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Adversity is a refining fire.

theleansubmariner

I achieved a minor but important breakthrough this morning at around 4:50 AM when Angus the dog decided he needed to get up and go outside.

I have been struggling for months to properly title the book project I have been working on now for about five years. The last three chapters have been the hardest since these chapters cover the most well known parts of my subject, Captain Cassin Young, US Navy Medal of Honor awardee (deceased).

The breakthrough is that I believe I have the name that fits the work I have done and best describes what I want people to see when they pick up the book.

I will reveal that in the weeks to come.

Debbie and I have tried to get into a habit each day of studying God’s word through the Bible and some study guides we purchased for individual chapters. The study has…

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The Line

theleansubmariner

As Memorial Day approaches, I know that all of us will be busy with tributes, ceremonies and parades of honor. At least I hope that we all would be so engaged. The truth is that many will be more focused on picnics and pools, parties and getaways, sales and sports. How far away from our own heritage have we drifted.

I will have the honor of participating in the Elizabeth Parade and Ceremony in Elizabeth PA. The ceremony goes back as far as anyone can remember and has been a regular part of my families tradition for nearly as long. I hope to be able to introduce a new poem written today for the occasion.

This poem is a reflection based on a vision I had about sailors today. I have copywrited the work so if you feel the desire to share, please contact me directly.

The Line

Mister Mac

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Last Words

death bed

Driving home from the USO-NC Jacksonville, NC Center last night, I heard something on the radio that had me thinking.  It seems that one of the actors (and singer, teen heart-throb) from The Partridge Family, was heard to say the following just before he died; “So much wasted time.”  Sad that a man whose career was devoted to supposedly bringing laughter into others lives would end his own with such a sad insight.

 

It got me thinking into what others ‘last words’ were and how that reflected their lives before their deaths.  Many of the comments are humorous, some sublime and others, as the above quote, a sad goodbye to this life.  Some may believe that drawing any kind of conclusions from anyone’s ‘deathbed conversation’ is overblown.  They would claim that it is nothing more than the random thoughts flitting through a dying brain; others, myself included, feel that often such comments can reveal not only a glimpse of that persons’ life but perhaps a glimpse of what is next after death.  Many are recorded on various websites, but some that I’ve included here can point to how important these last testimonies are.

 

This is the last of earth! I am content.
~~ John Quincy Adams, US President, d. February 21, 1848

Waiting are they? Waiting are they? Well–let ’em wait.
In response to an attending doctor who attempted to comfort him by saying, “General, I fear the angels are waiting for you.”
~~ Ethan Allen, American Revolutionary general, d. 1789

All my possessions for a moment of time.
~~ Elizabeth I, Queen of England, d. 1603

Codeine . . . bourbon.
~~ Tallulah Bankhead, actress, d. December 12, 1968

How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?
~~ P. T. Barnum, entrepreneur, d. 1891

I am ready to die for my Lord, that in my blood the Church may obtain liberty and peace.
~~ Thomas à Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, d.1170

I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis.
~~ Humphrey Bogart, actor, d. January 14, 1957

That was the best ice-cream soda I ever tasted.
~~ Lou Costello, comedian, d. March 3, 1959

Damn it . . . Don’t you dare ask God to help me.
To her housekeeper, who had begun to pray aloud.
~~ Joan Crawford, actress, d. May 10, 1977

 

This by no means is a complete list, just some I parsed from several different websites including “Brain Candy,” “Mental Floss” and “Phrasefinder.”  There are some notables I have left out, among them Jesus the Christ (in that case his last words on the cross were not his last words, for he is alive today having risen from the dead).   Some that I have heard from other nurses (relating what they’d heard from a patient just as they died) are horrifyingly stark, giving a glimpse of life after death that is not all lollipops, rainbows, and butterflies.  The saddest on the above list is that of Joan Crawford; apparently, someone in her hearing was praying and perhaps beseeching her to call out for God.  To go into that long not-so-good night with those words on ones’ lips…

 

There are ample examples of those disciples of Christ who went to their King with joy; Tomas a’ Becket is such an example when faced with his assassins, gave testimony of not only a life well spent but an expectation of far better in the next life.  As the two malefactors who were crucified at the same time as Jesus, the world is divided into two camps; those who continue to decry his claims and mock him even as they die, and those who had once been among the mockers, but embraced him as Lord and Savior.  There is no middle ground, no great good deed that anyone can do that will assuage the penalty of being born a son or daughter of Adam.  Anyone who doesn’t believe in the concept of original sin and the inherent depravity of mankind has never had children (or seen the wild tantrum of a child not getting what they wanted NOW).

 

The time of our death is not known; often there is no time for any ‘last words’ as death overtakes us.  Better to live a life that reflects our values, particularly those of a disciple of Christ and let that be our last testament to the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Angry versus a Loving God?

Belief-in-an-Angry-God

When folks tell me that the God of the TANAK (Old Testament) and New Testament are different; one being vengeful and angry, the other loving and full of grace, I have to shake my head.  They just don’t get it and my reading this morning shows clear proof that they are one and the same.  Man’s fall and resultant expulsion from the Garden some may claim are clear indications of how vengeful God was ‘back then.’  They may say that didn’t God put that tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden after all; why should God be surprised when man disobeyed the command not to eat of its’ fruit?

 

That Eve was deceived by the Accuser is clearly laid out in Scripture (Gen. 3:1-6); what is often overlooked is how Adam was present during this temptation and let it happen.  True, Eve was not there when God commanded Adam not to eat of this particular tree (think of it, in a world full of ‘yes,’ the only one ‘no’ and they blew it!).  Surely Adam instructed his wife of this single ‘no,’ but the Accuser is crafty and deceived Eve, so she took of its’ fruit and ate it.  Then, Scripture tells us (Gen. 3:6), “…she took of the fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”  The innocence and joy of the Garden were gone in an instant, and they hid from each other and tried to hide from God.  No longer unashamed (Gen. 2:25); with rebellion and sin, shame entered creation.

 

God enters the Garden looking for Adam, calling to him as a father to a wayward son.  What follows (Gen. 3:10-13) is the first example of the blame game; fingers pointing outward without any confession of their own sin.  This continues to this day and will do so until the end of this fallen world.  Their attempt at covering their own shame (sewing fig leaves together to cover their nakedness) was ludicrous, just as any attempt on our part to pay for our own failures falls far short.  God sacrifices creatures to provide for them proper covering (would an angry and vengeful God do this?), but then does something many don’t understand. He expels them from the Garden, never to return (Gen. 3:23,24)!

 

Just so, some would claim, this demonstrates his vengeful nature.  But really it truly demonstrates the grace God shows throughout His-story.  The triune God speaks a very real concern, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil.  Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever…” (Gen. 3:22)  Adam and Eve (and all their progeny) were cursed with eventual death rather than living forever in a Garden of bliss.  This is the peak of grace; imagine if they had remained in the Garden and had eaten of the fruit that would give them everlasting life.  Shame, fear, doubt; all the ‘fruit’ of the fall would remain forever.  Death for the human race is a gracious gift from a loving God that ends a life of suffering and temptation, allowing them to enter into an eternity of everlasting joy.

 

Again, this so-called ‘angry, vengeful God of the Old Testament demonstrates further grace by providing a path, a Way to that true life.  By the sacrifice of the animals that provided them with clothing, God showed them that blood was required.  This would lead to the sacrificial system laid down in Exodus and Leviticus, but all points to that Son whose heel would be bruised, but who would forever crush the power and threat of the Accuser.  About two thousand years ago, an itinerant preacher and miracle worker was arrested and endured several mock trials (in violation of the Torah).  He would then be handed over to a lily-livered Roman official who would condemn him to be crucified, even knowing he was innocent.  That was that they all thought.

 

But God…

 

 

Jesus is risen; just as he said!  He has left this planet but will return.  The madness and evil that seem to run rampant over the Earth leave us with little hope.  By God’s grace, the story is not over.  When Jesus cried, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), it was not a piteous cry of defeat, but a shout of victory!  The debt had been paid; the Way was now open to all who believe to receive true life forever.

 

 

 

 

 

golgotha_by_v_k_sSee the source image

Whose Fool Are You?

See the source image

Really?

 

You expect me to believe that a man who had been brutally tortured, nailed to two pieces of wood, either suffocated or bled to death and then had a Roman spear jammed into his chest to ensure he was dead, that this same guy is alive?

 

Really?

 

You’re telling me that this same person when taken down from the cross was boneless without any sign of life, then laid in a borrowed tomb that was sealed and protected by Roman soldiers, that this same person is gone from the tomb?  You’re telling me that he is alive?

 

Really?

 

What kind of fool would believe that kind of nonsense?!?

 

Just because you have a bunch of his spineless followers (they did bail on him, right?), that they were suddenly bold proclaimers of this fella being alive and well; you want me to believe them as well?

 

Really?

 

Yeah, yeah; they were willing to suffer horrific deaths themselves just for believing in him, but that isn’t any kind of proof that he is alive, is it?  You really expect me to believe that?

 

Really?

 

Yeah, I heard how one of the most prolific persecutors of his disciples suddenly began telling others that this guy Jesus is alive, that he is a King?  That Saul turned from a successful career as one of the ruling council in Jerusalem to walk the then known world proclaiming this nonsense; is that proof of anything other than one man’s delusion?

 

Come on, really?  What kind of fool do you take me for anyway?

 

Who would be foolish enough to believe such nonsense!?!

 

Whose fool do you take me for?

 

Really?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Endless Day

despair

Have you ever had a day that seemed to drag on and on?  One that you wished would end, but were terrified of what would happen, what would change when it did?  Have you ever just wanted to curl up in a ball and, as the old country song put it, “Make the World Go Away?”

 

By now all of the apostles and the women who had followed Jesus would have gathered together in that same room where the Passover had been celebrated.  No celebration now, only a mind-numbing emptiness as they struggled to understand the inexplicable.

 

How could he die?

 

Was this all there was after all those years of ministry and learning?  The promise of what seemed a heralding of a new kingdom was now ashes and dust.  How were they to go on?  When would the same religious zealots who had taken their beloved teacher come for them?

 

Fear, darkness, hopelessness…

 

We look back on these huddled, shivering men and women in the light of what we know from Scripture and just shake our heads.  Where is there faith?  How could they have missed the warnings Jesus gave them, but also the promise of his resurrection?

 

Are we then so very different?

 

Whenever tragedy strikes our family when things don’t go according to what we thought they should, do we keep our eyes focused on God’s promises that are all yes and Amen in Messiah?

 

Life, this life we live will be filled with days similar to that one Saturday.

 

Hopelessness, despair, grief will flood our souls and leave us bereft of any joy.  We far too often are ignorant of how God is working as he was on that Saturday; we close our eyes to his possible and cling to our impossible.  We embrace our misery as if a friend when our true friend stands waiting with arms open wide.

 

It’s Saturday, but Sunday is coming…

Maundy Thursday

golgotha_by_v_k_s

 

A dark day when evil ran amok, and the disciples’ perceptions of what Messiah ought to be ended in a horrific night of betrayal, violence, and terror

 

His plan was NOT their plan

 

All hope is gone after a seemingly never-ending night filled with the mockery of three trials in which gave vent to the religious hatred against their friend

 

Now, as the light of day began filtering into the city, hearts and hopes remained dark as many huddled together in the upper room fearing that the religious leaders would come for them next

 

Some followed his agonizing path to Golgotha

 

Horror as the one they thought was the Messiah hung on a Roman cross, so disfigured as to be hardly recognizable as human, bleeding, dying

 

Darkness filled the land, covering the Earth

 

An end to hopes and dreams

 

But God

 

 

 

Aloha to my Facebook Ohana

theleansubmariner

I did three shortened tours in the Navy in Hawaii and had some of my greatest and worst life experiences while I was there. One word that comes to mind when I think of Hawaii and the subject of this post is Ohana.

From Wikipedia: “Part of Hawaiian culture, ʻ ohana means family (in an extended sense of the term, including blood-related, adoptive or intentional).The concept emphasizes that families are bound together and members must cooperate and remember one another.”

This is for my Facebook Ohana.

Some things are harder to do than others. I quit smoking many years ago when I finally got past the excuse of “I just like the way it feels to smoke” and realized it was cutting my life short. At my age, I also know that I no longer have the ability to eat and drink anything I want since there are obvious negative…

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Acceptance and Rejection

Decline

Recently I agreed to an interview with Alex Guarino to tell ‘my story’ after she heard some of it at an event at Foxes Boxes in Wilmington.  I agreed in the hopes to ‘put a face’  on how so many with felony backgrounds do struggle to find work.  Additionally, I’d hoped to use this platform as a chance to share my testimony of how God’s grace had brought me from darkness to light.  While the portions of the interview left much out (and stated that I’d  been drafted and sent to Vietnam, something I’d joined the Navy and volunteered for submarines to avoid), it was heartening to hear so many positive things from many that had not realized before that my background included a criminal record.

 

Then on Monday, March 26th, I was advised that my services as a volunteer on the Battleship North Carolina were no longer required, especially if it was in any aspect of my work involving interaction with the public.  Kim Sincox, who’d been the person that I interacted with most as a volunteer, was the person who delivered the message, telling me that it wasn’t anything personal…

 

Even before I was released from prison, I had begun to realize that my hopes for meaningful work would be an adventure.  As I filled out one application after another for work release, I quickly discovered that my naivete’ about finding work of any kind had not prepared me for the rigors of this search.  I assumed that as I had nearly completed the court-ordered sentence placed upon me (thereby fulfilling my ‘debt’ to society) and had even earned an Associates of Science degree in computers while in prison, that I would find work in IT or related field fairly quickly.

 

After my release, this search continued; by the time I’d all but given up I had applied for over 800 different positions in varying companies (including both the ones applied for while seeking work in prison and after).  Finally, in desperation for income, when I reached the age of 62 I  filed for my Social Security even though with my time in prison I would only receive just over $600.00 per month.  I had begun volunteering with different agencies in the Triangle (where we lived at the time) but continued to seek employment to no avail.

 

We relocated to the Wilmington area in hopes that an agency here would hire me (one of their supervisors had expressed an interest in me when I met her for a position assisting those coming out of prison in finding work).  Once we were in Wilmington, I followed their website daily waiting for the position to be posted.  When it did appear, I submitted my application with resume and appropriate documents and waited while checking the site at least twice a day.  After a month the position was no longer listed, having been filled without even a phone call from them.  It seemed the combination of my age and my felony would prove insurmountable barriers to meaningful employment, but was thankful to find other avenues in which to volunteer in the community.  Such activity took much of the sting of rejection at not finding work, giving me a sense of fulfillment and purpose; at least until Monday.

 

I’ve been reminded that many feel that having a felony is an embarrassment to their organization and would distance themselves from involvement with me (at least where it comes to being in the public eye).  Thankfully I’ve also been shown how others continue to value my efforts on their organization’s part and welcome my continued volunteering with them.  What is most important is knowing that nothing of what has happened can cause my King to reject me.  His grace is beyond my understanding, but the one thing that is immutable in my life.  That rock is a foundation that I can build upon and will continue to do so for whatever remains of my life.  Whether as a volunteer or in some paid position, my desire to serve the community remains unchanged.

A Prophesy From Nearly a Hundred Years Ago is Just as True Today

theleansubmariner

Everywhere you look these days, people are reacting to the senseless deaths of innocent people and wondering how we can stop the killing.

I think its a fair question. But I think we are not examining the root causes of what seems to be an increase in evil actions. Society has become very sophisticated since the days when the Europeans and others came to the shores of America. The vast country that lay before them was already inhabited, albeit with people who were not as organized and ready to repel the invaders. The resulting turmoil between natives and invaders was exacerbated by the conflict between the “Old Countries” that sought to take advantage of the new lands for their own purposes.

At one point, the invaders became the nation we are today.

The old ways of kings and queens were rejected and a representative form of government emerged. Laws were…

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