Yesterday it was over 110° F. (This reading was based off of a thermometer that was in the shade!)
This morning it was 90° F at 08:30 a.m.
...and it is only the end of May.
Oh, this summer is going to be brutal. :P
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
A little girl asked her mother, "How did the human race appear?"
The mother answered, "God made Adam and Eve and they had children and so was all mankind made."
Two days later the girl asked her father the same question. The father answered, "Many years ago there were monkeys from which the human race evolved."
The confused girl returned to her mother and said, "Mom how is it possible that you told me the human race was created by God, and Dad said they developed from monkeys?"
The mother answered, "Well, dear, it is very simple: I told you about my side of the family and your father told you about his."
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Lest you allow Memorial Day to pass without a proper recollection of those who have given the supreme sacrifice for you, this worn-out deployed buck sergeant is here to remind you of how personal war is. It's not statistics and politics. It's people. It's people who are not coming back alive.
This memorial day, I offer special respect and honor to
Army Staff Sergeant Brandon L. Wallace
Brandon was age 27 and was from St. Louis, Mo. He was assigned to the 1451st Transportation Company, 13th Support Command, Iraq. He died on April 14, 2007 in Fallujah, Iraq when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated near his vehicle.
Read and weep for the fallen and his family:
The Associated Press
FESTUS, Mo. — A 27-year-old who was scheduled to come home from Iraq in two weeks was killed by a roadside bomb in Fallujah, his family said this weekend.
Army Staff Sgt. Brandon Wallace, who had been reactivated from the Individual Ready Reserve and had been deployed since May, was killed April 14, his family said.
He was preparing to come home and marry an Army specialist he had met and proposed to in Iraq.
His father, Rickey Wallace, said his son already had served his active-duty contract for three years in Germany and Kosovo.
“In Brandon’s mind, he thought he was basically done,” Rickey Wallace said. “He was shocked that they called him back.”
Brandon Wallace graduated from Crystal City High School in 1998. He had been taking classes at the police academy in St. Charles when he was reactivated.
Rickey Wallace urged his son to ask if he could graduate from the academy before being deployed, and the Army agreed.
Robin Wallace said she took some comfort in hearing her son had died instantly.
Wallace’s parents told the Web site for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, www.stltoday.com, that they will meet their son’s fiancee for the first time next week when she brings their son’s body home.
Do you feel that ache in your gut, the burning in your eyes, and the agony over the senseless loss for this family? How about the air that escaped when you read the last sentence of that horrible article? Hold on to that furiously mournful feeling.
That's Memorial Day.
Sergeant Brandon L. Wallace was not the only casualty from that roadside bomb. Also killed was
Sergeant Joshua A. Schmit.
Read more about some of our honored dead here.
Friday, May 22, 2009
On Ascension Day this year, I found myself staring at two unidentified pieces of ordinance. I was laying on my stomach looking for something when I discovered them less than a meter away from my face. They were not supposed to be there and I did not expect to find them. It could have made for a very bad day because they had been violently disturbed moments before I saw them. I am being intentionally vague, but I am sure that you get the idea.
They turned out to be inert ("not dangerous" for you civilians). They could have just as easily been live rounds or some kind of improvised explosive device. I was fairly certain that they were just inert when I saw them, but you really want to be more than "fairly certain" in that kind of situation. Looking back, there was that split second before my army training kicked in where I thought about being "blown to kingdom come". I have to chuckle at the irony of thinking of that phrase on that particular day in the church year.
I guess a Christian who is also a Soldier at war thinks about the heavenly kingdom alot... regardless of his duties or situation. It is always in the back of his mind that the only constant about war is that it can be incredibly indiscriminate and random. My Ascension Day experience was like that: random. Why me? Why inert? The mind can spin rather easily about such questions.
I think that alot of the stress comes from the powerlessness of these kinds of random situations (which happen just as often--if not more often--back in the States.) It seems more intense here because it is compounded by the isolation of being away from home, from the church, and from her gifts. The combination can be a real test of faith and endurance.
Lots of things start to dip: sleep, energy, cognitive function, and even prayer. It is really easy for peaceful meditations on God's Word to turn into fits of frustration and exhaustion. The devil pounces on this opportunity and throws your wretched sinfulness in your face. It can be a real battle. You start to really understand the psalmist when he says:
I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, and he will hear me.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
When I remember God, I moan;
when I meditate, my spirit faints.
You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
I consider the days of old,
the years long ago.
I said, "Let me remember my song in the night;
let me meditate in my heart."
Then my spirit made a diligent search:
"Will the Lord spurn forever,
and never again be favorable?
Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?"
Boy can I relate! Here I will interrupt the psalmist to speak about Christ. In the Creed we confess that, at the conclusion of His saving work on earth, Christ ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. Christ spoke this very truth on the night of His arrest.
This doctrine was affirmed by the Apostle Peter at Pentecost when he preached, "This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, "'The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.'" [Acts 2:32-35]
It is there at the Father's right hand that the glorified Christ intercedes on our behalf as our Mediator and Great High Priest. It is because of Christ, Our King and Deliverer, that we have reason to rejoice. By recounting His marvelous deeds, this bleak psalm turns in verse 10 and brightens for us at this point where the psalmist recalls the God who delivered Israel out of the land of Egypt. Pay close attention to a familiar, creedal term used in the first phrase in this transition from despair and frustration to hope and faith. It is hard to miss the Christological imagery here.
Then I said, "I will appeal to this,
to the years of the right hand of the Most High."
I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph.
When the waters saw you, O God,
when the waters saw you, they were afraid;
indeed, the deep trembled.
The clouds poured out water;
the skies gave forth thunder;
your arrows flashed on every side.
The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
your lightnings lighted up the world;
the earth trembled and shook.
Your way was through the sea,
your path through the great waters;
yet your footprints were unseen.
You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
Amen and Amen.
In the dark, isolated times we turn by faith to the one who sits at the right hand of the Most High and remember the deeds of the Lord. These deeds of deliverance and of salvation. We look to Jesus Christ... incarnate, crucified, buried, resurrected, and now ascended.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
"This does not mean that you [Soldiers] are war mongers. On the contrary, the Soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of all philosophers: 'Only the dead have seen the end of war.'"
-Gen Douglas MacArthur
Almighty God, You alone can establish lasting peace. Forgive our sins, we implore You, and deliver us from the hands of our enemies that we, being strengthened by Your defense, may be preserved from all danger and glorify You for the restoration of tranquility in our land; through the merits of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior. (228)
I come from a heavily Roman Catholic part of the country. I also live in a part of the country that is consumed with Marian devotion... to the point that even the Roman Catholic church has had to correct and reprimand members of the laity.
So I wanted to hear it from the horse's mouth (unfortunate choice of words, I know). What does the Roman Catholic church officially say about the Blessed Virgin? How far does this "devotion" thing really go?
I am reading "True Devotion to Mary" by St. Louis De Montfort. This book has the endorsement of several Popes. John Paul II called reading it a "decisive turning-point" in his life. I haven't even answered my original question yet, but reading this has taught me one fundamental thing about Roman Catholicism. (Something that I already knew more or less, but it is always nice to get some validation.)
The lesson I take from this book:
I now understand why it is taught by the Roman church that only the Roman Catholic Church can interpret Scripture properly. Why? Because, in many areas relating to newer doctrines, it is impossible to read the same thing that they read and draw the their same conclusions. When one uses grammatical context and stays within the confines of the information that is available in the text, you cannot see what they see, believe what they believe, or teach what they teach. Their interpretations are so wide and allegorical that it is impossible to follow their philosophy without being told (by them) how to think.
The authority of church Tradition has become so important to the Roman theological system that it cannot stand without it. Without the authority to formulate external doctrines and fabricate new teachings, there can be no distinctively Roman church. More often than not, the only reasonable answer that this mother can say to quell the questions of her children is the ill-advised, "because I said so."
New light has been shed upon the frustrations of the Lutheran Fathers as they waded through this quagmire of Aristotelian scholarship and romantic conjecture.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Saturday, May 9, 2009
...I mean a SANDSTORM!
One morning, not too long ago, we looked up and saw... this dwarfing everything (note the tiny buildings and vehicles at the bottom of the photo to get the scale):
...but it was days before we saw any blue in the sky.
...and it remained like that for the rest of the day before it started to clear up.
The pictures do not do it justice.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Because the purpose of "the news" these days is to engage in gossip, place blame, and fill you with irrational, glued-to-the-television fear (rather than inform you about the world in which you live), it would be virtually impossible for you to know about this event that is of true significance.
Iraq has been going through a troublesome drought since last year. As the dust storms north of Baghdad grow in severity and frequency, there is increasing concern about the crop harvest this year. Please keep this nation's security and stability in your prayers and pray for the farmers who are facing this true threat to their livelihoods.
...not because we are invested in their future over here... not because you want your political party to be right... but just because they are people and they need God's blessings if they are to eat and live in peace in the coming months.
O God, most merciful Father, without Your care and preservation all things wither and die. Open the windows of heaven and send bountiful rain on us to revive and renew the land. Graciously hear our prayer that we may praise and glorify Your name forever and ever; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. (236)
O God, from whom come all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works, give to us, Your servants, that peace which the world cannot give that our hearts may be set to obey Your commandments and also that we, being defended from the fear of our enemies, may live in peace and quietness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (410)
Walther on the Office of the Ministry:
"O, glorious office! No matter how sick a person may be in his soul, the Gospel can heal him. No matter how deeply ca person has fallen into the corruption of sin, the Gospel can pull him out. No matter how troubled, frightened, and afflicted a person may be, the Gospel can comfort him. Whatever the condition in which a person finds himself, even if he is convinced that he must perish because of it, the preachers can confidently oppose him, saying: 'No, as certainly as God lives, He does not want the death of any sinner. You shall not perish; instead, you shall be saved. Turn to Jesus, who can evermore save all who come to God through Him.' And if one who lies near death calls out: 'God, what have I done? Woe to me! Now it is too late! I am lost!' the preachers should call to him: 'No, no, it is not too late! Commit your departing soul to Jesus. You too shall still be with Him in paradise today.' O, glorious, high office, too high for the angels! May we always hold it in high regard, not looking at the person who bears it and despising his weakness, but looking instead at the Institutor of this office and His exuberant goodness. Let us turn to Him in faith so we can experience the blessings of which the preachers have spoken and, through them, be gathered together one day into the barns of heaven as a completely ripe sheaf."
from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, pg 212
Friday, May 1, 2009
There are two roads that claim to lead to all truth.
The first road--the wide and beautiful road--is the false teaching that ultimately says, "Man serves god." This well-traveled avenue was constructed by Satan and his demons using lies for stone and human arrogance for mortar. Along this road you can find every kind of man-made religion imaginable. These teachings of men come in all kinds of varieties. Every belief on this road comes from the invention of man. They have all kinds of philosophies that build on the simple idea that "Man serves god". There are lots of churches on this road, too. They are right next to mosques, temples, prayer circles, and the homes of various spiritual gurus. Crosses and 'Christian' bumper stickers abound on this road. If you are an atheist, you can even go to the false religion that says "Man serves god... and god is you!"
The buildings may look different and may seem to offer all kinds of various teachings and trappings, but if you look at the foundations of those buildings you will find that they all sit along the same road where Man must work. This is the road of failure and disappointment because (as you have already figured out by the example of your own life) the fact is that Man cannot work. He is never good enough, never true enough, never perfect enough to reach an infinite truth or please an infinite being.
You can foolishly pick whatever you like, but it is all built on the same, demonic road... the road that leads to destruction. This is the road to eternal torment and isolation in hell; not because the people on it failed to believe in what they were doing, not because they failed to try their best, but because this is simply not the way to reach God.
That is why our loving God did not build this road. That is why man, in his sinful pride and rebellion, had to construct it for himself at the behest of God's sworn enemy, Satan, who is the father of lies. He designed this road in the Garden of Eden and whispered its plans into the ears of Adam and Eve. This road serves a secret purpose. It does the exact opposite of what it promises. It promises truth but serves lies. It promises life but ends in death. It promises heaven but earns you hell. It promises to find the divine but reveals the devil. It promises hope but curses you with dispair and torment.
The second road--the narrow and difficult road--is the only true teaching. This divine Word says, "God serves man." This is the only teaching that comes from the very mouth of God and is demonstrated on the cross of Christ. This road does not merely claim to lead to God. It literally comes out from God and leads straight to you so that you can be picked up and brought to where God is.
The second road is not like the first road where you sojurn and wander to find God, but never succeed. It is quite the opposite. It is a road of collection where God comes and gets you and brings you back home by merciful grace. This road returns to Eden where God and man walked together in fellowship and where man did not toil because his every need was provided for by his loving Creator. Now, outside of Eden, our God the Father works through Word and Sacrament where the true religion exists in a system in which God constantly lifts up man, refreshes him, and brings him to everlasting life by faith alone in God the Son, Jesus Christ.
In this one and true faith, God also serves man through his fellow man as God the Holy Spirit fills us with faith, brings us to the righteousness of faith, and by faith performs true good works in us that bless our neighbor. This is the road that leads to eternal life in Christ Jesus which follows in the shadow of the cross where God draws poor sinners to Himself. This is the way to life everlasting.
There is no middle road.
According to the Associated Press, 16 people have died worldwide from the Swine Flu "pandemic". (That's another thing... if you are getting reports of 150+ deaths out of Mexico, that number has been debunked by the World Health Organization. Good science has reduced that statistic from a very low number to an even lower number.)
Evidence suggests that 150 people die every year from concussions sustained by having a coconut fall out of a tree and hit them on the head.
We still have 134 deaths to go before this reaches the level of the "coconut concussion crisis".
Number of US residents who die each year from flu-related symptoms or complications from flu:
Statistical daily mortality rate for the common flu:
98.6 people each day every day
Statistical hourly mortality rate for the common flu:
4.1 people each hour every hour... day after day with no news panic
Number of US residents who have died since the Swine Flu "pandemic":
Percentage of US residents who have caught the Swine Flu and are still alive:
Total US population:
Total reported cases of Swine Flu in the US:
Percentage of US residents who have caught this normally nonfatal illness: