Monthly Archives: May, 2012

Bravery and Wisdom: Remembering our heroes on Memorial Day Weekend, Part Two

Yesterday I mentioned a book I typically open on Memorial Day Weekend.  It is Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyold the Call of Duty (Nick Del Calzo, photographs, Peter Collier, text, Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation,  2006).  As I was reading on Saturday, I finally noticed that the quotes on the inside covers were actually from the Medal of Honor recipients.  On a day set aside to remember our heroes, let’s also hear from them!

“To all young Americans, place God first, family and country always” (Ola A. Mize, b. 1931, Medal of Honor awarded for extraordinary valor near Surnag-Ni, South Korea, 1953)

“I don’t consider myself a hero or invincible. But I do know that the Lord was in my cockpit each time I took off, and when I was shot down.” (James E. Swett, b. 1920, Medal of Honor awarded for extraordinary valor over Guadalcanal, Western Pacific, 1943)

“The most important possession you have is your name–never dishonor it.” (David H. McNerney, b. 1931, Medal of Honor awarded for extraordinary valor at Polei Doc, South Vietnam, 1967)

“Do your very best, and always honor your flag, country, parents, and, above all, your God.” (Donald E. Rudolph, b. 1921, Medal of Honor awarded for extraordinary valor in Luzon, Philippines, 1945)

“We live in the best country in the world–it is our duty to love, guide, and protect it.” (Raymond G. Murphy, b. 1930, Medal of Honor awarded for extraordinary valor near the Imjin River, North Korea, 1953)

“Throughout our history, many men and women sacrificed the utmost for our great country and the freedoms we are privileged to enjoy. Always remember and honor our fallen comrades. God bless them all. God bless America.” (Michael E. Thornton, b. 1949, Medal of Honor awarded for extraordinary valor at Cua Viet River Base, South Vietnam, 1972)

“Veterans have provided you with great opportunities. Set goals, believe in yourself, and let God be your point man.” (Kenneth E. Stumpt, b. 1944, Medal of Honor awarded for extraordinary valor near Duc Pho, South Vietnam, 1967)

“God bless America, my home sweet home, and all of the brave men and women who serve her–past, present, and future.” (Tibor Rubin, b.1929, Medal of Honor awarded for extraordinary valor in Korea, 1950-1953)

“A man’s integrity is his greatest asset. Without it, he has nothing.” (Louis R. Rocco, 1938-2002, Medal of Honor awarded for extraordinary valor near Katum, South Vietnam, 1970)

“As a platoon leader, I did the very best I could to protect my men–with the help of God.” (Edward C. Dahlgren, b. 1916, Medal of Honor awarded for extraordinary valor at Oberhoffen, France, 1945)

“To the soldier in battle, courage is rewarded with mortal decoration. To the Christian warrior, the prize is eternal life.” (Charles H. Coolidge, b. 1921 [Signal Mountain, TN], Medal of Honor awarded for extraordinary valor near Belmont-Sur-Buttant, France, 1944)

“Return to patriotism, love of God and country–let your conscience mold your actions. There are no atheists in a firefight!” (Hector A. Cafferata, b. 1929, Medal of Honor awarded for extraordinary valor at the Chosin Reservoir, North Korea, 1950)

“My life experiences have taught me that you don’t lose until you quit trying.” (Sammy L. Davis, 1915- 2003, Medal of Honor awarded for extraordinary valor at the Chosin Reservoir, North Korea, 1950)

“Do unto others as you would have them do for you. Love your family, friends, and
God.” (James R. Hendrix, 1925-2002, Medal of Honor awarded for extraordinary valor near Assenois, Belgium, 1944)

“No matter how difficult it seems at the time, it’s easier to do the right thing than spend a lifetime regretting that you didn’t.” (Robert O’Malley, b. 1943, Medal of Honor awarded for extraordinary valor at An Cu’ong 2, South Vietnam, 1965)

“When faced with overwhelming obstacles, your faith in God and your commitment to your friends and loved ones will always guide you to take the right action.” (Alejandro R. Ruiz, b. 1924, Medal of Honor awarded for extraordinary valor in Okinawa, Japan, 1945)

“When something needs to be done, push ahead and overcome all obstacles–there is always a way.” (Jay Zeamer, Jr., b. 1918, Medal of Honor awarded for extraordinary valor over the Solomon Islands, Western Pacific, 1943)

“Moral courage–doing what has to be done because it is the right thing to do–is the mark of a true hero.” (Thomas G. Kelley, b. 1939, Medal of Honor awarded for extraordinary valor in Kien Hoa Province, South Vietnam, 1969)

“Without discipline there can be no success in any endeavor.” (Arthur J. Jackson, b. 1924, Medal of Honor awarded for extraordinary valor at Peleliu, Western Pacific, 1944)

“Since joining the Marines in 1936, my guiding light has always been Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path.” (Mitchell Paige, 1918-2003, Medal of Honor awarded for extraordinary valor at Guadalcanal, Western Pacific, 1942)

Bravery and Wisdom: Remembering Our Heroes on Memorial Day Weekend, Part One

Bravery

“You going to use this weapon?”

Richard A. Pittman was born on May 26, 1945 in French Camp, California.  He was a Lance Corporal, U.S. Marines, Company I, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division.  He was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Johnson in May of 1968 for his exceptional bravery in 1966.  During one of the North Vietnamese Army’s first incursions into South Korea, Pittman’s company came under heavy fire.  For the account of the events which followed, I quote from a book I open every Memorial Day–Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyold the Call of Duty (Nick Del Calzo, photographs, Peter Collier, text, Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation,  2006).

“As Pittman and a Navy corpsman started forward, he almost collided with a Marine standing in the trail holding an M-60 machine gun. ‘You going to use this weapon?’ Pittman asked. The Marine stared back blankly. Pittman grabbed the gun and several belts of ammunition and moved toward the heaviest fighting. He was surprised by the number of dead and wounded Marines littering both sides of the trial. When his helmet was shot off his head, he hit the dirt. He saw the corpsman get up and try to go to a wounded man, but he was hit and went down. As Pittman continued on, he quickly destroyed the two positions that shot at him. Then, standing up, cradling the machine gun in the crook of his arm and firing as he went, Pittman moved to the head of the column where the North Vietnamese regulars were rushing his beleaguered comrades. As he reached the position where the leading Marines had fallen, he was suddenly attacked by thirty to forty of the enemy. He calmly established a position in the middle of the trail and, with bullets whizzing past his head, he raked the advancing evemy with devastating machine-gun fire. He continued firing until he felt a concussion on his side. At first he thought he had been wounded, but his gun had been struck by enemy fire and disabled. He dropped it and picked up an AK-47 that one of the enemy soldiers had left; he continued firing until he was out of ammunition. Next he picked up a .45 pistol left by a fallen Marine and used it to kill two enemy soldiers as they were almost on top of him. Finally out of ammunition altogether, he threw his only grenade. Inexplicably, the remaining North Vietnamese retreated. Back at his own lines, he discovered that two-thirds of his company had been killed or wounded in the intense engagement” (p.211).

The article further described that Pittman reenlisted in the Marines after a short stint in civilian life, serving a total of twenty-one years.

This weekend finds me grateful for the men and women of our Armed Forces–particularly those like Richard A. Pittman.

Mr. Pittman, if you happen to come across this blog someday, thank you so much for doing what you could do for your country.

21 Years of Marriage–Still following “As One in Christ”

At about 2:20PM on May 25, 1991, my bride took a microphone in her hand and sang a song she wrote for our wedding.  It was entitled As One in Christ.  Here are the words:

As a little girl I prayed for the man I would meet one day who would take me as his wife; as the years went by I told the Lord, “My life is Yours, I want to serve You–Please lead, and I will follow You.”

Chorus:  God gave His Son to die for me and you, but even before we trusted Him, He knew we would live our lives together. He is the One we live for, the One we serve–from this day on, as one in Christ.

A week after you and I met, I knew you were the man that I had prayed for as a child. As the days went by, we thanked the Lord for giving us each such a special friend; we said, “Please lead, and we will follow You.”

(Chorus)

As our faith and our love grew, you finally asked me to marry you. You said, “Your dad said ‘yes,’ will you?” As the months went by, we could hardly wait, but we continued to pray each and every day, “Oh, Lord, keep leading us; we’re following You.”

Bridge:  Now the day is here; we become husband and wife. What joy to think it’s all because of Christ!

Ending:  You are the man God gave to me; I am the woman God gave to you. He will teach us how to have a godly home as we seek His face together. He is the One we live for, the One we serve–from this day on, as one in Christ.

Happy anniversary, Jodi.  I remain as committed today to following the Lord at your side as the day you sang that beautiful song to me.  As He leads, we will follow.  As One in Christ.

PS–If God sends a babysitter, I’ll even take you to the Hixson Pike Taco Bell (fond memories)!

RCA Reflections–It was a good ride!

What did you expect out of your adult life?  What did you envision for your career?

The ride I am on looks nothing like what I had imagined.  That’s why I do not find myself surprised at the conclusion of my time as principal and teacher at Rhea County Academy.   What shocked me far more was finding myself in the position some five years ago.  Believe me when I say that God made it quite clear to us that He wanted me at RCA.  Just as our situation became desperate, RCA was ready for a full-time administrator/teacher.  Believe me when I also state that I had no idea what I would experience, including

  • 5th & 6th graders with blood running down their legs from scabs they continued to pick
  • My teaching English and Science for one year
  • Rejoicing year-to-year as God enabled the school to finish in the black rather than the red–a repeated prayer of mine
  • Several great field trips in which the adults had as much fun as the kids
  • A stint as a P.E. teacher (seriously)
  • The opportunity to serve with some godly, dedicated teachers, and some pretty awesome students
  • The opportunity for me to meet and befriend the parents of my students
  • Once again realizing that I have an incredible wife who also happens to be an incredible English teacher
  • Watching a small Christian school perform some very good Christmas programs and Spring Musicals
  • The joy of seeing students mature over a five-year period

I could go on and on.  It was some ride!  Rather than continuing the list, I believe I will conclude by pasting what now appears on the For RCA Students page on the blog.  I hope you are encouraged as well.  Thanks for reading.  Thanks for everything.

Hey guys!  This page is about to be history!  Please know that you will be missed.  It has been my pleasure to hang out with you over the past five years.  We have had quite a bit of fun together.  I have also tried to encourage you spiritually.  If you recall, here were some of my Exhortation Station challenges as we progressed through May:

  • Remember:  GOD IS BIG.

From Edwards:  “Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God.”

From Mr. Wehse:  Beware of any teacher or theology which limits  God’s sovereignty by human effort or freewill.

  • You are small.
  • God is good and does good (Ps. 119:68).

No matter what you experience (betrayal, cancer, divorce, etc.)…truth IS truth.  Remember—truth interprets experience, not the opposite (experience does not interpret truth).  Know, believe, love, hold firmly to TRUTH  (“Thy Word is truth”—John 17:17).

  • God’s Word–The Bible–is not a Christian decoration for your home.

It should be read daily, studied often.  What an amazing gift the Bible is!  Do not take it for  granted.  Remember—your public worship  appearances are not as important as your  private worship activities.

  • God’s passion for the church should cause us to have passion for the church.
  • Take honoring your parents SERIOUSLY.

If I would have had the time, I would have continued to challenge you to know and show Christ.  My prayer is that each of you might become God-glorifying, people-blessing adults who genuinely make a difference.  I will be praying to that end.  If I can ever be an assistance to you, please do not hesitate to call!  I love you.

Finally, my students will every much enjoy this link below.  It will make you happy as well.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJ91ikAhJ5Q

Thomas Kinkade: Light dissipating at night

A seemingly tranquil life can be very stormy indeed.

First impressions are not always as they seem.

Perfect people are never quite so perfect.

Smiles often hide pain.

The following brief article was published by the Associated Press on May 8, 2012.

SAN JOSE, Calif. –  An autopsy has found  that artist Thomas Kinkade’s death was caused by an accidental overdose of  alcohol and prescription tranquilizers.

NBC Bay Area News reported Monday that the Santa Clara County medical  examiner concluded that the self-described “Painter of Light” stopped breathing  at his Northern California home on April 6 from a combination of alcohol and  Valium.

Before his death, the 54-year-old Kinkade produced sentimental scenes of  country gardens and pastoral landscapes that he sold in a nationwide chain of  galleries.

In recent years, however, he had run into personal difficulties, including a  2010 bankruptcy filing by one of his companies.

His brother has said Kinkade battled alcoholism and relapsed before his  death.

A judge last month issued a restraining order against a former girlfriend  that prevents her from talking about the late painter.

Sad, eh?

As Jodi and I became familiar with Thomas Kinkade, we learned that he included at least two things in every painting–the initial of his wife and a cross.  You might want to see if you can locate a cross in the Sea of Tranquility painting above.  We have a 24×36 Standard Numbered print of it hanging on our living room wall.  I fell in love with the image  at first sight, preferring it to the scenes which made Kinkade a household name.  The painting reminds me of the calm after the storm, that no matter how tough today might seem, beauty is on the horizon.  Isn’t that also the message of the empty cross Thomas painted on his canvases?  The cross is empty.  For that matter, so also is the tomb.  However, the throne is indeed occupied!  Therein lies my hope as the light dissipates at night.  Sadly, Thomas turned to alcohol and prescription drugs.  By God’s grace, I am  turning to Christ.  Trust me when I say that during one period of my life I did turn to alcohol and illegal drugs to find the elusive contentment–the peace of mind–I was so desperately seeking.  But it was not until God invaded my life and I came face-to-face with the person and works of Jesus Christ that I truly experienced that which I very much needed–peace with God and contentment in life.  It grieves me to learn that Thomas Kinkade painted peaceful scenes yet battled such turmoil within. The call of the Savior from Matthew 11:28 has never been rescinded. It is as true today as when He spoke it: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

Timothy Award Winner: Celena Wehse

I love general revelation!  I have had the privilege of seeing quite a bit of our beautiful nation.  I’ve hiked to the bottom of Grand Canyon and into the heights of the White Mountains.  I’ve stood atop Humphrey’s Peak in Arizona and toured majestic Carlsbad National Caverns in New Mexico.  I’ve stood in the frigid waters of the Atlantic, north of Boston, and waded in the waves of the Pacific during a California sunset.  I’ve watched sailboats from Diamondhead, Hawaii, and I’ve spent hundreds of hours on the Tennessee River.  I’ve viewed bears in the woods of Michigan and alligators in the Florida swamps.  I’ve been around this country and have seen some amazing sights.  Truly the heavens are not the only bodies which declare the glory of God!

However, as much as I have enjoyed my views of God’s creation and even learned about Him (His creativity, His intelligent design, etc.), my times outside do not compare to my times inside–inside the pages of His Word.  Special Revelation (The Word of God) trumps general revelation (creation)!  That is why I am so proud of my daughter Celena.  She won the highest award available through the AWANA Program–The Timothy Award!  Simply put, Celena memorized over three hundred verses to qualify for the commendation!  Her dedication has been wonderful to see (self-motivated, rather than parent-driven)!  She has hidden God’s Word in her heart.

What an example she has set for her siblings!

We consciously and unconsciously allow negative, ungodly content to penetrate our hearts.  Surely that is one of the reasons we so quickly sin.  What goes in comes out.  Putting God’s Word in our hearts (Paul called it “be transformed by the renewal of your mind” [Rom. 12:2; ESV]) must be a priority if we truly desire to please God.

Consider these renderings of Psalm 119:11

“Thy Word I have hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee” (KJV).

“I have stored up Your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (ESV).

“I have thought much about Your words, and stored them in my heart so that they would hold  me back from sin” (Living Bible).

Thank you, Celena, for proving to us that we can indeed memorize God’s Word!

Thank you, God,  for reminding us that hiding Your Word in our hearts is intensely practical!  Help us to continually draw near to You through prayer and the Scriptures so that we might exhibit Your glory rather than illustrate our sin.

Buckled in by faith on the roller coaster of life

One of my best friends is going to have one of her kidneys removed, hoping that that procedure is successful in removing the cancer.  I just learned that another friend was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.  They–too–are hoping that the cancer has not, nor will not, spread further after her surgery.  Yet another friend informed me that his sister is dying, probably this week.  My situation appears paltry in comparison (I am seeking for a new job in this tough economy, needing to begin working no later than June 1st).

Life is full of challenges–ups, downs, accelerations and stops.

The roller coaster continues.  We simply cannot exit to the left or to the right.  In light of that, we must remain buckled in by faith.

My morning reading today took me to Psalm 55.

Consider the difficulties faced by David as he penned this song:

“I am restless” (v.2).

“the pressure of the wicked” (v.3).

“they bear a grudge against me” (v.3).

“My heart is in anguish within me” (v.4).

“Fear and trembling come upon me” (v.5).

It was a tough time for David!  He had been betrayed by a close friend (v.13).  And even though he wanted to fly away and be at rest (v.6), he continued to take comfort in his sovereign and caring God.  He remained buckled in by faith on the roller coaster of life.

“As for me, I shall call upon God, And the LORD will save me” (v.16).

“But I will trust in You” (v.23).

Knowing that others would read his intimate song, he included this exhortation:

“Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken” (v.22).

I will admit that I don’t quite understand the later assertion concerning the righteous (I’m thinking that I need to study the Hebrew a bit).  However, casting my burdens upon the LORD is something I plan to continue to do.  That exhortation is also included in the New Testament.

“Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:7).

As May progresses, I will be praying for my friends as well as for my need of a new work opportunity.  Whether my coaster ride is cresting a hill or plummeting fast, I–like David before me–have the confidence that God is hearing my prayers!  That, beloved, is a good place to be!

Even weak faith is real faith

“To sum up: When first even the least drop of faith is instilled in our minds, we begin to contemplate God’s face, peaceful and calm and gracious toward us. We see Him afar off, but so clearly as to know we are not at all deceived. Then, the more we advance as we ought continually to advance, with steady progress, as it were, the nearer and thus surer sight of Him we obtain; and by the very continuance He is made even more familiar to us.  So we see that the mind, illuminated by the knowledge of God, is at first wrapped up in much ignorance, which is gradually dispelled. Yet,  by being ignorant of certain things, or by rather obscurely discerning what it does discern, the mind is not hindered from enjoying a clear knowledge of the divine will toward itself. For what it discerns comprises the first and principal parts in faith. It is like a man who, shut up in a prison into which the sun’s rays shine obliquely and half obscured through a rather narrow window, is indeed deprived of the full sight of the sun. Yet his eyes dwell on its steadfast brightness, and he receives its benefits. Thus, bound with the fetters of an earthly body, however much we are shadowed on every side with great darkness, we are nevertheless illumined as much as need be for first assurance when, to show forth its mercy, the light of God sheds even a little of its radiance” (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, III.2.19, Ford Lewis Battles, trans.).

Not exactly the shallow platitudes we are so accustomed to reading in modern evangelicalism, eh?!  Thought-provoking material–for sure!  I had to read it several times to fully appreciate Calvin’s point.

Weak faith is real faith.

A few years ago, I attended a Desiring God National Conference.  The theme was “Suffering and the Sovereignty of God.”  I distinctly recall one of the speakers state that some days we should be encouraged if we are faced in the right direction.  We may not be running the race in full-stride.  We might not be moving along at a healthy pace.  In fact, we may not even be making perceptible progress.  But if we are facing in the direction of Christ, of all things good and righteous, our “weak faith” will not be in vain.  However, if we continually…advance with “steady progress” we shall indeed be rewarded.  As Calvin states, we will see God more clearly and understand Him and His ways more than previously.

Aren’t these great motivations for growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18)?!  My heart’s desire is to know and show God.  This is why I remain committed to both public and private worship.  This explains my level of involvement in my local church as well as my morning times of meditation and prayer.  I want to know God more than I do presently.  I want to glorify Him more than I do currently.

Today I am grateful that my weak faith is real faith.  Thanks be to God!  By His grace, I am faced in the right direction today!