Faith Under Fire

Early morning service on a coast guard ship in WWII

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http://harmoniumhire.co.uk/archive-photo-gallery/

Major William F. Reiss, Chaplain, First Airborne Task Force (FABTF) leads G-2 Staff in prayers before departing for Southern France; picture taken at Voltone Airfield, Italy, 15 August 1944

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http://www.med-dept.com

The Chaplain of the 6th General Hospital (MTO 26 Dec 42 – 15 Sep 45) conducts a Baptism service, French Morocco, September 1943

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http://www.med-dept.com

“On 20th April, 1941, the morning after 150 incendiary bombs had gutted St. Bartholomew’s, East Ham a bride and groom arrived at the wrecked church. They found charred timbers and ravaged walls were all that was left of the church where they were to be married that day.

But Helen Fowler, aged 20 of Caledon Road, East Ham and her Canadian soldier sweetheart, Cpl. Christopher Morrison, aged 21 of the 48th Highlanders stood proudly amid the ruins of the bombed-out church and made their wedding vows, while fireman played their hoses on the wooden beams which were still smouldering.”

moscowcoffeereview.com
moscowcoffeereview.com

If you zoom out of the top picture, you can see the view of the sky above the ship.

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Mint Is Busting Out All Over

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The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

–William Wordsworth

April (minus the ominous dark clouds and lightning that never once lead to a drop of precipitation but simply pass over us like the Jake Ryans of the world to the wallflowers at a high school dance) is lovely. As you can see, I have more mint than I can shake a stick at. I doubt I’ll use it for more than one glass of iced tea. What I will eat, and what my best friend and I called “pickles” in our childhood, are these little sour cones:

Springtime April 002I don’t know what they are, but I know you can eat them (pesticide-free!), and you won’t die. Other than that, my plant knowledge is limited. I would never make it on Naked and AfraidI lack any survivor skills, and rather than try to determine which mushrooms are edible and non-toxic, and knowing I’m bound for eternal glory, I would simply shuffle off this mortal coil and head toward heaven’s brunch buffet. Surely they have migas!

However, while I remain in this mortal body, I have already spent (statistically) half of my years–which means half of my Aprils are gone, and that is a shame. Perhaps heaven is eternally April? But then I would miss my Octobers…

 

I Still Hear Your Seawinds Blowing

Galveston 145I’ve been away from WordPress for several days, visiting Galveston. Yes, the very same one about which Glen Campbell sang. February is probably not the choicest month for much of anything, and visiting the coast is no exception. It was miserably cold (not Yankee minus-temperature cold), rainy, and so windy that it shook the walls of the rental condo all night long. I could easily see how being caught in a hurricane would be terrifying. We’ve visited Galveston before, but this time we were witness to much more dilapidation. Beach towns will always be in various stages of construction, as is the nature of weatherworn homes, but it was particulary disheartening to see homes that surely once knew glory, left to slowly decay.

Galveston 041Galveston already has a history of ghosts, but with the constant fog and drizzle surrounding Victorian-era houses, it was even more apparent.

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Bright colors can’t mask the ramshackle state of this home.

Galveston 042Some homes were probably not much to begin with.

Galveston Charles Camera 047But among the poverty, were words of hope.

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Catholic Girls Start Much Too Late

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“Catholic girls start much too late.” That’s what Billy Joel says, anyway. But these Catholic girls look decades ahead of their time; heads bowed down, as if texting or finding apps for their smartphones at http://www.howtopraytherosary.com.

Sunbeam59004Growing up, I knew very few people who attended church and absolutely no one who attended Catholic church. I don’t even know if there was a Catholic school within twenty miles. All I know of Catholic school are the horror stories adults have told about knuckle-rapping nuns and fear of the confessional. I admit there is something eerie about these kneeling, chapel veil-adorned students and the halo surrounding them.

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But I don’t know enough about Catholicism to condemn it, so I’ll leave that to Madonna. Sacrilegious is her middle name. In any event, this looks innocent enough.

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Like most high school students, these young ladies had the opportunity to dissect “reckless amphibians.” Perhaps that was a small outlet for raging teenage hormones.

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Uniforms prevented them from dressing hoochie-mama, and also made it more difficult to determine the poor from the middle class. Nobody was drinking Tab or Diet Coke or Monster; milk was doing their bodies good.

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Without the distraction of boys, it was easier to remain chaste and avoid temptation. If you played your cards right, you could wind up with the coveted prize. Hope they hooked a good one!

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Meeting The Challenge

Today we have a guest blogger named Mat, who shares with us his amazing weekend in McAllen, Texas last week, accompanying his friend as part of Challenged Sportsmen of America, Inc.:

Almost 9 years ago, I became friends with a guy named Brian.

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I met Brian through a mutual friend. A few of us were recently divorced, added to the fact that we all liked cold beer and cooking out, made for a group of friends that were always together. My first date with with my (now) wife was a night of karaoke with some of these guys. Brian and I had a special connection. He was always a calm, level kind of guy that operated on logic and wisdom. Many late nights talking over a cold beer happened between he and I. He is my brother, and he always will be.

The last time this group of guys and I hunted together was 3 years ago this month on the Breckenridge lease. Later that year, Brian was found to have a cyst on his cerebral cortex that had to be removed. What was supposed to be a simple procedure, ended up inducing a stroke and changing Brian’s life. He and his wife, Mary, both have daughters, and they had just had their son. The obstacles and trials for this family had just begun. The last three years have been filled with tears, triumphs, therapy, treatments and milestones.

Fast forward to this year. On one of their many flights, Mary and Brian met a guy named Chad. Chad became a paraplegic after an automobile accident when he was 19 years old. I don’t know all the details, but at some point, Chad told Mary about Challenged Sportsmen of America, Inc. and the work they do for Sportsmen/women to get them back into the field and on the water, doing what they enjoyed. A couple of months ago, Mary contacted me and told me about the CSA Wing & Water weekend and asked me if I would be willing to accompany Brian for the weekend. Obviously, my answer was a YES!

Last Friday morning, I drove to the McAllen airport to pick up Brian and begin our weekend with CSA. Neither of us really knew what to expect. We were the “newbies” this year–Brian as the challenged sportsman, I as his able body (AB). We knew we would hunt and fish and have aids and opportunities specifically for people in Brian’s position, but we didn’t really know more than that.

We soon learned that we were entering a family of some of the most amazing people on the planet. Not just the challenged individuals, but also the volunteers and donors to this organization. We got some of the best dove hunting I have ever seen, incredible food and wholesome fellowship.

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This group includes those with various types of limitations , as well as  volunteers who give up 3 days of their lives to make a difference for someone and experiences that words can’t even describe.

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This is Cody, a blind man, who was a former body building coach who lost his vision, but didn’t let it stop him. One of his former students was his AB, and they had devised an intricate system of verbal commands combined with touch to get him on to targets that he can’t even see. I got the opportunity to visit with this man quite a bit. He didn’t even flinch when I approached and asked, “So exactly HOW do you dove hunt?” He was one of the happiest, most genuine people I have ever encountered.

I overheard him talking to someone else as he was telling them his secrets to life:

1) No whining or complaining, EVER.

2) Spend at least 5 minutes per day focusing on God.

3) Spend at least 5 minutes per day giving undivided attention to someone else.

4) Spend at least 5 minutes per day giving undivided attention to yourself.

Seems simple, yet I know I don’t meet this goal every day. During the skeet shoot, he busted 3 clays and continued to shoot a handful of dove over the weekend. No excuses, no whining.

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This incredible guy has lived with birth defects that make simple tasks impossible for the average person. He doesn’t have hands like you and I. At the end of his arms are flesh that no way resembles hands. The same condition affected his legs, causing him to require prosthetic legs. If the fact that he retrofitted his shotgun to enable him to hold onto it and function it wasn’t enough, the fact that he built a T-bucket street rod and holds an active pilot’s license should impress all of us. He is heading up a new division of his company, called enabled.org, which puts challenged and disabled people in contact with companies and their products that make major differences in how they do things- from sporting goods to daily life essentials. My company, Round 2,  will be working with him in the near future on a couple of projects, and I am excited. It makes me think of my own training and students….after what I’ve been privileged to witness, there really are NO excuses!

Most importantly, Brian was smiling. It was a long weekend, full of activities. He tired and over-stimulated quickly, and the responsibility of making sure he was taken care of and comfortable was tiring for me as well. I got a taste of what his wife does on a daily basis, and I gained new respect for her. She admitted, “This road has been hard , long , and accompanied with many challenges, not only for Brian, but also for ALL that have lived him. I couldn’t have ever said “I do” without loving him unconditionally . He is my Rock- and our journey is filled with God’s gracious love, and I look forward to what will continue to unfold for our journey.”

I saw firsthand how simple tasks that I regularly take for granted are much more taxing on him, and I gained new respect for him and his strength. Not only did we get to hunt together again, but we got to share even more. We got to laugh together again as “the guys” for the first time in 3 years. We got to hang out and sip a cold beer together, go hunting, go fishing and share memories. Brian has come a long way, and he is still moving. Parts of his memory are cloudy and missing pieces. On Saturday, he asked me when I was going to tie the knot with my wife. When I told him we were already married and reminded him that he was drunk at our reception and eating the flowers off the cake, the memory came back and he was able to fill in the gaps. We filled in a lot of gaps this last weekend, and it was good. I freaking love that guy.

No less important are the countless volunteers and donors to this organization. Aside from actually getting to McAllen, participants are given an all expenses-covered weekend. All meals, lodging and activities are free of charge. Even ammo for the hunt and drinks/snacks are provided. This is all made possible by generous donors who  care enough to get challenged and disabled sportsman back in the field. Every need was provided and any special needs were addressed by a top notch committee that has been making this event successful for 18 years and counting.

Everyone who attended won something during the weekend. Prizes, gifts, raffles–everyone was a winner. Brian was the lucky winner of a 150-160 class whitetail cull buck hunt on the Shipp Ranch near Laredo (His super lucky AB gets to go with him!). This is a once-in-a-lifetime trophy hunt by most of our standards- all expenses paid. Several other hunts were given away, along with a multitude of prizes.

I have committed to making this an annual tradition for Brian and me, and I am already excited for next year. I have also committed to being a part of this amazing organization through donation, fundraising and volunteering. In the event that Brian couldn’t make it one year for whatever reason, I’ll be there as a volunteer. I have never met a more genuine, down-to-earth group of people who treat each other better than family and refuse to accept limitations and let anything hold them back.