Wednesday, December 24

The Reflection of my Sorrow

"A child was born a man to die, I don't know why" ~ The Weepies

Tonight is Christmas Eve. Earlier in the month I had no desire to celebrate the Holiday. In fact, much of the time I was oblivious to the season of Advent and Christmas. Had it not been for my occasional notice of lights, decorations, and Christmas songs I might have forgotten the time of year altogether.

However, as time has passed and I began adding to my reading the selected scriptures for Advent, I was reminded of the great paradox that this celebration entails. And perhaps I might have never noticed it had it not been for Beau. During Beau's life I was confronted with the fragility of birth, the imminence of death, and the hope, my only hope from now on, of a resurrection.

This eve we anticipate the celebration of a Virgin birth. A birth that took place in the depravity of a stable, a birth framed with pain and blood, a birth that ultimately ushered the Glory of the Lord into the presence of mere men. Emmanuel, God with us, became a reality on that eve.

God was born a man to die. And in His death He crushed our fear of death. He died so that we, his children may live. This Christmas, my eyes are finally opened to this great reality. Our first born son now resides with his true Father in eternity.

Glory to God in the Highest indeed, and Peace. For we who call the Christ our Saviour know why a baby was born a man to die.

Tuesday, October 21

Down at Little Beach

The dogs and I walk to the neighbourhood beach every day this week, since the weather turned so fine, we can explore further down the shore than usual, with less fear of snakes and other wild creatures, like man eating mesquitoes, ambushing us. Thus, the area serves as the Herbal and Sweetpea playground. In the morning, the sun lights up a clean, businesslike sky under which everyone is going about their routine of hurrying to work, the getting of breakfast, birds cleaning their feathers for the day. The evening brings a glowing sky of pink over silver water--if the wind has died down--fish leaping in pursuit of dinner before they become feed for the dive bomber seagulls and the lone grim crane. On the walk back home, we smell grilled meat and smoke from fireplaces warming the air. The night soon closes in, as the days are shortening, calling us to the quiet rest of bed, snuggled in against the chill that settles into the house.

Wednesday, October 8

In A Word: Responsibility

As we read about the energy crisis, the economic crisis, the educational crisis, and the political crisis that are occurring during the present, I would argue that we as a nation are not being creative enough in solving the issues we face. Instead of asking "what can I do to fix the situation?" We are asking someone else ( the Government) to jump in and do the work for us.

This issue manifests itself in how we view not only economic matters, but martial matters as well. Bill Murphy Jr. addresses this attitude in a recent article published in the Atlantic. I think that he is touching on something that we can all take on board, not just in the Military arena, but in other, more important arenas as well.

Tuesday, October 7

Into The East

As a resident of Eastern North Carolina, it is hard to imagine that you can go any further east from New Bern and still be in the United States. You can however, and if you do, you end up in an area that is still unspoiled by the kitchy stores, chain stores, fast food chains, and motor traffic that makes up most other areas of the country. The locals call it "down east". It is a relatively small geographical area that extends east, north-east from Beaufort, NC up through the Outer Banks and ends somewhere around the Kitty Hawk area. It is an area where folks rely mainly on fishing and crabbing to make a living. Subsistence living is the name of the game, and many still speak with the accents of their forefathers. It is an accent so rare and under threat of dying out that the University of North Carolina has set out to archive it.

The land itself is very low lying, much like the land you might find in South Texas or Southern Louisiana. It is home to very large mosquitoes. Marshes and estuaries weave throughout the backcountry and islands of trees pop up where the land rises high enough to support decent soil. Pirates roamed this land up until the Revolutionary War. In fact, this part of North Carolina was the hiding place of Edward Teach, the famed pirate, Blackbeard. Blackbeard met his fate at the hands of the British near a small island on the southern tip of the Outer Banks called Ocracoke. Interestingly enough, it is Blackbeard, not his executioner, that still commands all of the attention and the lore.

Ocracoke was our destination this past weekend. Electra was deserving of a late birthday trip, and so we decided to pack up the truck and head out to this, one of our favorite places. It takes us an hour driving time to transit the 50 odd miles to the Cedar Island ferry. The drive is really quite lovely. We pass through a few small villages and little else. The villages as I alluded to earlier are all based around the fishing industry and small shrimp boats, crabbing boats, and fishing trawlers are lined up in small canals, ditches almost, that back up to the homes of the watermen.

The ferry ride is a 2.5 hour trip across the open waters of the Pamlico Sound. The Sound is one of the largest inland bodies of water in the world; we are beyond the sight of land for most of the trip. As we finally make out the contour of the island proper, the first sight we see is the lighthouse, one of the oldest continuously operating lighthouses in the US. It is still in operation, maintained by the Coast Guard. The village of Ocracoke itself is centered around a natural harbor that goes by the name of Silver Lake. All of the Village's small businesses are centered around the 'lake', so it is an easy bike ride to any of the small restaurant, artsy shops and inns tucked away in the live oaks and sea grasses lining the shore.

Our first stop on the island was to one of our favorite places: The Ocracoke Coffee Co. This quaint little shop boasts adirondack chair seating scattered amongst the trees and a wooden deck outside, or cool, bug-free seating inside next to a tiny bookstore where one can peruse books on local history and fishing. Here we read the afternoon away and listened to the locals chat both in person and on-line with laptops handy, until we felt it was time to head down to the water, check out a pair of kayaks and head out to the little coves and inlets that once harbored pirates.

A leisurely three hour tour was all that I was proposing, but as it turns out, a three hour tour was more than we got. Being an Oceanography major, I am always interested in observing the notorious currents of the North Carolina coast; today I wanted to show my dear Electra the unique inlets that make up the passageways between the Atlantic and the Sound. A great plan if she weren't 7 months pregnant, lacking her usual muscle tone, and necessitating a paddle back against the current to our starting point. After we explored a couple-mile length of inlet, meandering along with stops at fishing nets, pictures of each other with the lighthouse in the background, and a short walk down the beach at the other end of the island, it was time to turn back, with an hour to spare before sunset. Problem is, we had to fight the outgoing currents that I had been intent on showing her. Thinking this a minor setback, we paddled more slowly only to discover we overestimated the strength left in Elektra's burning shoulders and the sun seems to set faster as it nears the horizon.

We soon found ourselves alone and paddling doggedly over the moonlit waters of the Pamlico Sound. With my own wild imaginings of the Coast Guard coming to fetch us and our over-time rented kayaks, and Elektra in mad fits of huffing and puffing, envisioning a brain-dead child from oxygen deprivation, we were never so glad to turn into the final stretch of Silver Lake, the little harbor where we would beach our crafts and fight off the hoards of grandaddy mosquitoes that met us with lusty greed. We cooled off with a short bike ride to a local favorite eatery, Howard's Pub. Back at our B&B, we settled in for a marvelous soak that washed out the layers of bug spray and restored Beau to happy kicking again.

The morning found us once again out on the road, but this time heading north on Hwy. 12 up to the Pony Pens and the beach. Ocracoke is also home to many wild ponies who are the descendents of English and Spanish ponies that were shipwrecked off of the coast some three to four hundred years ago. The beach itself is largely free of people and has not a trace of buildings or civilization anywhere in sight. I was hoping for a few good waves, but was disapointed with a glassy sea which, once you got used to the coolness of the water, provided a wonderful setting for a relaxing swim.

The afternoon ended as the day before had begun. As a treat, Electra and I purchased a bottle of wine, some cheese, and some crackers to enjoy on our 2.5 hour trip back to the mainland.

Sunday, September 14

Drop D Tuning and a Little Face Paint. . .

on the surface appears to be the only difference between Gospel Music and Death Metal. When Slayer writes lyrics like "They say your life can change/If you take God's hand/Embrace rebirth/Your cleansing's so divine/To be reborn in God's eyes," you might think that they drew their inspiration from Chris Rice. Too bad this particular song is from the album Christ Illusion.

Cannibal Corpse bassist Alex Webster says that "if church leaders do not want parishioners to literally bathe in Jesus's blood ('Are you washed in the blood?') or march on to Holy War ('Onward Christian Soldiers') then maybe death metal should not be taken just as figuratively." Alex goes on to say that "his material has the same intentions as a hymn like 'Power in the Blood.' They're both just trying to be over the top. With lyrics so violent and brutal it is difficult to take them seriously. For us, we are just trying to make good horror...."

Unfortunately for Mr. Webster, neither is over the top, and both are symbolic as means to a certain end. To which end though is the crucial question. For both worldviews have implications and thus, when carried out to their logical conclusions, bring about a result. One celebrates a culture of life, the other, a culture of death. So, when it comes down to it, the difference is really quite large, and some things are really not what they seem.

~All excerpts taken from "Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath" a well written article in Paste

Saturday, September 6

On Paedobaptism

"From the beginning, consistent paedobaptists treat their children as Christians so that the social and cultural nurture of the child is simultaneously his or her nurture in Christian character and faith."

From the Westminster Confession of Faith- "Secondary means (baptism) are real and have efficacy."

"The idea is to raise your child so that he reaches the same level of psycho-social and religious maturity. The two should be indistinguishable."

Paedobaptism implies that the Gospel's solution to the gap (in culture/nature) is not to lay an entirely new set of tracks, but to close the gap by redeeming the original created means from sin."

-All thoughts courtesy of Peter Leithart

Monday, August 18

the ritual

I read today, in The Baptized Body that sacraments are best described as a rite or ritual, as action done by many people together to experience and tell the same story in 'real life' time. Letter writing is a kind of rite of friendship; it takes two to complete the work. Gardening is a ritual of the seasons accomplished by the sweat of man's brow, and yet not by his strength alone; he works in covenant with creatures-- 'good' insects used against the 'bad' pests, trusting for rain to fall and the sun to do its part in shining. Leithart makes a simple case for the meaning of sacraments, claiming that there is no "real life" separate or independent from the embellishments we know as special events.

To use a very common special event, for example, most of us would say you could have a birthday party without balloons. Let us consider the fact that balloons and cake with candles melting over it symbolize something recognizable to us (yes, in our particular culture) of a rite of passage for the birthday boy, an honour granted by his surrounding friends or family in a ceremonial way. Thus, Leithart is able to say, "Rites accomplish what they signify" (22). Our next question might be: would not the child turn a year older without the party? In another example, that Leithart uses, he illustrates the importance of ceremony truly causing something to happen, for "[w]hen two people marry, their status changes from 'single' to 'married', and what happens through the rite of covenant making is said to be something 'joined together' by God" (23). Let us now sleep on these things--in the ritual of turning back the sheets, plumping our pillows and really closing our eyes.

Friday, August 15

reading on water

After a discussion we sat in on about one of Peter Leithart's books, we set out to find our own copy, but it not being available, I ordered The Baptized Body instead. Thus, we are learning what we didn't know we needed to study necessarily about the sign, symbol, or sacrament of baptism. We've used all these words to describe the water rebirth, and Leithart makes a case for why baptism, as a sacrament, is neither a sign or symbol and not even a means of grace. It's a fine line of distinction: "Sacraments are not means of grace, but themselves graces" (18). The effect on ourselves in this "personal encounter with the Triune God" is that "[we] are transformed when God shows His favor through granting favors, when God shows his grace through bestowing graces" (18).

The summer heat wave passed over us this week, with heavy gray clouds, wind, rain, and the slow sweeping out of burdensome humidity. Air is breathable again and our neighbours poke their heads out of air conditioned houses like hermit crabs washed up on the beach, wondering where they've landed and how to get back into the group again. In the heat that drives us to obsess on water--beach going, pool lounging, a glass of ice water--I shall slowly seek out glimpses of its meaning.

Saturday, August 9


Our friend Lars came home with his comrades this week. After six months in Iraq, his family met him with the exhilaration of anticipation after a long absence, and the happy surprise of familiarity--as if he came home from work just yesterday. I was one of three friends chosen as family paparazzi for the event.

We arrived at the huge open hangar with some fifteen other families. At two in the afternoon, we were sweating the shade, gathered around a big box fan, watching the swarm of children bounce on the green air dragon kindly provided by the Marines for the toddlers grumpy without naps and moms' sanity when the plane got delayed half and hour. The wives drifted in clusters, chattering with their squadron aquaintances, re-powdering noses, distributing snacks and drinks to red-faced children. Behind us, a large plane is being worked on, Marines drifting slowly in and out on their daily round of business. Finally, the word spreads from one man with news from the tower: landing in five minutes. Scurry and hustle ensues; children are thrown in their strollers, babies swung on the hip, and the matching, patriotically blue striped dressed little girls with red bows perched on their heads like staked butterflies line up at the edge of the hangar's shade, all eyes glued to the sky.

We watch the wide, grey wings slowly descend towards us on the ramp. Upon touchdown, the pilot waves out his tiny window, and everyone shakes their little American flags furiously, cameras flashing to capture the wives and childrens' faces as the crouch at the ready, saying "LOOK, Daddy's coming!" No one moves except the scurry of support guys opening the doors, tractors ready to forklift the mountains of tightly packed luggage.

While waiting, unsure what's next, we see a little boy take off trotting at full speed, his red T-shirt the only colour moving across the land of concrete, towards the distant huddle of metal machines and swarm of uniforms around the plane. Out of the flurry of guys unloading, one tall, tan flight suited dad comes running towards the little boy. They tumble into one another half way across the empty ramp. Father and son fall over right there, sitting in the sun to squeeze their hot and tired necks into happy wrinkles. All at once, the whole long line of waiting families start running, looking for their dads and husbands as they slowly make their way out of the back end of the aircraft.

Between tears and camera snapping, I saw little else of the homecoming except smiling faces and lanky dads chasing their giggling, teasing children and the husbands and wives in fierce handholds hauling their loads of gear back to the car, back to home.

Wednesday, July 30

"dog days"

Summer here is stretching out in hot, humid days, a moisture in the air that feeds not the wilting plants but feeds the deadly fungus on the rose leaves and provides molecular H2O rides for mesquitoes. We watch squirrels stealing drinks out of forgotten water vases on our back porch, never noticed by our varmit hound, who's passed out under his red chair. It's too hot to enjoy the cosiness of bedclothes; we all sleep under fans on "hi" and thank God in our haze of sleep for the mild a/c we use at the missionary level of 81F. It's almost too hot for eating, but for revelling in ice: iced water, iced tea, icy beer--depite the dieticians advice to drink at room temps to balance the bodily temperature. While we give thanks for electric lines and freezers, the obvious modern coolers, I think its more about water, the substance without which we'd be dead as the hard casings of worms who tried to cross the pavement and fried up brown there in the sun.

Sunday, July 20

Thoughts On Work

"If you want to produce Christian work, be a Christian, and try to make a work of beauty into which you have put your heart; do not adopt a Christian pose." ~Jacques Martin

The Church's approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays. What the church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables." ~ Dorothy Sayers

Monday, July 14

Worshipful Rest

I enjoy the idea that our work can be our worship, but I am also intrigued by the idea that our rest is just as much a form of worship. This weekend we rested and worshipped with Elizabeth and Ryan. May our rest be always this wonderful and our worship this deep.

Thursday, July 3

Check it out

Our new blog addition: see the links sidebar to discover it.

Tuesday, June 24

Daisy time

Our daisies are in full bloom today, after a three-fold series of rain storms yesterday. The daisy tends to be abused with overuse in sentimental baby girl layettes and mistily empathetic Hallmark cards. In reality, they present a cheerful, unabridged profusion of white petals shooting out from their yellow centers, like dozens of sunny-side-up eggs flying right out of the frying pan at you, the onlooker of the garden. That's what greets our visitors these days as they pull into our drive. Prepare to be chuckled at by a host of the bright yellow day's-eyes.

Monday, June 23

Fruit of our Labours

We built and filled our little brown bed with local horse manure and nursery soil back in March, strategically located in the corner of the yard. A bit ignorant of our summer sun patterns, we now have tomatoes and beans growing in the shade with very tall marigolds reaching for the scattered light of the afternoon. Despite such experimental setbacks, we've enjoyed several rosy tomatoes and baby beets with green onions. The fight against cabbage moths was nearly lost upon our cauliflower, but Kermit rescued them with a concoction from our True Value, which became our preferred source for plants since last year's flower beds were planted. I am most happy with our two lavendar plants, which often languish in the humidity of the south, but produced handfuls of lavender wands to be dried.

Monday, June 2

Next To My Big Red Chair...

Saturday, May 31

No Time Like A Good Time

You know, I have a propensity to only think about the tough stuff. Especially when it comes to work. I allow myself to be bogged down by the harshness of it, and tend not to look beyond where I am at. But seriously, is not that the way of it? Here right now in front of us is a grand world that is enshrouded in a Mystery by its Creator. And the Mystery extends into both the Spiritual and the Physical. But do I regularly take a peek into This is why I have greatly enjoyed reading Frederick Buechner's book On The Road With The Archangel. This lovely little novel is a joy to read and has more Theologically sound golden nuggets within its pages than most books sold under the title "religion."

Sample this quote: "The things the world fills time with are enough to turn the heart to stone, but the goodness of time itself is as untouched by them as the freshness of a spring morning is untouched by the yelps from the scaffold. Time is good because the Holy One made it that way and then set the heavenly bodies wheeling through the sky so there would always be a way of marking its passage. Unfortunately, not even the most devout understand this for more than possibly a day or two out of the entire year when everything seems to be going their way. The rest of the year they go around like everybody else rolling thier eyes and expecting terrible things to happen... they prefer to think that it is time itself that is terrible and that the terrible things are only another method by which the Holy One afflicts them for their sins."

Oh, so good. It is a treasure to have artists who have the ability to transfer Truth in a way in which we can understand.

Wednesday, May 7

the long road

Some things take a Long Time to process, which is an idea somewhat relative to the culture in which we are raised. A long time to me might be one week; most packages from arrive within a week, much longer of a wait than if I went downtown this very afternoon and bought from Books-a-Million. For the Lost Boys of Sudan, on the other hand, one month is hardly sufficient to learn three new English verbs in their hometown refugee camp. One of them might happily read a very small book within a year.

We watched And God Grew Tired of Us last Saturday, a documentary on the lives and fortunes of several Lost Boys. A few of them were very determined young fellows who, some 3-5 years after arriving in New York City and Pittsburg, could live fairly self-sufficiently (as they found to their sorrowful loneliness, Americans are trained to do) and began to search for family left back in Africa and for other Lost Boys scattered across the US.

Watching the movie, I remembered one young man and woman who came to our high school in Franklin, some nine or ten years ago, and only this week I learned the story behind why they were called "Lost." I also realise we ask silly questions of refugees: "aren't you so glad to be in a country where you have freedom?" Away from your homeland, much of your family, left-behind friends, the common language of the refugee camp, only to come to America and find cars that are out to kill you at all times and crowded apartments where no one meets you in the eye. Given time, America can be a good home. Give it years, and let yourself stumble diligently through work, busy roads, neighbouring strangers, to find the neighbours less strange and something familiar of your culture has been absorbed by them.

Wednesday, April 23

Turtle Huddle

Wlaking the dogs down to Little Beach from our house, I passed a swampy pond inhabited by turtles, cormorants, and the occasional duck or goose pair. Today, dozens of turtles in all sizes were sunning themselves on submerged logs, a few piled awkwardly on top of each other, others off on their OWN log, and big grandfather turtles waiting patiently behind baby palm-sized turtles. Soon, I can take our new, grey-turtle cloured camera down to snap some pictures for you!

Monday, April 14

Considering the Day

When the day's plans skid across my mind like a rush of cars to the common screeching halt at every stop light between our house and town, I grab a piece a paper before the light turns green and all the speedy plans rush away, lost on their own sidetracks. Composing an agenda becomes a daily habit not entirely intentional, conceived in the need for traffic management, lest the mind's highway become a mental wreck scene, each pointed plan a cell phoner screaming for policing. What life is there, I question, beyond the fly-by list of the day?

I want to see a master list that dictates the road of errands and laundry, a language pattern to describe the slow-motion ritual into which the need-plans riding in imaginary motorcars speed. All creatures have instictive Things To Do, man having the priviledge of manipulating the basics into elaborations of reality. My list is a declaration of ordered time, commanding myself with the end of pleasure in things done.

Wednesday, April 9

Spring Snow

Like its brother Winter, Spring
the season, pours forth a show
all in white, decking the wayside
with blossoms cloudlike as if
suspending light on shadowy branches
in the understory of the forest,
dispels the gloom of grey days
on end, leftover clouds of rain's
essential recipe, precipitation
welcome from a burdensome sky, with
the sun be buried by her leaden veil,
a light springs forth from the woodlot--
happy the seed whose funeral rites foretold
of the lacy gown on the dancing dogwood.

Wednesday, March 26

A Fruitful Day

Grey clouds and a cold North-East wind blew its Saturday greeting as Electra and I made the short trek to Downtown. A Sausage, Egg, and Cheese bagel for me, an everything Bagel for the Electra, and an Apple-Cinnamon Scone for both were the company to two warm cups of coffee at our local coffee house.

We followed our breakfast up with a walk down the block to the Farmer's Market to pick up our two weeks worth of vegetables, meat, cheese, and bread. The vegetables, though early in the season, look good. The meat and eggs are a treasure to behold. the cheese, being goat cheese, tastes and smells much like Soda Pop(my Mom and Dad's goat). It really is good, quite good really. Just very goaty. And the Bread, ahh, the bread...wonderful.

Seventy-Three dollars, a few plants, two pots, and a truck full of horse manure later we were home doing what we both love best. Tending the garden.

Tonight, it is Jack and Dr. Pepper for me, wine for the Lady, and an evening of good books.

The Newest Member of The Family....

Electra and I had a wonderful Easter in many special aspect was that we had our first chance to meet our newest nephew. I immediately was smitten with him....and evidently he with me. I know that some nephews enjoy emulating** their uncles, but this is rediculous.

** I am known as boards due the surface area of my ears roughly approximating the surface area of a jet's speed brakes.

On A Wednesday Evening

How kind, how secret, now the sun
Will bless this garden frost has won
And touch once more, as once it used,
The furled boughs by cold bemused.
though summered brilliance has but room
In blossom, now the leaves will bloom
Their time, and take from milder sun
An unreviving benison.

The Garden
Robert Frost

This poem was actually written on the prospect of a fine day in early autumn. However, it seemed to match the persona of the day, and I thought it fit in smartly.

Our raised bed is set, and is bringing new life as we speak. The downstairs of the manor nears completion and the deck awaits my vigor on the morrow. Four more days before life for Kermit begins anew.

Wednesday, March 19

And The Debate Rages on.....

A friend sent me this video on the "front lines of Berkely" is great..trouble is, I can't tell these days whether I am wathcing John Stewart, Fox, CNN, or MSNBC. My solution, I stopped watching...but this is worth the 2 minutes, you will love the logic.

Another Day At The Office

The alarm goes off at some horribly early hour and I quickly curse the fact that I have to leave the warm bed. It is cold and dark outside and I really do not feel like facing it. My 28 year old back is already making me aware of its presence...years of riding horses and flying jets is already taking its toll. I limp into the bathroom and do my best to turn it into a steam room. I silently thank God for hot water and indoor plumbing.

When I emerge from my self induced steam room, I find that Electra, God bless her soul is up and she decides to make sure that I drink my "Gogi" juice and have a lunch packed before I leave. She is purely amazing.

I jump in the car and suck on my coffee. A far too bright eyed Marine greets me at the gate. I wish him a good day and think of the Proverb that says something about rising early, greeting your neighbor, and a curse, though not always in that order.
After I get to the squadron I head into the Paraloft to check all my gear. The evening duty remarks: "got the early one again Sir"? he smiles.

Upstairs I meet my flight lead, the Air Combat Tactics Instructor. He is a grizzled veteran whose eyes are sunk back into his head and the black circles surrounding them make his eyes appear as dark valleys. We talk for two hours about tactics, threats, our planned fights for the day and the sequence of events. I have to rattle off a littany of threat briefing items: today we are simulating fighting a Soviet made fighter that most of our not so friendly neighbors fly.

The brief done we receive our last minute weather brief and walk down to the Paraloft to get dressed. It is cold today and the water temp is below 60 deg F. This means that we have to wear our dry suits under all of our other gear. It is physically impossible to dress yourself so one of the parachute riggers helps me.

The maintenance books signed, my lead(we fly in a formation of two) and I walk out to the jets. The sun is barely above the horizon and an icy wind is blowing, but for a pilot the day is perfect. The wind is right down the runway and the sky is crystal clear. I meet my plane captain, a young Marine from Michigan. He is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of my jet. In all reality, the jet is his and he is only lending it to me for a few hours. I preflight the jet. The Harrier requires that you actually crawl up into the wheelwell and check hydraulic gauges. Not an easy feat wearing all of the aforementioned gear. The jet looks good, I confer with my plane captain over one or two small items and he kindly asks me to bring her (the jet) back in one piece. Believe me, I will try.

I strap in, which again requires a superhuman effort with all of my gear. I run through the pre-start checks. Again, all look good and I throw the switches for start. The jet begins to whine, then lowers her tone into a deep growl and finally a deep rumble emits as she comes to life. Hydraulics, RPM, and JPT all look good. The Harrier idles at around 29% RPM, so I feel like I am sitting on a bull ready to go out of the chute. She leans against her tiedowns and chalks. I spend the next ten minutes going though my post-start checks. The TV, NavFlir, Dual Mode Tracker, and Inertial Navigation systems are turned on and warmed up. The ordnance Marines come out to check on my missile. I uncage the seeker head and the Sidewinder emits a low growl as an InfraRed wand is passed in front its nose.

Final Checks complete, my lead and I taxi out to the runway. I run through the last few pre-takeoff checklist items. We call for takeoff and I push the power up to 60% for RPM and IGV checks. "Power coming up, IGVs coming down, time is 2.15, IGV's are 14, Water not required, Nozzles set STO stop, Flaps are 62,62 nozzles 60, 60, duct pressure 45, no warnings or cautions" I call checks complete and away we go. I push the power to Mil and immediately get shoved down into my seat. All 23,000 lbs of thrust are pushing me and my 19,500 lb Harrier down the runway. 2 seconds later I hit 60 knots, my nozzle rotation speed. I throw the nozzles to the STO stop and the jet leaps off of the deck. I nozzle out to 25 degrees of nozzles and put up the gear and flaps. I then finish nozzling out and am joined up with my lead. He points his jet 65 degrees nose high in a climbing right hand turn. We have to keep the nose so high in order to keep below the 300knot speed limit near the airport. I look down at the airfield. We are just over the end of the runway but already passing 12,000 feet. I am riding a rocket ship.

After leveling off at 15,000ft I fall back into a 1 mile trail position and complete my missile checks. I lock up my lead with the sidewinder, check for a good tone and then uncage the missile. She stays locked up so it looks like I have a good missile. I then switch to my gun and pull up to a closer position. The gun looks good. Weapons check complete. I assume a combat spread position and my lead call for an unloaded acceleration into a "G Warm". I push the nose over, accelerate to 400 knots and call "speed right". We make one 90 deg turn targeting 3 G's. My lead calls "resume" and we then aim for a 5-6 G pull to our initial heading. I then pull 15 degrees nose high and roll inverted. I hold the nose up forcing negative G's and check for loose items in the cockpit.

My lead and I then spend the next twenty minutes going through various drills practicing essential air to air basic fighting skills. We run through a snap shot drill with the gun, followed by a heat to guns drill, next comes the rolling scissors and then the flat scissors.

Now for the excitement. We end our session with three neutral sets. in this scenario I take a cut away from my lead until we have three miles of separation and then I turn back into him and we pass head to head at over 1000 MPH of closure. My job is to defeat him, his job is to defeat me. My plan for this attack is to turn tight across his tail and race him for the deck, forcing him to fight me in a turn rate fight verse a turn radius fight. By beating him to the deck I deny him altitude to trade for extra energy and I can then hopefully wear him down.

All I see is a black dot racing towards me, the dot then turn into the shape...of..a..jet. We pass.. I overbank, place my lift vector below and in front of him and smoothly pull the jet into a lift limit pull. I twist my body in the straps, straining against the G forces, trying to maintain sight of my enemy. I hit 6.2 times my body weight on the way down and my vision is obscured by the large cloud of condensing air flowing off my wing. The entire aft section of the jet is obscured by the cloud...I watch for the deck and begin my rate transition... so far my plan is working we are now established in a rate fight. My goal is now to fly as smooth as possible and work into a weapon solution. Two turns later I am now getting into a good position. The enemy is not giving me any room for error and I am having to contend with a constant 4G's pressing against me. It looks to me like I moving into a good position to take a shot, but he is not going to let me get away with this so easily. I sell the farm and pull past 6 G's to get my nose pointed in front of him for a chance at a shot. No luck, he throws in his nozzles and causes me to shoot past his tail. I point the nose straight up trying to lose as much airspeed as possible. He is directly above me and slightly behind me, not a good place for me. We enter a rolling scissors. I am trying very hard to fly the jet on the edge of her envelope. I try to hard and the "bitching betty" immediately warns me that I have gone too far...I am close to departing controlled flight...and I have to ease my pull. This gives my opponent just the advantage he needs to gain a position that I can not shake and I end up losing the fight.

We call knock it off and head home. I join back up with me lead, trying to wipe the sweat out of my eyes without hitting him, and look over his jet making sure that there is no external damage. He does the same for me. I fall back into a loose formation and finally try to catch my breath. The sun is now coming up behind me and is illuminating the beach and shoreline beyond it with all of its early morning radiance. I have time to think about my flight: the mistakes I made, the lessons I learned, and maybe even a couple of things I did right. We will debrief when we get back...I know that I will get it for the mistakes that I made...but I also know that I will be better off for it.

We approach the break at 400 knots, pass the center of the airfield and my lead kisses me off. I count to 4 and then break, I pull 4 G's to try to slow the jet down. At 250kts I lower 25 degrees of nozzles and lower the gear, followed by the flaps. I check my performance for a vertical landing, it looks good. Abeam the landing pad I lower 60 degrees of nozzles and the jet decelerates to about 150 knots. My flaps program down and I anticipate the nose pitch associated with their programming. At 350 feet I lower the nozzles to the hover stop position and transition from wingborne to jetborne flight. I slow to 30 knots and align the nose with the relative wind. Once lined up with the wind I hover to the center of the pad and try to land as gently as possible.

I taxi back, complete my post flight checks, fuel up at the fuel pits and then head back to my line. As I get closer I see my plane captain waving at me. He is no doubt just as relieved as I am to be back in one piece.

Tuesday, March 11

There is nothing to eat,
seek it where you will,
but of the body of the Lord.
The blessed plants and the sea, yield it
to the imagination intact.

William Carlos Williams

I just finished reading Wendell Berry's The Art Of The Commonplace. It was a great read and the second book in a row that I have read of Berry. I am impressed by his wisdom, his eloquence, and his outlook concerning the stewardship that we are called to give to the Earth.

There are a number of points he made that struck me as being very true and are points that very few other Christians are making right now. For example, As Christians we are called to plow in hope, both literally and figuratively. Well, what does he mean by that...? To plow in hope figuratively means that we are to be involved in culture. Have you ever noticed that it is the folks Christians usually scoff at that are running the eclectic coffee shops, the edgy, good art galleries, and truly making a concerted effort to be stewards over our resources? At best, we tend to look at these folks as liberal Christians, at worst, just plain old liberal humanists. To plow in hope culturally requires that we, the Church, involve ourselves in culture. Open the neighborhood Pubs, support local artists, write great music. Additionally, plowing in hope literally means just that. Steward the Earth in great anticipation of the wonderful day when the wedding supper of the Lamb has been consummated and we are finally worshipping as we were created to worship!

Well, ok. So to the nitty gritty. What do we do when the kids have runny noses, we are stuck in the suburbs and are barely able to afford the $3.25/gallon fuel ticket? Well, I would start with simply trying to love your family, love your neighbors, love your community. Treat people as if they matter, and let it it go from there. As far as the figurative plowing goes however, I think you will find that Mr. Berry's following advise is quite sage.

1. Participate in food production to the extent that you can. If you have a yard or even just a porch box or a pot in a sunny window, grow something to eat in it. Make a little compost of your kitchen scraps and use it for fertilizer. Only by growing food for yourself will you know all about it and appreciate it fully, having known it all of its life.

2. Prepare your own food. This means reviving in your own mind and life the arts of kitchen and household.

3. Learn the origins of the food you buy, and buy the food that is produced closest to your home. The locally produced food supply is the most secure, the freshest, and the easiest for local consumers to know about and influence.

4. Whenever possible, deal directly with a local farmer, gardener, or orchardist. By such dealing you eliminate the whole pack of merchants, transporters, processors, packagers, and advertisers who thrive at the expense of both products and consumers.

5. Learn, in self defense, as much as you can of the economy and technology of industrial food production. What is added to food that is not food, and what do you pay for these additions?

6. Learn what is involved in the best farming and gardening.

7. Learn as much as you can, by direct observation and experience if possible, of the life histories of the food species.

Friday, March 7

When in Tennessee

We hibernate on the farm. However, this trip has been different. We've sat in on classes at a literally New College, met friends for lunch, visit the downtown Starbucks 3 times a day, inbetween other appointments, and plan to tote all our renewed knowledge back with us in our knapsacks of the mind. When we return to our home computer with the comfortable simplicity of a cheap PC vs the high tech Mac of the grandpapas and mamas, I'll find some pictures to post.

Friday, February 8

"Maybe the bride-bed brings despair,
For each an imagined image brings
And finds a real image there;
Yet the world ends when these two things,
Though several, are a single light..."

The World
William Butler Yeats

In many communities, but in ours especially, there is a very real need for a couple to care for one spouse whose significant other is gone for an extended time. Unfortunately many of us, even those of us in the Church, do a very poor job of meeting this need. We feel uncomfortable as a man caring for the needs of another man's wife while he is gone. It seems to be difficult for us to go over to their homes and mow their yard, play catch with their sons, work on their cars. Perhaps we are afraid that a wild passion will overcome us and we will forsake our own wife. Perhaps we feel that by helping we are stepping on the toes of the husband who is gone. Perhaps we just feel uncomfortable with it because we are taught to forsake all others when we take our marriage vows.

I would like to suggest that forsaking all others is not exactly what we have made it out to be. You can demonstrate abiding love for your wife by respecting all women and caring for your friend's wife's needs with their children and household necessities when left behind by the deployed husband-father. And conversely, you can only really take care of the wife of another by having daily loved your own wife well.

Wendell Berry makes a great point in The Art Of The Commonplace. He remarks: "To forsake all others does not mean- because it cannot mean - to ignore or neglect all others, to hide or be hidden from all others, or to desire or love no others. To live in marriage is a responsible way to live in sexuality, as to live in a household is a responsible way to live in the world. One cannot enact or fulfill one's love for womankind or mankind, or even for all the women or men to whom one is attracted. If one is to have power and delight of one's sexuality, then the generality of instinct must be resolved in a responsible relationship to a particular person...No matter how much one may love the world as a whole, one can live fully in it only by living responsibly in some small part of it."

To "forsake all others" is to trap our love and the influence of grace upon the community behind a wall of partiality that is in the best sense fake and in the worst case ugly and demeaning. We have a responsibility then, not just to our own families, but also to those with whom we live, work, and worship.

Ash Wednesday

Yes, it's now Friday, but Ash Wednesday passed by us not unnoticed. We went to our first Ash Wed. service, full of repentant Psalms and readings from exhorting passages of Scripture and experienced the dust of ashes painted in a little cross on our foreheads. "From dust you came and to dust you will return." After more prayers, knees numbed and thighs aching from kneeling, we walked out from communion with clean hearts and hands challenged to serve 40 days and nights seeking God's face.

"Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice;
but you take no delight in burnt-offerings.

The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise."

Tuesday, January 29

what I would have done

Over the weekend, there were lots of brilliant ideas pouring forth from my overheated brain, but somehow the grey skies of this morning deflated the balloon of inspiration. I'll write instead of how Kermit is not finished but slowly getting his last flights done, and how unambitiously anxious we get when we practice loving our money in disguise as stewardship issues like financing of cars and house and insurance on everything that moves, and how Herbie sits gazing out the window, longing to join the birds and squirrels in forest romps, yet Sweetpea stays in bed, liking nothing so much as warmth and growling at leaves fluttering across the road on a walk.

Tutoring South Asian peoples in the English language shows me how fearful we are when faced with speacking to someone of a different language. We smile and nod to hide our scary vacuum of non-understanding, afraid to bend our tongue to unfamiliar sounds. After trial and error and the great struggle to learn new words, new sentence structure, new ideas come with the language and faces light up and we experience an understanding that reaches the very heart of man. I suspect we of the human species are speaking a different language than that of the heavenlies. We are, in other words, fearful and alienated from God until he teaches us his language.

Tuesday, January 15

Walking Backwards

The greater percentage of my days lately have been preoccupied with thinking, no obsessing, about the future. No, not twenty years from now. But tomorrow. next week. My next set of orders. I think that we all fall into this predicament. It is only natural isn't it?

My dad once told me that it is easier to have faith in the past than in the future. I would have to agree with him. the funny thing is though, when I look back at where God has brought me, us, I can not help but admit that God has a pretty darn good track record. Imagine that, me not giving God the credit He is due.

Well, I ran across this paragraph from Capon while reading The Youngest Day. And yes, I am actually reading other books. Trust me. Capon says: "...It is not only death that approaches from behind. The whole future approaches from the same direction. We like to think that we walk into it forwards-that tomorrow is something up ahead of us and that, while it may be hidden by mists, we're still at least looking the right way. But in fact the only thing before our mind's eye now is yesterday. It's the past we see clearly; the future we can't see at all. And we miss it not because of thick clouds or bad vision but because it's 180 degrees out of sight. What will happen after this is, quite literally, aft of us. We walk into the future backwards."

And perhaps it is a good thing that we walk into it backwards. Because after all, Christ has gone ahead and fought the fight for us. If we walked into it facing forwards we might try to go it our own way, even more than we do now.

Sunday, January 13

A Warm Welcome To....

The High Meadow Lady. Her link is on the right. She is a woman who is wise, wonderful, second only to my dear Electra.

A Saturday's Morning Run

Saturday morning is a morning that I look forward to all week. Not just for the obvious either. Since my days of running marathons, Saturdays have been the day that I fit my long run in. I don't run marathons anymore, but I still anticipate and enjoy my Saturday morning run. There is something that is cleansing about a long run. It is where I am able to work the kinks out of both my body and my mind. Usually these runs are done alone. However, every now and then my close friend Scott comes down to join me, and it is from our runs that some of our best conversations spring to life.

This past Saturday was a great day for a run; it was in the mid-fifties, overcast, a light breeze of about 5 knots out of the East. In this part of the state, a breeze out of the East, North-East brings in cooler air from from the cooler Atlantic currents. A wind out of the South-West brings in warm, humid air from the Gulf Stream. Thankfully, that was not the case this morning.

I left the house in clad only in running shorts and my new "cool max" T-shirt. No Elizabeth, not THOSE shorts. I walk down to the end of our lane as a warm up. I also use this time to accurately gauge the weather. This morning it is as the window forecast and so I commit. The first kilometer brings the sounds and sights of men working in their garages. Sundry projects and the weekly honey-do's no doubt. Otherwise the community is quiet and still; perfect. I notice that some of the young trees are trying to produce buds. A result no doubt of the aforementioned South-West breeze we have been enjoying for the better part of a week. The older trees wisely hold their buds in as if lecturing the youngsters to not get their dander up so early...we still have two months they say.

A dash across the state highway lands me back into a more rural area. The land of the Churches of Christ I call it. The first Church that I pass is built out of stuccato and the front forms a big, grey "W". Signs litter their grass parking lot warning not to do this and that. A large Oak tree leans over the building as if weeping. Is the building a reflection of their Theology? I hope not. But, I am afraid that it is. Further down the road I pass a nice lady who comments how nice it must be to be able to run. I comment to her that indeed it is. I praise her for getting out for a walk. She thanks me and I am alone with my thoughts once again.

Approaching me from the left is a large farm, or the remnants of one. I do not think that it is actively farmed anymore, though I have seen them cutting hay this past summer. It is a lovely piece of land. An old barn, used for Tobacco no doubt, stands in disrepair near the tree line. I hang a right and turn down a quiet lane surrounded by trees and observe the small half acre clearings of land used to grow soybeans, they are empty and waiting. The clouds have now come down so low as to seemingly touch the trees. I also note that is a bit more humid than I had previously assumed.

No worries though. I dash across a railroad crossing, retrace my steps across the highway and head back home. For the last half-mile I pick up my pace. I once read that the Kenyans, who are the best runners on Earth, train by picking up their pace in the last mile or so. And so I pretend to follow their methods. The last rise leads to our lane, and so I slowly pull up to a walk and start my cool down.

My head clear, my body relaxed, I anticipate the large breakfast that Electra is preparing. In fact, I already smell the bacon! Ahead of me is a day of rest and the activities that lead to our call to worship on Sunday morning.

Monday, January 7

how we spent Christmas

Leaning into the arms of the couch with our new nephew, Patrick Hiram!

Thursday, January 3

A Plumb LIne For Post Modernity

Every now and then you meet an author who is able to cast a new light on an old subject and give you inspiration that you felt was never really to be had. An author who says so succinctly what you have been meaning to say for years and never had the right words. Robert Farrar Capon is that author for me, he is indeed a plumb line from which post modernity stands against. Consider this on the subject of spirits: "Once in a while someone asks me if I drink. My answer is always: No; drinking: is not a human activity. No man in his right mind can possibly set out "to drink" in the current sense of the phrase. Drinking, like Sex, is one of the big fake subjects. Of course I go on to explain to my questioner that I usually take a short vermouth at noon, a sherry or a rince cochon before dinner, a couple of glasses of Zinfandel, California Chablis, or better with my meals, and not infrequently, a reasonable quantity of Scotch with my conversation. But I do not drink. My care is for the matter and the occasion, not for the activity of drinking. By a long love for the real subject, the fake one has been made to sit down and shut up".
~From Bed and Board: Plain Talk About Marriage