuclear war.

In the Fall of 2001, Enterprise aborted her transit home from a long deployment after the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington D.C., on September 11th and steamed overnight to the North Arabian Sea.  In direct support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Big 'E' once again took its place in history by becoming one of the first units to respond in a crisis with its awesome striking power."    

Pretty impressive, don't you think?  But along with her moments of glory came one not so memorable.  As I read the following paragraph, I remembered Kurt telling me of this incident. although he glossed over it in pretty short order.      

"During the morning of 14 January, 1969, while being escorted by destroyers US Benjamin Stoddert and USS Rogers, a MK-32 Zuni rocket loaded on a parked F-4 Phantom exploded due to ordnance cook off after being overheated by an aircraft start unit mounted to a tow tractor.  The explosion set off fires and additional explosions across the flight deck.  27 lives were lost and 314 men were injured.  15 aircraft were destroyed.  Additional damage to the Enterprise caused her to be put in for repairs at Pearl Harbor for a number of months."

A view of the Enterprise after rocket explosion in 1969

"Is she still running", I asked Kurt, not wanting to appear any dumber than I was with the comment, but I was curious.  "I'm not sure", he said. "Just not sure.  Haven't been any where near her since I completed my service".  Moments later we shook hands and headed our merry ways.  All along, I'm thinking, this would be a great item to share.  Then this story hit me right between the eyes on Sunday night:   


"The world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier ended its remarkable career at sea on Sunday when it pulled into its home port for the final time after participating in every major conflict since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

The USS Enterprise began shutting down its eight nuclear reactors almost as soon as it arrived at its pier at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, where thousands of cheering family members and friends welcomed the ship home from its 25th and final deployment after nearly eight months at sea. The ship will never move on its own power again and will eventually be scrapped in Washington state, making its final voyage a sentimental one for those who have sailed aboard "The Big E."

Copies of the ship's daily newspaper, "The Shuttle," were in short supply as sailors looked for memorabilia to take with them. Countless personal photos were taken by sailors throughout the ship as it approached shore.

"It's exceptionally emotional and exceptionally satisfying," Rear Adm. Ted Carter, commander of the Enterprise Strike Group, said as Naval Station Norfolk came into view and his sailors manned the rails.

However, Carter is the first to say that the Enterprise's final deployment was anything but a sentimental victory lap. The ships' fighter planes flew more than 2,200 combat sorties and dropped 56 bombs in Afghanistan while supporting U.S. and international ground troops. In a show of force to Iran, the ship also passed through the strategic Strait of Hormuz 10 times, a figure that Carter said is more than double the typical amount.

The Enterprise has been a frequent traveler to the Middle East over its career. It was the first nuclear-powered carrier to transit through the Suez Canal in 1986, and it was the first carrier to respond following the Sept. 11 attacks, changing course overnight to head to the Arabian Sea.

An entire room on the ship serves as a museum to its history, which includes a large photo of the burning Twin Towers placed in a timeline that wraps around a wall.

The Navy will officially deactivate the Enterprise on Dec. 1, but it will take several more years for it to be decommissioned as its reactors are taken out.  About 15,000 people are expected to attend the deactivation ceremony, which will be its last public ceremony after several days of tours for former crew members.

Those who have served on the ship have a unique camaraderie. It is the second-oldest ship in the Navy after the USS Constitution, and its age has frequently shown.  Sailors who work on the Enterprise have a saying: "There's tough, then there's Enterprise tough."

Things frequently break down, and spare parts for a ship that's the only one in its class aren't made anymore.
"She's just old, so you got to work around her," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Danielle Almaraz, an electronic technician. "We have to make our own parts sometimes because it just doesn't exist."

Those deployed on the Enterprise knew life wouldn't be easy at sea, a fact highlighted last year when former commanding officer Capt. Owen Honors was fired for airing raunchy videos that he said were intended to boost morale. During a hearing in which Honors was trying to avoid being kicked out of the Navy, he and his lawyers frequently referenced the difficult conditions on board. Honors was found to have committed misconduct, but ultimately allowed to stay in the service. He is retiring in April.

Some of the ship's original crew members from 51 years ago -- known as plank owners -- were among the 1,500 civilians who joined the Enterprise for its last two days at sea, known as a Tiger Cruise.


JFK watching flight ops from Big "E's" bridge

"This is the end of an era that I helped start, so I was just honored that the captain invited me on board. There's no way I'd turn that down," said original crew member Ray Godfrey of Colorado Springs, Colo.

The aircraft carrier is the eighth U.S. ship to bear the name Enterprise, with the first one being confiscated from the British by Benedict Arnold in 1775. Current sailors and alumni like Godfrey are lobbying to have a future carrier also named Enterprise. The ship's crew created a time capsule to be passed along to each Navy secretary until a new ship carries its name.

Other memorabilia on the ship, such as a pair of black fuzzy dice that hang in the ship's tower that were donated by the film crew of the 1986 Hollywood blockbuster movie "Top Gun," will be stored by the Naval History and Heritage Command".

Last Friday became a special day for me.  Not that I thought it would be when the day started.  But meeting Kurt and hearing about his life on the USS Enterprise was one I will recall for quite some time.  Goes to show you, there are a million stories out there....if you just make time.

YGG,

John    

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

WHEN THERE'S NO FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND

I vividly remember a picture on my Grandmother's wall.  As a young lad, it always fascinated me.   It was an image of a set of footprints in the sand.  Just one lone set.  And they traveled a journey to nowhere in particular.  Yes, my Grandmother left me a memory that I will never forget.  Probably, because it had some deep meaning that I didn't truly understand....yet someday, hoped I would.  Here they are:

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.  Scenes from my life flashed across the sky.  In each, I noticed footprints in the sand.  Sometimes, there were two sets of footprints, other times there was only one.

During the lowest times of my life I could see only one set of footprints so I said, "Lord, you promised me that you would walk with me always.  Why, when I have needed you most, would you leave me?"

The Lord replied, "My precious child.  I love you and would never leave you.  The times when you have seen only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you."  -Mary Stevenson


When you feel all alone........

My journey of realizing the  truth of  those set of footprints has been a long one.  There have been times where I've been hurt and longed for God.  I've yelled.  I've cursed.  I tried being distant.... as if that would get me anywhere.  If there was anything I could do to show my disappointment in God, I tried.  Yet he didn't go anywhere.

It was these words that impacted me most. Finally.  And I might add, just in time.   I am with you.  I Am With You.  I AM WITH YOU.  Heaven's bells continually peal with that promise of My presence.  Some people never hear those bells because their minds are earthbound and their hearts are closed to me.  Others hear the bells only once or twice in their lifetimes, in rare moments of seeking Me above all else.  My desire is that My "sheep" hear My voice continually, for I am the ever-present Shepherd.

These words are the perfect potion.  They speak truth and they can, if soaked in, take the load off.  I can't help but think of our soldiers who return from War.  They suffer from PTSD and they feel like they 're in life by themselves.  But they don't have to be.  And neither do you.  Any of us can be the benefactors of God's ways and knowing .....I AM WITH YOU.

YGG,

John      


Thursday, October 25, 2012

TIME TO REMEMBER THE FIRST FAB FIVE


Imagine this....you're getting ready for work in the early morning and three men in uniform approach your home.  The three, a lieutenant commander, a doctor and a chief petty officer stand at attention as the petty officer knocks.  You open the door and the officer says, " I have some news for you about your boys".  "Which one"? you respond.  "I'm sorry", he replies.  "All Five".

You stand in shock as the officer explains the loss of your five boys.  Yes, not one, not two, or three or four, but all FIVE.  The day was January 12, 1943....almost two months after the ship they served on was sunk by a Japanese torpedo. You, Tom Sullivan and your wife, Alleta, of Waterloo, Iowa,  will forever have your lives changed. Gone are all five of your sons::

1.  George Thomas Sullivan, 27, Gunner's Mate Second Class
2.  Francis "Frank" Henry Sullivan, 26, Coxswain
3.  Joseph, "Joe" Eugen Sullivan, 24, Seaman Second Class
4.  Madison, "Matt" Abel Sullivan, 23, Seaman Second Class
5.  Albert, "Al" Leo Sullivan, 20, Seaman Second Class

We are fast approaching the anniversary of the Sullivans deaths.  November 13th will mark 69 years since the fateful  day the USS Juneau was sunk in World War II.  Not only was the Juneau hit by a Japanese torpedo, but twice.  After first taking a hit in a battle at the Naval Battle at Guadalcanal and forced to withdraw, the cruiser was sent to the depths near the Solomon Islands.  Initially some 100 survived the attack, but a Senior Officer in the Region, Captain Gilbert C. Hoover, doubted anyone could still be alive.  Rather than have the other ships in the area respond, Hoover chose to protect the remaining ships in the area from the Japanese submarine that had done in the Juneau.  Hoover radioed a US B-17 bomber to respond and report any survivors.  The B-17 saw survivors but under orders not to break radio silence they did not report their findings until several hours later.  Their findings went unnoticed in paperwork until several days later when it was realized a search had never been mounted.


Painting at Freedom Rock near Greenfield, Iowa

8 days after the sinking, ten survivors were found.  8 Days!!!  "Survivors reported that Frank, Joe and Matt died instantly, Al drowned the next day and George survived for four or five days suffering from delirium as a result of the loss of his brothers.  He went over the side of the raft he occupied and was never seen or heard from again.  Security required that the Navy not reveal the loss of the Juneau or the other ships in the area as not to provide information to the enemy.  Letters from the Sullivan sons stopped arriving at the home and the parents grew worried".

So there he is.....Standing.....somehow.......picture Tom Sullivan as he is told of his five sons deaths.  There are few, very few who could ever relate to that.  How could you?   The days, the months and the years after had to have been a blur.  How could they not be?

Several paragraphs from the book "The Sullivans", explains:  " News of the deaths of all five brothers became a rallying point for the war effort, with posters and speeches honoring their sacrifice.  Extensive newspaper and radio coverage of the incident made the loss of the brothers a national story, producing " a wave of humility and sympathy".  A sister, Genevieve, enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve as a Specialist (Recruiter) Third Class and with her parents, visited more than 200 hundred manufacturing plants and shipyards encouraging employees to work harder to produce weapons for the Navy so the war could come to an end sooner.  "By January 1944, the three surviving Sullivans had spoken to over a million workers in sixty-five cities and reached millions of others over the radio".   President Franklin D. Roosevelt responded to the family in this manner:

" Dear Mrs. Sullivan:

The knowledge that your five gallant sons are missing in action, against the enemy, inspired me to write you this personal message.  I realize full well there is little I can say to assuage your grief..........

Last March, you, Mrs. Sullivan, were designated to sponsor a ship of the Navy in recognition of your patriotism and that of your sons.  I am to understand that you are, now, even more determined to carry on as
as a sponsor.  This evidence of unselfishness and courage serves as a real inspiration for me, as I am sure it will for all Americans.  Such acts of fate and fortitude in the face of tragedy convince me of the indomitable spirit and will of our people.  I send you my deepest sympathy in your hour of trial and pray that in Almighty God, you will find a comfort and help that only He can bring".

Very sincerely yours,
Franklin D. Roosevelt

FYI...The Sullivans weren't the only brother-sailor combination on board the Juneau.  There were at least thirty pairs of brothers on board.

Now.  imagine the parents of the other brother-sailor combinations  as they answered the knock on their doors that morning.......and then the parents who felt the loss of a single child.  As President Roosevelt said, "I send you my deepest sympathy in your hour of trial and pray that in Almighty God, you will find a comfort and help that only He can bring".  Amen.

YGG,

John



Wednesday, October 17, 2012

THE FACE OF DEPLOYMENT TWO YEARS LATER

Today is a milestone of sorts for "My Father's Voice".  It's our 200th post.  MFV began almost two years ago after I penned a letter to the editor of the Des Moines Register concerning the deployment of our son, Kristopher, to Afghanistan.  It seems like 20 years ago rather than two.  So much has happened, yet it some respects, some things have stayed the same.  We're still sending troops into harm's way and the Middle East appears to be as volatile as ever.  For that reason,  I'm going to repost my first writing about the deployment process.  No doubt there is some family about to face the same issues ours did.  Perhaps the words I pass along will help those AND will also enable others to see what living in the military world is all about.    


DEPLOYMENT AND 96 TEARS

A tear drop hit my pillow last night as I lay awake …..followed moments later by a second and a third.  The last one was a long, streaming one, which I think had a more profound significance than the others.    Certainly this was the one that forced me to choke back a real melt down.

It has been two and a half months since I had really let my emotions come forth.  It was tough saying goodbye to my oldest son, Kristopher, that day at the Boone campus.  He along with some 100 other National Guardsman boarded 4 busses and headed off to Camp Shelby in Mississippi.  It was a day unlike any other I had known.  Families being stretched to the greatest of emotional lengths.  Some said goodbye to husbands, others to wives,  son and daughters.   There were young spouses no doubt left with the responsibility of trying to  explain what was going on and why mommy or daddy was leaving on a bus with a whole lot of other people.  Another young lady,  looking to give birth within a month or so, tried to hold back tears.  She wasn’t doing a very good job, but who was I to talk.  Yet, looking around me, I could only think of how each of our lives would become different.  Yes, our tears were real that day……..

Last night though, my tears were different.  They were bigger and they came out of nowhere.   And they were  much different than the ones back on July 30th.   And they are different again today as I try to put my feelings down with words that don’t do justice.  Justice for me, my family and all the other men and women and their friends and families who are experiencing their loved one deploying to Afghanistan.  Today, when my son leaves, and in the following weeks more than 3,000 Iowa Guardsman will be leaving our safe shores to DEPLOY.  Not train, but deploy.

 What does deploy mean? I had to look it up to make sure.  Google had a short definition which stated, “to move into a position of readiness or availability.”   Okay…that makes sense.  Yet, I feel there is one important word that was  left out.  REAL.  There will be Real bullets and a Real enemy for REAL.  And it’s all for Real life and real death in a region that I‘m still trying to get my mind wrapped around.  Is Afghanistan all that important?   Are we fighting on level terms?  Those questions alone are enough to make a person tear up.

Is the question, "Where are we going next?"

So as you can see,  my tears have been different.  They were a “safe” tear when I knew my son was here in our country preparing for his duty.   Now, it’s the furthest thing from that.  Safe tears  have been replaced by  scared tears, followed by proud tears followed by scared tears.

It goes without saying, that I have come to a greater appreciation for our military and our country through this whole deployment process.   Men and women have taken to their responsibility and  are making all Iowans proud.  I won’t kid you, it’s going to be a long 9 months.   What do my future tears hold in store for me?  Will it be for someone who has a solider wounded?  Or will it be for one killed in action?  I can’t even think of going there.

It has been said that tears are good for the soul.  It’s our reaction to an experience.  It has an awful lot to do with living, I think.   If you’ve seldom let your emotions or experiences taken you there, then today, think about those whose lives will be challenged from every angle possible.   An old sixties song, “96 Tears” sure comes to mind right now.  “Cry, cry, cry…96 tears, tears for the warm hearted, 96 tears.”  How many tears do I have left?  I don’t really know, but  I do know this.   The shortest and sweetest verse in the Bible is…. ‘‘Jesus wept.”   Puts it all in perspective, don’t you think?

YGG,

John


Friday, October 12, 2012

WHERE FREEDOM ROCKS

It's only thirty some miles from where I live.  Hardly a long trek.  That's why it's hard to comprehend any  reasons its taken me so long to get there.  But last weekend I finally did.

It weighs some 56 tons and is roughly 12 feet tall.  It's about a mile and a half off of Interstate 80 at exit 86 (about 35 miles from Des Moines) among the cornfields of Iowa.  And it's one huge, huge focal point for what our troops preserve for us each and every day.  Freedom.  And appropriately it's called by that same name, Freedom Rock.

Notice the telephone pole over my left shoulder on the  "Huey" side

For years, the rock served as a graffiti piece.  Something vandals used to pen their mindless dribble and sayings.  That was until 1999 when a nineteen year-old from nearby Greenfield by the name of Ray "Bubba" Sorensen came to the rescue.

"It was around Memorial Day when I was driving past the rock when I wondered what it would be like if I actually took the time to go out there and paint it.  And so I painted it with the flag raising from Iwo Jima.  I got a huge response from it that I kept painting it. And I've been painting it with tributes to Veterans on Memorial Day".

Thirteen years later, Sorensen's still at it.  He usually begins his process each year by putting scenes on a blank canvas.  And then the process begins.  Each side of the rock save one has a coat of white paint and awaits a new theme.

The Huey helicopter is the only thing that stays the same.  "It always stays because it has the ashes of 30 different Vietnam Veterans mixed into the paint and I add more ashes every year", said Sorenson.  "People send their ashes and bone fragments so they can paint them into the rock.  Now that is something.  That is so sentimental", said Mike Smith of Mason City.

A tribute to brothers fighting for freedom

This year, Sorensen was finally able to place the faces of the Five Sullivan Brothers that gave their lives for our country.  All five were aboard the USS Juneau when their ship was sunk in November of 1942.  The Brothers,  George, 27; Frank, 26; Joe, 24; Matt, 23 and Al, 20 were natives of Waterloo, Iowa.

Throughout the years, Sorensen has featured such pieces as Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta,  George Washington crossing of the Deleware, America's response to the September 11 terrorist attack and on and on and on......  Each year, there is tremendous excitement to see the new unveiling and each year the crowds keep coming back.

Only once.  Just once, has the Rock been vandalized.  Sorensen's 60 year anniversary tribute to Veterans of the Pearl Harbor attack was defaced weeks after it was completed.  But the perpetrator got a punch in the mouth from a Vietnam War veteran for his trouble and his work has gone untouched ever since.  How appropriate.  

A must see?  No doubt.  And you couldn't  find a better buy.  It doesn't cost a cent, it's free.

YGG,

John


Thursday, October 4, 2012

UNIQUE HEALTH CONCERNS FOR THOSE WHO SERVED

Today's blog is courtesy of Emily Walsh, a Community Outreach Blogger for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.  Thank you Emily for passing on this information to us all.......


While military deployments are obviously fraught with risks to life and limb, other health conditions disproportionately affect those who serve, as well. Most common of these are:

PTSD

This is not such a surprise. The Veteran’s Administration reports that post-traumatic stress disorder is one of the most common reasons that veterans seek treatment. Many of them witnessed a brutal reality when deployed during combat. Facing PTSD head-on and treating it with the help of a mental health professional improves quality of life for returning veterans.

Help is there.......
Mesothelioma

Before being aware of the dangers of asbestos exposure, it was common for troops to spend a lot of time around the substance. Once upon a time, the military routinely relied on asbestos due to its fireproof nature. Decades later, veterans still present with a rare form of cancer called mesothelioma (what is mesothelioma?). It soon became apparent that asbestos was the leading culprit in the development of mesothelioma cancer. While no longer used by the military, veterans continue dealing with the reality of mesothelioma. Even today, veterans are being diagnosed with mesothelioma from long ago exposure to asbestos. This is because the symptoms may take decades to surface. Treatment depends on the stage of the cancer at diagnosis. The options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or any combination thereof.

Respiratory Illness

The deployment of over two million troops since September 11, 2001 has led to a rapid increase in the number of military members being diagnosed with several respiratory conditions. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans faced exposure to environmental toxins, which led to illnesses such as bronchiolitis and asthma. Troops who never had any prior lung problems are being hit the hardest by respiratory consequences of deployment. Some researchers have pinpointed similar symptoms present in Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. This group of symptoms is called Iraq-Afghanistan War lung injury. Exposure to dust, smoke from burn pits, aerosol chemicals, shock waves caused by bomb blasts, airborne toxins, mold and exhaust fumes all contribute to the development of such a lung disease. Studies show that Iraq and Afghanistan veterans develop lung problems at seven times the rate of any other veteran group. Veterans of Iraq and/or Afghanistan should visit their primary care physician as soon as any symptoms, like shortness of breath or the feeling of congestion, present themselves. Only with a thorough examination of the symptoms can an effective treatment protocol be developed.


Again, thank you Emily for passing on this valuable information.  So much of what you talk about has to do with our soldiers responding to their needs regarding their health.  Hopefully we've prompted someone to take the BIG first step to recovery.

YGG,

John

Sunday, September 30, 2012

PLANTING SEEDS OF HOPE......


Our servicemen and women give much of themselves.  Far more than most of us can imagine.  The same can be said of the families and friends of our military personnel.  Especially.....and I say this with the strongest tone I can, especially when there is a loss of life.

It's obvious what's given on the outside, but it's on the inside that few of us ever see.  It's through these hurting times, that God uses people to provide proof that he is there.  Let me give you an example:

From the Rockford Register Star (October 14, 2010)

The war in Afghanistan has struck close to home.  Lance Cpl Alec E. Catherwood of Byron, Illinois was shot and killed Thursday by small-arms fire while conducting dismounted combat operations against enemy forces in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Catherwood, a 19-year old rifleman was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, California.  He was the sixth Marine from the same unit to die in combat within 24 hours.

Catherwood, the son of Kirk and Gretchen Catherwood, was engaged to be married July 2, 2011 to Hailey Patrick of Davis Junction.

Patrick's mother, Christine, an employee of the Register Star, described him as "the kindest human being who ever walked the face of the earth".  

As you read the last sentence......"the kindest human being who ever walked the face of the earth", it could very well cause you to stop for a moment.....maybe even choke down the lump in your throat......or wipe away a tear streaming down your cheek.  My gosh.  What a testament from a lady who was to be a future mother-in-law!!!

How will Alec be remembered?  And how will his family and friends continue his "kind" fruits?  Enter Project 52....a non-profit group that donates trees to families in memory of those who have left us far too early in life.  Their mission statement, "planting seeds of hope, one tree at a time" intersected with the Catherwood clan's desire to further Alec's legacy .  Last October, Project 52 traveled to Byron to honor the request of a memorial tree plant.

A Tree of Hope

"It was such an honor to plant a tree for Lance Cpl. Alec Catherwood in Illinois", said Bill Clark co-founder of Project 52.  "He was one of the first serviceman we planted a tree for".  But the story doesn't end there......

A letter from Project 52 details the REST of the story.    

Lance Cpl. Joseph Lopez found his calling as a U.S. Marine in his mid-twenties.  His superiors noted his maturity, bravery and sense of duty.  He was quickly given positions of responsibility-manning high-maintenance machine guns and defending his battalion from enemies who might sneak up from behind.

His family remembers him as a fun-loving guy with a soft spot for children, always smiling and spoiling his nieces and nephews.  Longtime friends recall his ability to lift spirits no matter the situation.    

Joseph served in Afghanistan alongside Alec Catherwood, a 2011 Trees to Remember honoree.  The two young men were ambushed while coming to the aid of other soldiers who were pinned down by insurgents.    Alec, 19, was shot and killed.  Joseph stepped on an explosive device and died instantly. He was 26.

After receiving a memorial tree, Alec's family nominated Joseph's family to receive a tree as well.  





This Wednesday (October 3rd) in Rosamond, California, Lance Cpl. Joseph Lopez will be honored with a tree planting at the Assembly of God Church at 5 p.m.  "When the Catherwood family nominated a fellow platoon member, Lance Cpl. Lopez, we felt that Alec's family wanted to pass their honor and gratitude along", said Clark.

 Where is God?  Where was he that day Lance Cpl. Catherwood and Lance Cpl. Lopez were killed?   He's right there, alongside us guiding us through the difficult times.  And he's right there as we help others.  


This Wednesday, the spirit, the kindness and the love Alec Catherwood exhibited, will be carried on.  His family and friends saw to that.  It will be interesting to see, who among the Lopez family and friends, God uses next....

YGG,

John  


Thursday, September 27, 2012

A BASEBALL DREAM AMONG THE ROCKS


God's at Work around us all the time. All we need to do, is stop, watch and listen.  It could very well be your next door neighbor that he is changing.  Maybe it's someone you work with.  In fact, it might just be the person you sit next to in the church pew this week.

How do you and I react when God does beckon?  The typical response might be, "it depends on what is being asked".  Thus, some of us take Giant steps when God calls.  Jump right in and trust the Lord.  For others, it's little Baby steps.  And that's all right.  Most importantly, it's being open to moving when God calls.  Rest assured, he will call.  It's in our hands, then, how we will respond.

Let me give you an example of an opportunity that awaits someone.  That someone could be you.  Or scores of others that have a deep love for the Lord.......and the game of baseball.  Let me take you to a  little village in the Dominican Republic where God is changing lives through community.......

I'd like you to take a look at the picture below and imagine in your wildest dreams what sport is played there?  If you thought motocross, you're wrong.  If your guess is golf, you'd be off base too.  Try baseball.  That's right baseball.  And not what you'd call a "Field of Dreams" site at the present time, either. Is it?

It's a what kind of field?
The ballfield you see is located in Las Charcas in the Dominican Republic.  Population, 9,254.  Now imagine again, what it would be like trying to play your country's favorite sport if you were one of the youth of that community (over 2,000 by some estimates) .  Let's not mention the lack of a backstop or fence.  Or dugouts.  Or grass.  But let's focus on  what is there...... rocks.  Not small pebbles mind you.  But rocks the size that many in the United States would use for accent in their gardens.


Let's take the imagery one step further.  It's the bottom of the ninth in the hotly contested ballgame at Rockbottom Field.  Two out.  Bases loaded.  Home  team is trailing 4-2.  There's a line drive hit to the shortstop's feet.  He reaches for the ball, but it caroms off a small boulder and ricochets to the third base foul line and three runs score.  Game over.  If you're the home team you're happy, but if you're the visitor you're pretty upset to lose that way. These are the elements Las Charcas' youth play with.  Not because they want to, but they have to.  There is no other place to play.  For now....

To understand what baseball means to Las Charcas, local organizer Cristian Santiago, had this to say, "baseball is the most popular sport in all of the Dominican Republic.  Building a field for this community would attract baseball teams from up to 3 hours away and would be the pride of Las Charcas!"

Las Charcas in its present state

This past year, Project 52 worked with Lighthouse Projects, a Las Charcas organization, to help build a gymnasium and weight room.  It's been a huge success.....so much in fact, that the question was not "now what happens?, but "what's next?"  Thus the baseball field dream. Truly, if YOU HELP build it, they will come and come and come!!!!

The cost of the project is estimated to be $49,780 and is broken down as follows:

                                                                                Price

Cement blocks ( 8900 at $1 each)                             $    8900
Sand needed (9 truckloads at $900)                                8100
Gravel needed (8 truckloads at $900)                              7200
Bleachers  $12,000                                                        12,000
Fencing $8,000                                                                8,000
Bags of cement (620 needed at $9 each)                       5,580

Las Charcas' "Field of Dreams" 
And that's where Project 52 is today.....searching for those who want to not only help the sport of baseball continue its global reach, but offer their service in some manner.  Perhaps it's as a sponsor.  Or perhaps you have skills that would prove valuable in the building of the ball diamond.  Maybe you want to be a part of future teams that travel to the Las Charcas and play in tournaments....... you just might have a  groundskeeper background that would prove valuable to maintaining the field or you have a baseball coaching background that would be helpful in offering clinics to the community once the field is constructed.  The ideas of helping are endless!

For more information you can contact Bill Clark at bill@52.org or myself at Johnk@p52.org

YGG,

John

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

WHERE WERE YOU GOD?


**THIS IS A REPOST OF LAST YEAR'S STORY

Most of us have experienced something tragic in our life.  And when that happens, often times our response is....."where were you God".   Those words might be a knee-jerk reaction or it might be a question we know we'll never get an answer to here on earth.  Nevertheless, the feeling is there.

These past few days, I've heard a number of people ask questions in regards to 9-11.  "Where was God that day?   Why did he let that happen?"  Well......there is an answer.  One that will be useful to you anytime you reach a point of despair.  The story I'm about to share with you is a God-thing.  Told only by the one that knows.....      

I was there................

You say you will never forget where you were when you heard the news on September 11,2001.  Neither will I.  I was on the 110th floor in a smoke filled room with a man who called his wife to say "Good-Bye".  I held his fingers steady as he dialed.  I gave him the peace to say, "Honey, I am not going to make it but it is okay......I am ready to go.

I was with his wife when he called as she fed breakfast to their children.  I held her up as she tried to understand his words and as she realized he wasn't coming home that night.  I was in the stairwell of the 23rd floor when a woman cried out to ME for help.  "I have been knocking on the door of your heart for 50 years!", I said.  "Of course, I will show you the way home-only believe in ME now.

I was at the base of the building with the Priest ministering to the injured and devastated souls.  I took him home to tend to his Flock in Heaven.  He heard my voice and answered.

I was on all four of those planes, in every seat, with every prayer.  I was in the very hearts of the believers there, comforting and assuring them that their faiths has saved them.

I want you to know that I saw every face.  I was in Texas, Virginia, California and Afghanistan.  I was standing next to you when you heard the terrible news.  Did you sense me?

I want you to know that I saw every face.  I knew every name-though not all knew Me.  Some met ME for the first time on the 86th floor.  Some sought ME with their last breath.  Some couldn't hear ME calling to them through smoke and flames"  "Come to ME....this way......take my hand",  I offered.  Some chose, for the final time, to ignore ME.  But, I was there.     

I did not place you in the Tower that day.  You may not know why, but I do.  However, if you were there in the explosive moment in time, would you have reached for ME?

September 11, 2001 was not the end of the journey for you.  But someday your journey will end.  And I will be there for you as well.  Seek ME now while I may be found.  Then, at any moment, you know you are "ready to go".

I will be in the stairwell of your final moments....

GOD


We are just days removed from honoring 9-11.  The sting is still there...but for how long?  Will the words God offered in this story be something you can hold onto for more than a couple of days, a week, or perhaps a month?  Or will they be something you can grasp for eternity?

Know this...He was there on September 11th, 2001.  He is here today.  And He will be there tomorrow.


YGG,

John   

Saturday, September 8, 2012

SHOULD WE FIRE GOD?

I'm not what you'd call an avid book reader.  I tend to read short stories on the internet or in the paper or in magazines.  Not really sure why, because once I get started on a book, I generally get riveted to the story and jump knee deep into subject at hand.  On more than one occasion, my wife Joanne, has said to me, "why don't you grab a book and snuggle up and read.....and get your head out of that stupid television".

While I agree with her, much of my apprehension is that I think I'm a better visual learner than anything else.  At least, that's what I've countered with under my breath.  But she's right, I should do more book reading because there's a whole new world out there!!

This past week I took her suggestion and began reading , "Should We Fire God".  a book written by a young pastor who offered a myriad of questions and answers to the very subject at hand.  The timing couldn't have been better.  I'm no different than anyone else who struggles at times with God's involvement or lack of  connectivity in our lives.  Here is the short lead-in to the book:      .





 "When the worst school shooting in history occurred, Pastor Jim Pace, a Virginia Tech alumnus, was front and center.  Media, students, church members and strangers asked him the same question: If God is loving, why doesn't He stop disasters before they start?  SHOULD WE FIRE GOD is Jim's thoughtful, reasoned response to the idea that God isn't doing His job very well.  In conversational, non preachy prose, Jim explains why God allows pain and devastation to occur-and what the consequences would be if He didn't.  And he leads readers to question, if we fire God-who takes His place-woefully imperfect humans?  Jim uses real-life examples and his own battles with faith to develop readers' understanding of God, His true role in their lives, what they should do with doubt and fear and what He feels when we ache.  


Think back to that April 16, 2007 day.  Do you remember the first images that flashed across the television screens of the deadliest shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history?   Hour by hour the death count went up....32 in all on the Virginia Tech campus.  Another 17 were wounded.  Why?  Where was God?  How could he allow such evil to take place?

Slowly....ever so slowly the wounds have begun to heal.  But it hasn't been easy.  Pastor Pace was placed front and center to the "where was God" question.  And he has tackled it with great passion, compassion and thought.  But most importantly, his responses are something that we can all take to heart.  They are the words that cross every path we take.  Not easy words, but defining ideas that can help offer hope and ease the pain.

Pastor Rick Warren who penned a "Purpose Drive Life" wrote the foreword for Pace's work.  He offered these thoughts.  "We live in a broken world.  Because of that, we've all been brought to our knees by tragedies.  What do you do when you're struggling with overwhelming circumstances and emotions?  How should you respond when your faith is tested and God seems absent or in no hurry to act?"    

So here's my suggestion.....and not a subtle one I might add.  Read this BOOK!   You owe it to your self, your family and those people who you'll encounter in the future who are asking the question...where is that God of yours?

"If you ask to be adopted by me, I will do so,
And if you seek me- you will find me"-paraphrased by Pastor Pace from Ephesians 1:5 and Matthew 7:7

YGG,

John  
       

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

ADDRESS BULLYVILLE-PART 3


The following is from Jerry Stewart who hailed from a small town in southeastern Iowa.  Weight had been a factor in his life since birth and as we'll hear from him, it's been the cause of some pretty harsh treatment over the years.

"It might have been the longest day of my life", said Jerry Stewart.  Those were Stewart's words as he looked back on the recruiting process after graduating from the University of Minnesota.


"I'd spent an earlier recruiting session being humiliated by a little gal who was a recruiter for a marketing firm who in so many words, told me, I was too fat", he said.  "After a long time reflecting as to whether I'd ever put myself in that cattle process again, I sucked it up and went for a second session.  This time I met someone who worked for a company who looked at me as a person first.....who said they were very interested in me and implied weight was not an issue.  The recruiter told me they'd let me know before they left campus that night whether the job was mine".

Stewart spent the hours after his meeting bouncing thoughts back and forth in his head.  Was he this, could he be that, would he be given a chance, gosh, if he could just get an opportunity....he'd shine.  Those words kept playing through his conscience back and forth.  And then the phone rang.  It was 11 p.m.   He hesitated in reaching for the phone figuring he already knew the answer.  In fact, he had the words already on the tip of his tongue..."thank you, thanks for calling.  I wish I could come to work with you, but I understand.  Thank you..."

But something happened after reaching for the receiver.  Stewart was hearing things in his ears he'd was having trouble putting together.  He had to shake himself inside to listen closer.  "Mr. Stewart, we'd like you to come to work for us.  As I mentioned in our interview, you'll be given a nice yearly compensation and benefits package which we can spell out later.   But are you interested?"  

Stewart paused for a short time and thought of all the abuse he suffered in high school being the fat boy and the semi-seclusion he'd put himself through in college.  He thought long and hard and the word that hit him was finally.  Finally, he was getting an opportunity to be someone.  Maybe now, the attitudes would be different toward him and he'd feel different about himself.  "Yes", he said.  "Yes, sir I sure am".  He heard the words as he said them half in a trance.  It was like all this was happening to someone other than Jerry Stewart.  "Wow.  Finally.  Finally", someone had confidence in my abilities", Stewart said.  As Jerry laid his head on the pillow that night, he had a different sense of his life.  And he let out a great big sigh.  One that was no doubt heard back in Bullyville in southeastern Iowa, his hometown.  Yes, it was a restful night of sleep that night.


In the coming days, Stewart packed for his return to Iowa where he would enter the job force.  Jerry was getting more nervous by the day.  Probably because he didn't know what he was walking into......what his boss would be like and what the other employees would think of him.  All pretty important stuff.  Mid-week came and it was time to leave his northern home.   Small Bullyville he liked to call it, but Bullyville all the same.  As the van pulled onto Interstate 35 heading south...Stewart felt nauseous.  Something wasn't right.  In addition to having an upset stomach, there was something else at play here.  But....there was no turning back.  Stewart had made his decision and what was ahead was his future.  Whatever it might be.

The trip and the move into his 2-bedroom apartment went smoothly.  His neighbors seemed friendly but somewhat aloof.  Jerry chalked that up to people wanting to keep to themselves....not anything about him per see.  And then came the first day of work.  And the realization of why he had felt sick days before.

"I walked into the office complex about 7:30 that first morning", Stewart said.  "I wanted to get there early and look around and get my nerves under wrap.  I let out a big rush of air as I entered the door.  And as I did I heard someone say..."hey big fella, we're not open yet".  "That's alright", I said.  "This is my first day of work and I wanted to come early", Jerry stated.  "Oh", said the voice again. "I'd have you sit in the waiting room, but I'm not sure the chairs will hold your weight.  You'll probably have to stand until someone else gets here or wait outside".  

Great, thought Jerry.  Not exactly the greeting he'd hoped for.  Great.  Was this place going to be another Bullyville?  "God, I hope not", he said out loud.


A SCHOOLGIRL'S WORKPLACE
Tell me what gives you the right, to make people feel so small.
What have they ever done to you, usually nothing, nothing at all.
Do you even realize the pain and suffering your actions cause?
I doubt you even notice, as you look to your friends for applause.
Not one of us is perfect, we all have our faults.
But don't use our imperfections as hurtful remarks or taunts.
It's the differences between us that makes us all unique,
From the color of our skin or hair, to the accent in which speak.
Once safe at home your victims alone break down and cry.
Some even feel there's no way out, and that they'd rather die.
Imagine being a parent and finding the child you adore,
having taken their own life, now lying lifeless on the floor.
Some suffer on in silence, afraid to speak out, alone and sad.
Was this really your intention to make someone feel that bad?
It's true that sometimes things are said that start off as a joke,
But you can cause such humiliation from unkind words you've spoke.
So just stop for a moment before bitching or poking fun,
As the damage that your words can do can never be undone.
For each of us is guilty when we ignore the things we see,
Thankful that they chose today to pick on you and not me.
Are we really all that heartless not to help when we see them cry?
Nowadays bullying has gotten worse, it's all gotten out of hand.
And the only way to stop it is for us to make a stand.
So be honest, take a good look at yourself, then ask yourself aloud,
Are you really the kind of person, of who you can be proud?-Rowan Geering, age 12

UP NEXT:  THE WORKPLACE AND CHANGES

YGG,

John
        

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

ADDRESS BULLYVILLE-PART 2

The following is from Jerry Stewart who hailed from a small town in southeastern Iowa.  Weight had been a factor in his life since birth and as we'll hear from him, it's been the cause of some pretty harsh treatment over the years. 

It  was a day Jerry Stewart had looked forward to for a long, long time.  He was finally headed down the highway in a north-westerly fashion leaving his hometown behind. "See ya later", he said out loud. As he took one final glance in the rear view mirror, he thought to himself, "there a better days ahead.  Finally, after years of abuse.....being called "fat and obese".....and sometimes a slob, he was moving on".  He was off to college and a chance for change in his life.  Bullyville would be a thing of the past.

Stewart's drive to Minneapolis took a little over six hours.  It was here where he would begin life anew at the University of Minnesota.  It was summer and Jerry had taken the first opportunity to get out of town that he could.  He didn't wait for the fall term to start.  The sooner the better.  As he trudged up the walk to his new home, Territorial Hall, he couldn't contain his glee.  Finally, he thought. "My day is here".

Stewart checked into his room and placed his belongings in the closet as neatly he could.  And he waited.  And waited.  And waited.  For his roommate.  But that never happened.  He waited expecting that sometime, someone would walk into the room and announce themselves.  Jerry had played it through in his mind for months.  But those hopes were dashed.  As Jerry would later find out, his roommate to be, got a look at his new bunking partner and asked for a move.  The residential counselor never gave Stewart a reason why, but he had his suspicions.  So, rather than having the opportunity to meet someone new and share some new experiences, Stewart could only muster ideas that were less than optimistic and most began with the word, "why".

"Why am I fat?  Why do people treat me this way?  Why can't I get a break" and Why God, do I have to go through this?"  All questions that had real legitimacy.  At least in Jerry's mind.




"That was a tough summer for me.  First off, I was away from home and didn't know anyone, didn't know where anything was and I had feelings of inferiority written all over me", Stewart would explain. "I spent many nights in my room thinking, ...wondering if this was going to be worth it.  Most of the time, I felt like it was a losing situation.  On the other hand, not many people knew me by name, so I tried to keep to myself.  That way I felt invisible", he added.

Year one went by....then two....then three.  And then it was onto Stewart's senior year at the U. As he would recall, much of his college life was inconsequential to him.  He learned alot, probably because he spent alot of time in his room studying....and being alone.  He had maneuvered his way through his first three years fairly easy.  Oh, he had the occasional looks thrown his way.  But he tried to push them aside as soon as he could.  "Frankly, there were so many diverse people at college, that I didn't feel singled out as much as high school", Jerry noted.  "I'd come from a little town in southeastern Iowa and it wasn't like we saw anything to different other than the height and weight of an individual and their hair color and style.  College was different.  And that was good......and bad".

Stewart spent much of his senior year readying himself for the work force. He tidied up his resume, got his grades in the best shape he could and bought a new suit.  A big new suit.  "I probably gained another 75 pounds at college", Jerry added.  "When I went to buy my suit for interviews, I realized how much weight I'd had put on in four years.  The scale now read 375 pounds".  

"The first interview I had was with a marketing firm in Iowa.  It went pretty well, or at least I thought it did", Stewart said. "At the very end, the interviewer asked me if I had ever considered a workout regime to lose weight, because their company liked to think of themselves as a "healthy and fit" organization".  "You need to lose weight Mr. Stewart.  Unless you do that we can't consider you for employment", she said.

"I was crushed", Jerry said.  "I'd gone through crap like this in high school.....had it go away somewhat in college and here was some skinny little female telling me in so many terms, "you need to lose weight".
"Every possible negative emotion came over me.....hate, anger, disgust.  You name it, and I felt it.  I left the interview office as quickly as I could.  Headed for home.  A place where I could feel somewhat safe......and invisible, again.".

"I looked into the freezer and spotted the gallon of pecan sundae ice cream.  That's all I remember about the rest of that day", Jerry said.  "With one exception.  The Bully that had controlled much of my life had reared its ugly head again".

UP NEXT:  A JOB OFFER AND ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will. -Romans 12:1-2

YGG,

John         

Saturday, August 4, 2012

ADDRESS BULLYVILLE-PART 1

The following is from Jerry Stewart who hailed from a small town in southeastern Iowa.  Weight had been a factor in his life since birth and as we'll hear from him, it's been the cause of some pretty harsh treatment over the years.  

"Hey Fatso", screamed the young girl.  "Get out of the way, would you?  Lose some weight or get off the playground".  Those were words Jerry Stewart had felt before.  He'd sensed them in people's eyes the way they treated him but he'd never heard them spoken out loud.  Now they had different legs.  

"I'll never forget that day", said Jerry.  "I remember it like it happened yesterday but in truth that was over 45 years ago.  I was only eight years old then.  And to make matters worse I relive it all the time.  I can't get the hurt out of my mind.  It cut deeper than any knife ever could", he followed up in saying.

That's where much of the ugliness began for Jerry Stewart.  But it started well before that.  Jerry has always been big.  He was a large baby.....10 lbs. 4 oz at birth.   He'd been told his size was a problem for his mother during delivery, but both survived after some difficult moments.  His older brother and sister have always been  much smaller than him and that has never helped much either.  Big, large and now, by someone words, FAT.

"That day on the playground was when I started feeling the abuse, the bullying, the threatening words and the disgust for my size", said Jerry.  "And it seemed like once it began, there was open season on me".  Kids I thought were friends went the other way.  They didn't have time for me anymore and I got left out.  There was this one kid who loved to pick on me", he recalled.  "We were only nine years old.  He'd go out of his way to make me feel like total crap.  It didn't make any matter where we I might run into him, if he had a chance to belittle me or make me uncomfortable', he'd say or do something.  I was his target.  His personal property to belittle or humiliate.  And he was good at it.  He'd always pick times or places where he had friends to back him up and where no adult could hear him rail on me".  


A sign Jerry wished he'd been able to use 

As Jerry continued to discuss his upbringing he cited numerous other situations of bad behavior directed towards him.  In each, he had this overriding thought, "what did I ever do to them to deserve this?"   As I  listened intently to the reliving of some truly ugly times for Jerry, I couldn't  come up with any sort of answer that might help.  His question though is one that has to ring true to anyone who has ever experienced the BULLY.  Why me?  why are you doing this?  and when will you go away?

Jerry's first personal bully did finally go away, but not after a long, long time of damage.  "He moved on to someone else when we hit junior high school.  I was never so glad to have him out of my sight.  But as you can tell, he'll never be out of my mind", Stewart said.  BUT things didn't stay that way for long.  As Jerry went on to explain, there always seemed to be another bully down the street, around the corner or in the locker room.  It was in this place, the room which you had to go shower and dress where young Stewart became the victim of further abuse and mistreatment.

"I hated phys ed", recalled Jerry of his freshman days in high school.  "I tried every excuse imaginable to skip out of that class. No matter what I did, it drew attention to my weight.  I was always slower than everyone else.  That was one part of the embarrassment.  But that was only the half of it, because afterwards came time for us to disrobe and shower.  There was one group of upperclassmen who loved to make fun of me and my rolls.  "Hey look, Jerry's got fat upon fat, they'd say.  It got to the point I'd get physically sick when the day came for that class.  It was that way the whole year.  Somehow I got through the school year and the guys who loved to make fun of me graduated.  So it ended at least for a while.  Every year though, I wrestled with some sort of demon in that class.  Or maybe I should say bully.  One of the same, I reckon", Jerry added.

Stewart went on to tell me how excited he was to graduate from his small Iowa high school and leave the ugly images in his past.  It was time for him to start over, he thought. College seemed to be a course of direction for him, a place where he could learn about people and himself and grow.  But the growing took place more physically than mentally.  In his freshman year he put on another 50 pounds.  Weight was even more of an issue and another detractor was about to emerge.

NEXT:  COLLEGE LIFE WITH THE BULLY      

Be strong and courageous.  Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you.  He will not forsake you.-Deuteronomy 31:6

YGG,

John