19 August 2017

God's Word for Saturday, 8/19/17

This is the testimony in essence: God gave us eternal life; the life is in his Son. So, whoever has the Son, has life; whoever rejects the Son, rejects life.

18 August 2017

17 August 2017

Are You Broken?

A friend asked me to write about the question, “What if I stopped trying so hard to hide my brokenness? What if we all did?”

Good questions, both. Why are they good?

Let me ask, why are you trying so hard? Is it a shame to be broken by life, by hardship, by circumstances?

Here’s an answer you won’t expect: “Yes, it is.” We’re not called to be under the circumstances. We are more than conquerors in (and through, and because of) Christ Jesus! (Romans 8:37) We supposed to be ABOVE the circumstances!

But of course we’re broken, because humanity is broken! That’s why we need Jesus so badly. God’s love, given so freely through our acceptance of Him as our savior, is available. He Himself will fix our brokenness.

What does the Bible say about it? I’m glad you asked:
"Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing. Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if you’ve sinned, you’ll be forgiven—healed inside and out.
"Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. Elijah, for instance, human just like us, prayed hard that it wouldn’t rain, and it didn’t—not a drop for three and a half years. Then he prayed that it would rain, and it did. The showers came and everything started growing again. (James 5:13-18, MSG)

So why do we try to cover our brokenness? Why do we pretend to each other that we’re okay? Because we’re ashamed or embarrassed that we can’t control all the circumstances of our lives?

Who can?

God the Father, and His Son, Jesus – that’s who. Our brokenness is proof positive that we need Him. Let His healing of you, both inside and outside, be proof that we don’t need to be broken … and proof that we don’t need to pretend to each other.

God's Word for Thursday, 8/17/17

We’re not barging in on the rightful work of others, interfering with their ministries, demanding a place in the sun with them. What we’re hoping for is that as your lives grow in faith, you’ll play a part within our expanding work. And we’ll all still be within the limits God sets as we proclaim the Message in countries beyond Corinth. But we have no intention of moving in on what others have done and taking credit for it. “If you want to claim credit, claim it for God.” What you say about yourself means nothing in God’s work. It’s what God says about you that makes the difference.
2 Corinthians 10:17-18 MSG

16 August 2017

Navy Memories #11: 1975, A Year of Change

Previous installments:
  1. Boot Camp Memories
  2. About Those Navy Memories
  3. First Orders
  4. Anchor's Aweigh
  5. Man Overboard!
  6. Reflections of a Black Shoe
  7. Destroyer Life and Ports of Call
  8. Warships vs. Big Waves
  9. The Accident, and More Ports of Call
  10. The Black Sea

It was an unusually chilly winter in Elefsis, Greece. Not only cold and blustery, but on one memorable Saturday in January, it snowed for the first time in 16 years.

Okay, it flurried. But there was some accumulation, albeit less than an inch. But children had never seen it before, and one of my clearest memories of that morning was watching the neighborhood kids throw loose handfuls at each other. They didn't know how to make snowballs, but the instinct was there. :)

But Christmas of '74 came and went without incident. In the military, that's never a "given".
It's still awfully nice when it happens. So we began 1975 like this:

Tied up at the pier. Ships (and crews) are happier when underway.

But in February, duty called: time to get underway. We didn't do much besides cruise around, it seemed, but we did continue to play tag with Russian subs and surface ships. At least we were at sea!
We also fired an ASROC (Anti-Submarine ROCket) or two.

Not my ship, but one just like it (a Gearing-class destroyer), launching an ASROC.

We placed a 36" Styrofoam ball, spray-painted orange, in the ocean. Then we steamed 11 miles away, calculated the wind/drift/current, and launched an ASROC at it the unsuspecting foam. Those tasked with checking the target area went back to it, and reported "many pieces of orange-and-white Styrofoam on the surface."

I thought that was pretty impressive.

Speaking of the ASROC launcher - visible in the photo above as a horizontal rectangle from which the rocket just left - it was directly above my desk. Seriously, the base of the launcher formed the overhead above my seat, and the techs had to stand on my desk to work on it. If that sucker had ever malfunctioned (read if it blew up), it wouldn't have been much fun to be sitting in that particular spot.

A typical ASROC launcher

After returning to port, The Powers That Be decided we should have a squadron competition for the deck hands: flaking out lines, splicing lines and/or wire ropes, relay races, lowering lifeboats, etc. My band, as well as one other, played live music for the event. There was plenty of food available, although I can't tell you what it might have been ... probably burgers and such. And, as they say, a good time was had by all.

Counter-clockwise: Elefsis Harbor, the seamen competing, and a group of officers from my ship - note the "715" on the ball caps. Our skipper, Commander John B. Castano, is standing right of center, in a leather jacket with his arms folded.

Here's the same photo, enlarged.

Me and the Willie Wood Band

In February, my almost-20-year-old head was filled with thoughts of fancy and possible romance. I'd been conducting a pen-pal relationship for some time with a lady from Juneau; she was a friend of a shipmate, also from Juneau. Bob had gone on to submarine school at that point, but I wanted to meet Rene'.

So I submitted a revised dream sheet* to the Bureau of Naval Personnel (BUPERS), requesting duty in Alaska. A fateful choice, as it turned out: 30 days later, I got orders for Adak, Alaska, an "isolated duty station" in the Aleutian Islands. That a topic to which we'll return, soon enough.

In late March, we set sail again. The ship stopped at a couple of small ports we'd visited before.

On the day before Easter, there were strong winds which prevented us from entering the port at Kythira. So we dropped anchored off the coast. On Easter morning, we awoke to find that the ship was near not only other tin cans from our squadron, but a group of Russian destroyers as well.

I suspect the reason was that spot was suitable for an anchorage (i.e., not terribly deep). But I also had the strong impression that we did it as part of our Navy's ongoing mission of pestering the Russian Navy in the Mediterranean. I can't remember if someone said that, or if we just joked about it.

Probably the latter, though. Heh.

USS William M. Wood (DD 715), underway.

And then we wound up in Naples, a port of call about which I'd heard many tales.

The harbor water was an impenetrable black, had scattered clumps of floating trash, and smelled foul. Once the ship was tied up at the pier, my first close-up look at the harbor was to see an orange peel and a dead cat drift by.

Naples harbor, with Mt. Vesuvius in the background, taken in '73.

While a group of us were clustered at the rail, a car crashed through the wooden barricades at the shore and fell some 30 feet into the harbor, whereupon it sank like a stone. Even though U.S. Navy divers immediately jumped into that black water, I never did find out if they were able to save the occupant(s).

Not exactly an auspicious start.

But of course, I was anxious to see the sights. As soon as liberty was announced, those of us who weren't on duty headed down the gangplank to "Hey Joe Row".

What's that, you ask? It's the elbow-to-elbow rows of sidewalk vendors, on both sides of the street, yelling at the American sailors: "Hey Joe, wanna buy a watch?" Or a shirt, or pants, or a suit, or girls ... the list was endless. It was best to travel in groups, and just keep walking.

We hadn't eaten since an early brunch, and decided that German cuisine sounded good. Visiting Italy for the first time ... reasonable choice, no? Oh well, we had plenty of time to get local food.  :)

Typical street scene in modern-day Naples; not exactly 42 years ago, but close enough.

We found (read we stumbled across) a place called the Bauhaus, or maybe Brauhaus, Brew Haus ... something like that. Okay, I can't remember it's name, but it was good. The size of a middlin' cafeteria inside, it was brightly lit, with many wooden tables, and looked like a set in a play. Or maybe Hogan's Heroes. There were no Nazi soldiers, though. Lots of very large beer steins on the tables, amidst huge platters of food.

After thoroughly stuffing ourselves, we were off in search of further adventures. My personal thought was that I'd probably never visit Italy again, so I wanted to see as much as I could.

The usual procedure for a ship in a port is that the sailors who are afforded liberty will go ashore, usually in civvies unless directed otherwise, and then return to the ship at night. It's the best of both worlds, as you can walk around a foreign land, sample the food and drink, meet people, and then return to U.S. "soil" at the end of the day.

The next day, our group thought it was high time to find out the difference between American pizza, and the real deal. Naples is reputedly the birthplace of pizza, so there was no time like the present.

We found a place with a wait staff who spoke some English, and ordered the daily special pizza.

Turns out it was served in a glass pie pan, roughly 13" x 20", and was 2 1/2" deep. Lots of soft, bubbly crust, with all the day's leftovers piled on top.

One of the best pizzas I've ever eaten, too; we thoroughly enjoyed that meal. Then we did more wandering around town, but I no longer remember much about it. As April drew to a close, my mind was starting to wander, too.

I had orders to the other side of the world, and thoughts of leaving began to crowd out everything else.

So bright and early on the morning of May 1, 1975, I left the ship. After a short hop on a helicopter, and a longer flight on a MAC (Military Airlift Command) flight for Athens - because that's where my tickets specified I was departing from - I boarded a TWA flight for New York.

From there, to St. Louis to see my parents for two weeks, and then to Juneau, to see the pen pal I mentioned. It was ... interesting, but fantasy and reality are frequently quite different. I found that out for myself, and moved on.

Me at my parent's house in Missouri. Shown as an E-3 here, I was already scheduled for promotion to E-4 on May 16th, but wouldn't find out about it for nearly two months because of the transfer from Greece to Alaska.

Back in those days, one couldn't fly from St. Louis to Alaska. I took Ozark Airlines to Chicago ($25 fare on military standby - eat your hearts out!), Northwest Orient Airlines to Seattle, and then Alaska Airlines to Juneau.

The SeaTac to Juneau flight stopped in Ketchikan. On the ground in Juneau, I discovered that they'd left my seabag on the plane, and off-loaded some old raggedy bag that looked like it had rabies. Or maybe the mange. Either way, it certainly wasn't mine.

The baggage claim lady kept looking at my ticket which said the flight originated in STL, and referred to it as Salt Lake City for the next three days until the bag turned up.

So for those three days, I could wear the clothes I'd flown in. Or maybe not...

I stayed in Juneau for two weeks, did a lot of hiking, and bought clothes I thought appropriate for Alaska: a down coat, thick socks, and heavy hiking boots. Flannel shirts, blue jeans, and underwear. All the things you don't think about, until you don't have them.

Next stop: Adak, Alaska.

It's a form on which you can list the stations, ships, and overseas locations where you would like to be stationed. If there is an opening, you might get assigned to one of your choices. Otherwise, you can keep on dreaming.  :)

God's Word for Wednesday, 8/16/17

I only just noticed that I referred to yesterday's Scripture as being for Wednesday. Wishful thinking, I suppose.

With promises like this to pull us on, dear friends, let’s make a clean break with everything that defiles or distracts us, both within and without. Let’s make our entire lives fit and holy temples for the worship of God.
2 Corinthians 7:1 MSG

15 August 2017

The Next "Navy Memories" Post

I'm working on #11, folks ... honest! I've had to reach out to some old shipmates, because I can't recall a few things as clearly as I'd like.

Be patient for just a little while longer. :)