Category Archives: Faith

Going Sinker 

By lex, on July 20th, 2010

Hate doing this to you again – I do so enjoy our little chats – but life has this habit of getting in the way of hobbies. I’ve got some serious stuff to work through on the home front, and it may be a little while.

Please feel free to talk amongst yourselves.

For the Anglicans in the crowd, BCP  Prayer #56 is solicited.

 

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Filed under Best of Neptunus Lex, Faith, Life

Ordination

By lex, on May 27th, 2010

So, yez might recall that our own Major Padre Harvey was to have his ordination last night at the Gateway Community Church in Escondido. ‘Twas a bit of a shame that he couldn’t tarry until the 11th of June, for I could have stopped in on my way to Portland, it’s that far north. Or seemed it anyway.

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The Faith of James Cameron

By lex, on December 21st, 2009

There is a kind of religion in Hollywood, Roth Douthat opines and it’s on full display in James Cameron’s latest opus:

“Avatar” is Cameron’s long apologia for pantheism — a faith that equates God with Nature, and calls humanity into religious communion with the natural world…

(Pantheism) has been Hollywood’s religion of choice for a generation now. It’s the truth that Kevin Costner discovered when he went dancing with wolves. It’s the metaphysic woven through Disney cartoons like “The Lion King” and “Pocahontas.” And it’s the dogma of George Lucas’s Jedi, whose mystical Force “surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.” Hollywood keeps returning to these themes because millions of Americans respond favorably to them.

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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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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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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