Category Archives: Faith

George Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation

Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday that acknowledges continued Divine Providence that makes this Nation great.

“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor — and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me ‘to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.'”

“Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be — That we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks — for His kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation — for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of His Providence which we experienced in the tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed — for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted — for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which He hath been pleased to confer upon us.

“And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions — to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually — to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed — to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn [sic] kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord — To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease [sic] of science among them and us — and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best. — Given under my hand at the City of New York, the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.”

I wish all of our readers and their families a blessed Thanksgiving

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Filed under Faith, Family, Good Stuff, History

Not Tonight

It was a dark and stormy night. Nah. It was dark. I remember that distinctly.
We had been at sea for a couple of weeks and flying exercise after exercise. Crews were tired, the pace of operations was taking a toll on man and metal.

Joe and I were in the ready room as the alert tanker crew. There was only one tanker left in an up status, the other three had died of various ailments during the day. We were sitting in an empty ready room, sharing the space with the duty officer. It was late, the movie was over. The denizens of Ready Four had moved on to other habitats, a game of cards, letter writing, maybe a grease burger in the forward mess. Maybe an early rack time, perchance to score a full night’s rest without interruption, a rare event during workups.

Joe was new to the boat, the USS Constellation, new to our A-6 squadron. I had shared with him his first daytime trap not too long ago, and he had yet to be exposed to the nether world of night ops. We briefed the flight as if we were going to launch in the next few minutes. Never can tell when the call will come. Joe already had the daytime experience, albeit just a few day traps. Night ops were a different game, and I tried my utmost to pass on all the knowledge needed to fly and survive on the dark side.

The call to man up came just about the same time I was running out of pertinent items. Grab the helmets, kneeboards, and nav bags, head for the flight deck, might be time to launch.

Our KA-6D was spotted just forward of the island on the starboard side. Rather than being right on the flight deck edge with the tail jutting out over the ocean, the plane was tied down inboard somewhat, with the nose pointed right at the landing area. We preflighted the bird with our red lensed flashlights. No white lights on deck. Night vision is precious.

We preflighted the ejection seats and strapped in. The maintenance chief appeared at the top of the boarding ladder and passed on to me what the gouge was. There was only one airplane left to recover from the last launch of the day, an F-14, and he boltered on the first pass. No other tankers, we are to be insurance if the lad continues to have problems.

No sweat. One bolter doesn’t tell the story, odds are we won’t even start up. We close the canopy and look around us, our eyes adjusting more and more to the night world.

The blackness was…black. Can’t describe it any other way. An overcast sky took away the stars. Joe and I could see the landing area ahead of us in the dim red light and not much more. There were Intruders on either side of us, the ones closest showing vague details of the big nose and trademark refueling probe, the ones farther away sharing less and less conformity with our aircraft, morphing into yellow grey blobs toward the bow and stern.

To our left we heard and then saw an F-14 in the last seconds of his landing pass. The big turkey looked good for a three wire. A cinch, I thought.

Then the big jet appeared to stop his descent and went long over the wires, missing the 3 and 4 wire, dragging his hook in a rooster tail of sparks down the centerline of the landing area and then off the deck and into the blackness again. Bummer. Too much power in close, this guy’s adrenaline is pumping.

I shared my observation with Joe. He didn’t have much to say in response. This was his first time on the carrier deck in the dark.

A few minutes later the F-14 emerges out of the darkness on our left again. Good pass, I think, and then the mysterious too much power over the wires happens again. This time the turkey’s main mounts and hook barely touch down near the end of the landing area. Again the F-14 rotates and disappears into the dark of the night.

What the hey? That was a bit worse than the first pass we saw. What’s going on with this guy?

Joe and I discuss what we had just seen. While we are talking I pick up the lights of the SAR (search and rescue) helo aft of the ship beyond the LSO platform. The helo is doing odd things, going up and then down, up and then down. Weird. Must be bored and doing some sort of drill. I point this out to Joe and he looks at the same lights going up and down.

Then Joe asks me, “Isn’t the helo stationed on the starboard side of the ship? Behind us?”

Holy crap. Joe is correct, I’m not thinking. The lights I am looking at belong to the plane guard destroyer aft of the ship! Why is he going up and down like that?

Then the neurons in my brain pan kick in and make connections. A glance at the VDI, the main attitude indicator on the instrument panel in front of me, confirms what I had not picked up on. The Connie was moving. Up and down. As I watched the attitude indicator we went left wing down, then left wing up, then left wing down again. Crap, a pitching deck. I point to the VDI and let Joe in on my sudden revelation. As we go left wing down the plane guard’s lights climb up in the blackness, then back down as the Connie’s bow goes below the horizon.

We watch the VDI. The F-14 returns for another pass at the deck. Joe and I scan the F-14 and the VDI at the same time. The F-14 is just about to touch down and the VDI display shows us in an increasing right bank. The deck falls away from the F-14 as the bow of the Connie plunges, the tail hook passes over the 3 and 4 wires with room to spare. There is another brief shower of sparks from his tail hook as he barely touches the end of the landing area and then the Tomcat flies away into the night.

The plane captain’s wands light up, one of the yellow cones point at my left engine, the other cone points upward and the plane captain makes the light twirl with his wrist. Time to start engines and get ready to go. We light off both engines and make sure all systems are online. We wait for the light signals to undo the tiedown chains and taxi to the cat. It’s showtime for us. I tell Joe it looks like we are going to have to launch into the night and be in position to pass fuel to the Tomcat, he can’t have much left.

We are ready. The plane captain’s wands are crossed above his head, stay put with the brakes on is the signal.

Joe comes up on the ICS. “Bob,” says Joe. “If we are the only tanker left, who will give us fuel when we can’t get aboard?”

Ya know, Joe was smart. Perceptive. Thinking ahead. He voiced what I hadn’t even thought about. Now I was a confident fellow, sure of my abilities, but a pitching deck adds so much to the pudding of uncertainty.

Joe had a point. I thought for a second or two, not quite so sure of myself in light of (or in dark of!) what I had just seen and what Joe had said.

There was an answer. “Joe,” I said. “This is where we pray for the guy in the F-14. Pray that he arrives when the deck isn’t on the way up or down and that he grabs a wire on the next pass.”

What I didn’t say was pray that we don’t have to cat off the pointy end of this boat into nothingness to help someone and then hang around until he gets aboard. Then try to outsmart the pitching deck ourselves.

Don’t know that Joe prayed or not, we were silent for a while. I mentally had a short and sincere one way talk with the One In Charge Of Things.

The F-14 appeared above the stern again, a ghostly image in the dim red lights of the deck. I looked at the VDI, we were wings level.

The turkey hit the deck and came to a stop just in front of us, his engines howling against the stopping force of the arresting wire caught in his tail hook.

The plane captain dragged one of his wands across his throat. The shutdown signal. I pulled back the throttles past the idle detent and around to the shut off position.

We weren’t going to have to answer Joe’s question tonight.

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Filed under Carriers, Faith, Naval Aviation, Uncategorized

Christmas At Sea

star_of_bethlehem

This story is from the Neptunus Lex Facebook page.

By Gil.

On Christmas Eve, 1981, my ship, USS Truxtun (CGN 35) was about three months into what turned out to be about an 8 month WestPac/IO cruise. I was somewhat stressed as it was my first ship as a chaplain, I was a JG in a Commander billet, and the Chief of Chaplains (2 star) stayed about 10 days in our Flag quarters while he hopped around visiting other ships in the Battle Group. We set up Christmas Eve service in the helo hangar with chairs facing aft. It was a pretty good service but the best part was the closing hymn, Silent Night. Just as we started singing, my assistant turned off the lights and opened the hangar door. We were transfixed looking out at all the stars visible in the black sky of Northern IO. Our XO was as no-nonsense a nuke officer as you can imagine but I saw that even he had a little tear on his cheek.

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Filed under Faith, Sea Stories

The Law of the Sea

Nature, at best, is neutral it is often said.  The sea, even less so.  I have been through storms in the Atlantic and Mediterranean and have seen high seas in the Pacific as well as standing on that great ocean’s eastern shores and witnessed  strong fury that actually pales in comparison to some of nature’s real efforts. But one thing I have learned is to give Davey Jones his due and not venture out where there be dangerous waters.  Now, most of my experience was on the ample hulls of large, grey steel apartment houses, with airports conveniently located on the roof.  At actual displacement of around 100,000 tons and most measuring over 1,000 feet in length, the fact that we took rolls and damage made me a true believer in our real place in the scheme of all things aquatic.

We sometimes forget that for centuries upon centuries, humans have ventured forth upon the waters on vessels much smaller, more frail and even more at the mercy of the seas.  This morning, a recreation of one of the most well-known vessels of the 19th Century and those who remain on her, stands in deep peril off our shores as Hurricane Sandy churns the deep enroute to landfall:

HMS Bounty Crew Abandons Ship

For them, and all who venture forth, let us join in the Breton Fisherman’s Prayer:

Dear God, be good to me;
The sea is so wide,
And my boat is so small.

May they all come to shore in one piece.

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Filed under Faith, Shipmates, Ships and the Sea

The Last Rose of Summer

This was mentioned in comments at TDL yesterday and I felt it deserved more attention.  Our beloved Marianne Matthews – has passed.  Reported by Maggie’s Farm this past Friday, it seems that Marianne died about a month ago.

Marianne was, so often at least to me, the heart & soul of the Lex Community.  She was incredibly well-educated at a time when women didn’t go to college; she held several high-powered jobs in publishing.  Her first fiance was killed in WWII and I don’t believe she ever shared more than that about him.  She never had children yet – she was a mother-figure to so many of us.

I had been exchanging emails with her in the months since we lost our Beloved Lex and the last note I had from her indicated she was having some health troubles.  She never specified what – which was like her of course.  And in that last e-mail she did, as always, talk about politics and her concerns for our country.

A patriot to the last.

Her husband – Downs – is 87 and now in a nursing home.

By all means, go to the link for Maggie’s Farm. They have an audio recording of a folk song that Marianne performed back in the 1950s – the title of which is the title of this post; I didn’t know this but she was quite a prominent folk singer in the 1940s/1950s.  I was listening to it as I typed this and her voice – so pure and sweet – told me she is with her Lord … and with Lex.

Raise your glasses to this great lady – for strength, for courage, for love.  I will raise a glass of Woodfords Reserve bourbon – which I know she would have done for Lex.

Godspeed Marianne.  You were a wondrous spirit to have known.

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Filed under Faith, Guinness - For Strength!, In Memoriam, Uncategorized

Legacy

We need something to make us smile in all the doom and gloom these days.  And sometimes that can be achieved by just being nice.

A man’s dying wish for a random act of kindness turned into a waitress’ good fortune in Kentucky, and now more struggling restaurant servers could be in for generous surprises.

Relatives of Aaron Collins, 30, who died on July 7, carried out his last wish by giving a random waitress in Lexington a $500 tip after their pizza dinner, MyFoxTwinCities.com reports.

“Aaron never had much money, and he didn’t have enough to make this happen, so I started a website and took donations,” brother Seth Collins said. “On July 10 we were able to make his wish come true for the first time.”

30 years old is just too damn young to die of anything.  And yet the family of Aaron Collins has found a very unique and life-affirming way of carrying his memory in their hearts – and sharing it with others.

And do go read the link – there is more great stuff there about this amazing story.

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Filed under Faith, Good Stuff, Perspective

The Daily Lex – May 20th

Troubled

By lex, on October 21st, 2007

Forewarned is forearmed – a long, rambling post follows dealing with the Christian faith, the Episcopal Church of the USA and national politics. Most people who are not bored to tears will probably be outraged. As much as anything, I’m writing this one to myself. You’re welcome to read it if you’d like, but I won’t ask you to.

I’ve walked out of movies before and I’ve walked away from conversations. But until today, I’d never walked out of church – and I’m not at all sure that I did the right thing.

Our national church is in the middle of an ugly schism. The church hierarchy is dominated by revisionists who have taken a particular side in the American culture war and who have, by doing so, not only disenchanted broad swathes of the American church but also alienated that body from the much larger Anglican Convention. The breach is a product of many cuts but was struck most openly in the ordination of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire: Robinson had left his wife and children as a priest to openly enter into a committed relationship with another man.

Our current Presiding Bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori, was a strong proponent of Robinson’s elevation. Her own selection to the primus inter pares position was somewhat surprising – not only was she the first female premier in the Anglican Convention, there were questions of qualification: She had never had her own parish before being elevated to a backwater Nevada bishopric and had only been in orders for 12 years before being selected to lead the US church. Her selection was seen as a resounding victory of a politically liberal wing of the church over its more conservative – and, many would argue, more doctrinally grounded – alternate. Fifty US churches have already left the Episcopal Church of the USA (ECUSA), and four entire diocese are considering doing so, including the three largest. Ugly as these apparently irreconcilable differences are in themselves, even more grotesque are the legal battles breaking out over ownership of church properties, with parishes that voted to leave ECUSA intending to hold on to the physical plants they have inherited and still maintain, and a national church refusing to give them over without a fight – whether out of lofty-minded sense of stewardship, political spite or as a warning to others not to leave depends upon your point of view.

But, even as I am uncomfortable with these issues at the national level, so have I tried to insulate myself and my family from them, not least because I am not sure which side has the right. Never once in all his words did Jesus say a thing about homosexuality one way or the other, and we have been taught to believe that the New Testament is also a “new covenant” which supersedes such inherited proscriptions such as those found in Deuteronomy and Leviticus. Shellfish for all my friends.

His testimony was one of love and inclusiveness and yes, sacrifice. But in the context of His time – as revolutionary, and yes, liberal as he was, the conversation itself would have been unthinkable. The fact that there is no Gospel record of the topic means, well: Nothing, either way. But, as I have stated before, I believe that not only are we created in God’s image, but so also are gays as their God has made them. That they do not “choose” to be gay, but rather that they “are” gay and despite their sexual identification – is that really what defines us? – should not be prevented from full participation in the love of Christ. Nor do I believe that a loving God would create a class of his children only to spite them and deny them that which he so freely and at such great cost offers us: Love.

All that said, neither am I 100% in love with the idea of elevating a priest to the bishopric who left his wife and children behind to cleave to another. I’m trying to believe that the church might have done the same thing for a heterosexual priest who left his wife and family to live with another woman, but you know, the fact of the matter is that I’m just not feeling it. And I’m not particularly comfortable with the idea of a church that, having unmoored itself from such traditional sources of moral authority such as scripture, tradition and reason, seemingly seeks to chase an emerging culture, rather than guide or shape it. That’s a hole with no bottom, no guardrails and no light all the way down.

So the way I’ve dealt with this, mostly, is just refuse to think much about it. Look the other way. National church politics frankly has very little to do with me, that’s not why I go on Sundays. I go to church because it is a place of peace and comfort, a sanctuary filled with good and like-minded people who are asking the most important questions anyone can ask: Who am I? Why am I here? How do I fit? What is the good? How can I further it? And they’re looking for the answers in the once place that has been pretty much thinking about nothing else for the last 2000 years, employing the best moral thinkers our civilization could create.

I go because, most of all, it comforts me and creates in me – a man who might otherwise be all too easily given over to rages and passions – a better person. “False comfort,” my oldest daughter once said accusingly, in a moment of standard-issue teenage melodrama.

“Perhaps,” I replied, “but better than no comfort at all.”

What I don’t go there for, Holy Spirit-moving-through-us-in-the-world notwithstanding, is political instruction. But ours is a liberal church, and California is a liberal state and even with that combination in place we have a couple of very active members of the parish that are politically very liberal, even by our standards. Ex-New York City, pony-tailed hippies in tie-dye liberal. Not that there’s anything wrong with that of course, and I smile at them at coffee. We exchange polite pleasantries but apart from that we don’t talk much.

The OT lesson to day had to do with Jacob wrestling with God by the river. Timothy had nice words for us about keeping the faith. And Jesus Himself talked to us about the widow who struggled until justice was done. This ended up as a launching pad for an exquisitely timed sermon – not from the clerisy, but from our very active liberal laity, first during the children’s homily and later to the rest of us, in case anyone missed the point – on the necessity of extending SCHIP benefits to another 10 million children who will all apparently die unless we can get our act together and elect the right sort of politicians. I think that’s where he was going. I left after a minute or two, just as he was getting warmed up. Very quietly. Excuse me.

A Santa Anna breeze is blowing, and “now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.” I don’t much mind a debate, but if I’m going to be preached at then I’d prefer that preaching to be scripturally based. Didn’t help things much that the temporary rector – himself having recently retired – told us that the national church had asked children’s health care to be the topic of this weekend’s “dialogue.” Feeling as I do about the national church, it didn’t help at all.

It’s God’s house of course, and you oughtn’t just walk out. But I was very far from being in a state of grace and was in no condition to sit at his table after the sermon. Probably wasn’t the right thing to do, too much pride in it. Which goeth ever before a fall. I was happy that I’d let the girls sleep in – they’d had a very busy Saturday – I wouldn’t have wanted to make them witnesses.

I shouldn’t have walked away. Much better to walk towards something than to just walk away.

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Filed under Faith, Lex