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Study the Past, Don’t Live in It

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Friends at Padre Steve’s World

I tend to become somewhat reflective as the New Year approaches. I am reminded of Peter Benchley, who wrote, “The past always seems better when you look back on it than it did at the time. And the present never looks as good as it will in the future.” Likewise, St Augustine of Hippo once asked “How can the past and future be, when the past no longer is, and the future is not yet?”

Augustine’s question is interesting, but I think that his question is flawed. I think that the past lives in the present much more than we would like to think and that our future, though unwritten can unfold in a multitude of ways and possibilities.

Many of us live in the past as if it were today. We, individually and collectively, as individuals and nations live in the past and look to it much more fondly than when it was our present. I think that historian Will Durant possibly said it the best: “The past is not dead. Indeed, it is often not even past.”

As a historian myself I value the past and seek answers and wisdom from it to use in the present because what we do in the present does, for better or worse defines our future. Confucius said “study the past if you would define the future.” He was quite wise, he said to study the past, did he did not say to live in it.

That is something that I have been learning for over 20 years now when my Clinical Pastoral Education Supervisor, used a Star Trek Next Generation metaphor from the episode A Matter Of Time in order to teach me how my past was influencing the way I was living my life.In the episode a shadowy visitor who claimed to be from the future refuses to help the crew of the Enterprise save an endangered world, claiming that if he were to help them, that his “history – would unfold in a way other than it already has.”

Finally, after other all other possibilities were exhausted, Captain Picard was forced to make a decision and confronted the visitor, who as it turned out to be a thief from the past, using time travel to collect technology to enrich himself by bringing it back in time. Picard makes a comment which I think is pertinent in a time like ours.

“A person’s life, their future, hinges on each of a thousand choices. Living is making choices! Now, you ask me to believe that if I make a choice other than the one that appears in your history books, then your past will be irrevocably altered. Well… you know, Professor, perhaps I don’t give a damn about your past, because your past is my future, and as far as I’m concerned, it hasn’t been written yet!”

When my supervisor told me that my past did not have to be my future, it opened a door of life and faith that I had never experienced before and which showed me that life was to be boldly lived in the present. While it meant a lot then, it means more now for the past according to William Shakespeare “is prologue.”

We cannot help being influenced by the past. We should indeed learn from it, but we cannot remain in it or try to return to it. Kierkegaard said that “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

Since I am a Christian, at least by profession, my faith in that future is in the God who is eternal, the God of love. Victor Hugo in Les Miserables said “Love is the only future God offers.” That is the future that I want to envision.

Unfortunently there are many people who claim the same Christian faith that I claim who attempt to return to an imaginary past and to try to legislate that past onto others who do not share their beliefs, if necessarily using the police powers of the state to do so. Such is neither honest because it attempts to enforce a mythologized past on others, nor Christian, because ultimately the Christian hope is focused on the yet to be realized future and not the past, it has nothing to do with establishing some kind of theocratic Christian state that denies rights and a future to all but like minded Christians.

Living is making choices and the future hinges on thousands of them. Many of these choices we make automatically without thought simply because we have always done them that way, or because that is how it was done in the past. However, if we want to break the cycle, if we want to live in and envision that future of the God of love then we have to live in the present though the past lives in us.

T.S. Elliot penned this verse:

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”

The coming year promises to be challenging, and the tensions between those who want to return to the past, especially the predominantly Christian cult  devoted to President Trump and making America great again and those who believe in an inclusive hope and future for all will be on full display.

As for me, I choose the path of Picard; because my future, and our future, hasn’t been written yet, and cannot be surrendered to those who want to return us to a mythologized past that never existed in history, but which they want to legislate today.

My choice in our time is to resist, and to fight for a future that includes everyone.

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The First Duty is to Truth: Midweek Musings

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“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” Oscar Wilde 

Friends of Padre Steve’s World, I have been busily working this past week oThe n a major revision to a chapter of my Gettysburg text about Colonel Strong Vincent and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. Part of that appeared here last week. However, as I continued to do more research I realized that what I wrote was not nearly enough, not in terms of words, but in terms of truth. There is much more to the story, especially concerning the relationship of Joshua Chamberlain and his wife Fannie.

There are times when one seeks truth that the timeless truths of the subject matter have to be taken to heart. Truth does matter to me, even when it is uncomfortable, not just for others but for me as well. As I have written before, that in this I am reminded of a quote from Star Trek the Next Generation. It is from an episode called “The First Duty.” In it the seasoned Captain Jean Luc Picard confronts his young protege Wesley Crusher after a disastrous accident that leaves a Star Fleet Academy cadet dead. Picard tells the young Crusher that “the first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth, whether it’s scientific truth, historical truth or personnel truth…

Truth is difficult, especially when one builds their belief on myths, be they of their own or others making. For me the study of the Battle of Gettysburg for my work has become a quest for truth. Not so much about the truth of specific incidents on the battlefield but of the great truths that go beyond the battlefield, the enduring truths about human nature, about relationships and about war and peace. In a sense the story of the battle of Gettysburg and those men who fought on it, has become a palette from which I am drawing truths about the human condition as well as my own terribly flawed condition, and in the process busting myths, my own included.

Barbara Tuchman once wrote: “The reality of a question is inevitably more complicated than we would like to suppose.” That is truth, it is truth with battles, politics, and in fact all of life, but many would rather rest content in myth. Thus as Rene Descartes wrote: “If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.”

I doubt a lot. I question a lot more and sometimes that leads to facing things that are uncomfortable. Thus, I will be putting up the redone version of that last article in the next day or two, as well as others where my study is leading me to deeper truths.

My big task now is editing and reorganizing the nearly 450 pages of text that I have written into the past year into a form that I can market to a publisher. I do have a couple of final chapters to write from scratch but hopefully by early spring I will ready to have it complete enough to submit for publication.

In the mean time I will continue to write about other subjects, including some military, some political, some social and some about current events, music, and life in general. There are couple of articles I want to write about some naval battles that have fascinated me for decades as well as more on the inhumanity of the Holocaust, the past and current struggles for civil rights in America and many other subjects.

That being said, you as my readers will get my new insights on Gettysburg, both new and revised articles which reflect that search for truth. I do hope that you find them as something more than simply accounts of the battle, but on the deeper truths of the nature and character of humanity, the nature and character of the conflict that we call war, with all its attendant maladies, but more importantly as a mirror for ourselves. My study of Joshua Chamberlain has resulted in having to face uncomfortable but strangely liberating truths about me and the way I live my life.

This is part of my journey, a journey into truth that goes beyond the mere reporting of facts, facts which often are as subject to interpretation, disputation and change as more “facts” are discovered. The truth is that we have to be able to accept new discoveries once they are determined to be true, or at least at the point that they can be posited as reasonable and worthy of acceptance, no matter how badly they challenge our deep held beliefs, even those about ourselves.  Sadly the lies we believe and persist in telling, and the myths that we believe without question, are much more dangerous than  any new truth that offends us.

I have to agree with Marcus Aurelius who wrote:

“If someone is able to show me that what I think or do is not right, I will happily change, for I seek the truth, by which no one was ever truly harmed. It is the person who continues in his self-deception and ignorance who is harmed.”

Those truths can be scientific, they can be historical or literary, and quite often the truth can also be quite personal.

As John F Kennedy said at Yale in 1962: “The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie–deliberate, contrived and dishonest–but the myth–persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” 

So until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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New Year 2014: Resolutions, Coffee and Donuts, The Mendoza Line and the Unknown Possibilities of Existence

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“New Year’s Day: Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.” Mark Twain

New Year’s Day is typically one of the laziest days that I observe during the year and this year was no different. The reason for this is because I figure that there are another 364 days left in the year and I need to pace myself.

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Last night we were up a couple of hours after the ball fell in Times Square and thankfully our dogs Molly and Minnie let me sleep until eight-thirty. After I let them go out, take their morning constitutional and feed them breakfast I went back to bed and stayed there until after noon when Minnie told me in no uncertain terms that I needed to be up and that she needed another constitutional.

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After that it was time for a shower followed by a cup of coffee, and this morning in a fit of wild abandon I discovered that Krispy Kreme Chocolate Mini Donuts are great when dipped in coffee. It is amazing the chances I will take in a New Year, as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it.” But I digress.

Like I said yesterday I don’t do New Year resolutions. I find that I don’t do well with them and my reality is more in line with Mark Twain who so rightly observed:

“Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever.”

That doesn’t mean that I will not seek to improve myself or do better. As I have mentioned on numerous occasions I am not a “Hall of Famer” in the game of life, I am a “Mendoza Line” guy when it comes to doing life. For those unfamiliar with the Mendoza Line it is named after Mario Mendoza a shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates and other teams who was competent at defense but a marginal hitter, his batting average being just enough not to be sent to the minor leagues. The Mendoza Line is considered to be a batting average of .200 though Mendoza’s actual lifetime average was .215. Thus for me life is something that I manage to muddle through and if I do well I might muddle through a bit better than I have before.

That being said I do have some goals this year. I want to become a great teacher of Ethics and Military History and get started on a Ph.D. so that whenever I retire from the Navy I can be competitive in teaching at the college and university level. I want to get started on a book this year and maybe even find a publisher and I hope that a major media or commentary site will start publishing some of my blog articles.  So if you know someone that can help in that last category please give me a shout out.

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Other things I want to do apart from work and education. I want to make a trip to England, Ireland and Scotland with Judy this year. I want to go to a lot of Norfolk Tides baseball games at Harbor Park, see a Orioles game at Camden Yards, and maybe if possible see a game at Fenway Park or Wrigley Field.

On a personal level I want to see more improvement in my PTSD recovery, to sleep better without nightmares and night terrors, to not be as anxious in crowded places or in bad traffic and to develop some better spiritual disciplines. Those are all things I have struggled with since coming back from Iraq and though I am have been doing better over the past year I want to see some more marked improvements in each area this year.

Likewise I want to be better at caring for those in my life, family, friends and those that I work with and those that I will teach and those who read this website.

Of course none of us know what the future brings, but thankful to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln “the future only comes one day at a time” so we should be good.

So a New Year is a hand, 364 more days in it and lots of possibilities. The past is now past, and though the past may still be with us and influence the present it does not have to bind us in its icy grip.

The new year presents me, and maybe all of us the chance to look at possibilities that we never imagined, to accept the past and all that is part of it without being trapped by it. It is as the entity Q told Captain Jean Luc Picard in the Star Trek the Next Generation episode Tapestry:

Captain Picard: I sincerely hope that this is the last time that I find myself here. 

Q: You just don’t get it, do you, Jean-Luc? The trial never ends. We wanted to see if you had the ability to expand your mind and your horizons. And for one brief moment, you did. 

Captain Picard: When I realized the paradox. 

Q: Exactly. For that one fraction of a second, you were open to options you had never considered. That is the exploration that awaits you. Not mapping stars and studying nebulae, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence. 

Our trials will not end in the coming year. However, if we open ourselves to new possibilities and to options that we never before considered we just might find that at the end of 2014 things might go better. Even more important we might be different, better or changed. As T.S. Elliott wrote: “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, christian life, dogs, Just for fun, philosophy, PTSD

Start by Prosecuting Me: A Challenge to the Drumhead Justice of World Net Daily’s Erik Rush and Joseph Farrah

Few things work me up more than those that seek to find “legal and constitutional” means of silencing dissent. The Nazis were great at using the Weimar Constitution to silence, prosecute, jail and finally kill their opponents.

I never thought I would see Americans who allegedly are Christians seek to find ways to interpret the Constitution of this country in ways that would silence and deny legal and constitutional rights to those that they disagree.

I am reminded of the words of Patrick Stuart playing Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek the Next Generation. In one episode called The Drumhead Picard makes the following observation after he has been brought to trial by justice gone mad.

“With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censured, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably.” Those words were uttered by Judge Aaron Satie, as wisdom and warning. The first time any man’s freedom is trodden on, we’re all damaged.

Although fictional the words are more than true. In a column today Erick Rush a columnist for Joseph Farrah’s wonderful pile of cyber rubbish World Net Daily proposed a way to forge those links.

“Those whose speech and actions impinge upon the God-given rights set forth in the Declaration of Independence and codified in the Constitution are, by definition, excepted from protection under the First Amendment (as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment). This is a very important concept to consider, because it is based on these presumptions of protected speech and equal protection for all that progressives and socialists have engaged in their predation upon our liberties.

If these truths can be acknowledged and widely accepted as such (as opposed to progressives’ Orwellian interpretations), then the political disenfranchisement of liberals, progressives, socialists and Marxists can begin in earnest, and in the open.” Erik Rush World Net Daily http://www.wnd.com/2012/10/how-to-disarm-the-mainstream-media/

Rush and Farrah and the World Net Daily site are incredibly popular among many of the supposedly “Christian Right” and a bastion of conspiracy theorists and proponents of a Christian Theocracy.

What is written above are the last two paragraphs of Rush’s latest article which deals with ways to silence the “mainstream media” or for that matter anyone that disagrees with his or the editors of World Net Daily’s ideas of what the framers of the Constitution and writers of the Declaration of Independence believed.

To cut to the chase here. Rush and many others believe that unless someone agrees with their interpretation of history and the Constitution that they “are excepted from protection under the First Amendment.” He further argues that if his view of the Constitution or “these truths” can “be acknowledged and widely accepted….then the political disenfranchisement of liberals, progressives, socialists and Marxists can begin in the earnest and in the open.”

Rush and people like him really have no clue. If the government can silence one group it can silence another. The same propositions that Rush and those like him can be used against them, and in other countries where “Christians” or those of other religions that desire theocratic states can be, has been and is being used against dissenting minorities including Christians.

For my conservative Christian readers and friends just imagine if a liberal wrote something like “be acknowledged and widely accepted….then the political disenfranchisement of conservatives, Libertarians or Christians can begin in earnest and in the open.” How would you respond? Civil and religious liberties are a two way street.

As a career military man, historian priest and theologian who has served combat tours and seen results of the oppression and hatred generated by those that promote their religion and rights above those that they disagree I dare say that you do not represent the ideals of the founders of the this country. You represent the tyranny that was best exemplified by the leaders of the European State religions that our founders fled.

I am sorry that most of your readers can’t and won’t see this. But you are no better and little different than the Taliban or the Shi’a and Sunni Terrorists that held Iraq in tyranny and that killed many American Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen.  You are religious bigots that label anyone that does not agree with you are heretics and unbelievers who have no rights to anything. If you find that offensive that’s just too bad. deal with it.

I have had to deal with the hatred and rejection of supposed followers of Christ for a while now and  I figure if you and people like you ever get their way that even though I am small I will be a target.

So go ahead Mr. Rush and Mr. Farrah, you don’t need to start with the mainstream media, start with bloggers like me. We’re small, we don’t have multitudes of lawyers of money.  However, unlike either of you I have spent my life serving this country and going into harm’s way so you can have a soapbox to preach on. From your biographies I know that you and the vast majority of your writers and columnists have not have not served a day in uniform or risked anything for this country. So I dare you to start with me. I will fight you until I draw my last breath.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under christian life, faith, laws and legislation, Lies of World Net Daily, News and current events, Political Commentary

One Tough Poo…Memories of a Fearsome and Fat Wiener Dog

Mommy's Poo“One Tough Poo”  Drawn by Judy

If ever there was a little dog who took life seriously it was a fat little red smooth hair Dachshund named Greta, or Greta-Poo or simply “the Poo.”  Greta was the second of our Dachshunds, or as they are known in Germany Dackels.  We got Greta in 1988 when we were stationed in San Antonio.  We were visiting our friends across the street, Anthony and Kathy and they had visitors who had brought the remnants of a litter of Dachshund puppies over.  They were the products of a red smooth hair and a dappled smooth hair.  One puppy was already spoken for, Anthony and Kathy were looking at a second, and the third, the runt of the litter was in the arms of one of the visitors.

Judy immediately fell in love with the very sweet looking and pretty puppy. Looking at her in the arms of another woman Judy realized that she could not let the other person have the adorable little creature.  Judy immediately made an offer for the puppy which was accepted by the people who had brought her to Anthony and Kathy’s house.  Forty dollars later the puppy was curled up in Judy’s arms.  From that moment on we had the “mommy and puppy mutual admiration society.”  Greta quickly became “Mommy’s Poo.”  Greta’s sister “Miss-T” became the puppy child of Anthony and Kathy.  The two puppies though now living in separate homes still visited each other and played with each other.  Our eldest dog Frieda was sweet to the Poo.  She accepted the new addition to the family and after ensuring herself that Poo was trained appropriately in household security retired at the age of four years old.  Since Frieda lived to be 16 ½ this meant that she spend the majority of her life retired and complaining about our insufficiency in fulfilling her needs.

Poo was the most serious little dog that I have ever seen.  She took herself seriously and though a happy dog always was somewhat dour.  Frieda and Molly who we got towards the end of Poo’s life enjoyed being funny, but not Poo, and her very seriousness made her funny as hell.

Now Poo was a chow hound, in fact if you look under “chow hound” in the dictionary there is probably a picture of the Poo.  Poo seldom met a food that she didn’t like, or at least wouldn’t eat to keep Frieda from getting it.  As a result, though she was incredibly active she was fat.  She should have weighed about 18 pounds, but most of her life she spent between 20 and 23 pounds.  She looked like a red bratwurst and not a hot dog.  Poo’s first sin was a defining moment in her life.  Judy had left a freshly baked chocolate chip muffin on the arm of our couch and got up to refill her drink.  As she went back into the living room she saw Poo, now the little shit, charging off with the muffin toward our bedroom.  The very small and barely four month old puppy had the muffin in her mouth and was moving as fast has her little legs could take her.  Chasing her down Judy got the muffin back, but the incident was defining.  No food was safe if you left it alone where Poo could get it.

There were three other incidents of this particular “puppy sin” that came later in her life which are worthy of mention here. Both occurred when I was in seminary or during my Clinical Pastoral Education residency.  The first was when Judy put a cast iron pan which has the residue of freshly made refried beans on the ground for Frieda and Poo to finish off.  Now most of the time the two little shits would share whatever table food that we gave them.  This time Frieda decided that she did not want to share.  Now Frieda was a very strong animal.  She grabbed the pan by the handled and proceeded to run away with it, mind you this was a cast iron frying pan.  Poo was not about this prize get away.  As Frieda sauntered off with what she believed to be “her” booty Poo chased her down and tackled her.   They ended up sharing.  Another was when the “Free Dog” and the Poo were left at home when we left the apartment to take a blind friend to the store.  Now this was around Christmas and Judy had been baking cookies all the live long day.  Somehow we left the house with a couple of boxes full of Judy’s best on the coffee table.  How the hell we did that I will never know.  The coffee table was well within the range of both of our little shits.  As we pulled into our friend’s driveway we realized our mistake.  I rushed into our friend’s house and said, “Bert, quick, I need your phone.”  This was patently in the days before regular folks had cell phones.  I called our home number.  The answering machine went off, as I waited for my version of Bill Clinton to finish the message I wondered how many cookies the little shits had eaten.  My words, “Dammit, Frieda and Poo, you better not be eating the cookies or you’re both dead.  I’m coming home now!”   I ran back to the car and sped back to our place.  Dashing into the apartment I found that the cookies hand indeed been raided, but neither of our little shits was to be seen.  One was hiding under a table and the other; I think Frieda, was cowering behind the toilet.  I wonder what the look on their faces was when that answering machine went off with my voice telling them to get away from the cookies.  God if we had the money for surveillance cameras, it would have had to have been as funny as hell.  The third was when we had friends over for Saturday night pizza and Star Trek, the Next Generation.  I happen to make a very good large New York style pizza, thank you.  Anyway it was one of those nights when thunderstorms were crashing over the DFW Metroplex.  One of these boomers came over our area that night. I’m sorry, if you haven’t been through a North Texas boomer you have only been in the minors.  This was a cool one, we were under a tornado warning and the storms were bringing lightening, hail and massive thunder.  We and our guests decided to go out to the breezeway between buildings and watch what the Deity Herself was bringing upon the Metroplex in punishment for the firing of St Tom Landry by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.  As we gathered to watch the last piece of pizza sat defenseless on the pizza pan which lay on the coffee table which we had all been sitting around.  The piece of pizza was rather large and a combination with pepperoni, mushrooms, peppers, onions, tomatoes, garlic and God knows what else. As we watched the storm the Poo saw her opportunity.  When I walked back in to grab a beer and I saw the Poo devouring the very large piece of pizza.  When she saw me she simply ate more frantically. It was if she was trying to shove it down her throat.  I called Judy and we both decided that it was hers.

The Poo was also serious about home defense.  She was committed heart and soul to defending the realm.  This was in stark contrast to Frieda who after her retirement would have watched Genghis Khan and his hordes march off with everything we owned provided that they paid her.  Poo on the other hand was devoted to the protection of her home and her mommy.  As a still very young dog of maybe a year and a half she surprised a Pit Bull which had come up on our lawn.  We were at the time living in a neighborhood near my seminary regularly featured on the TV program COPS.   We had gone out to check the mail and Poo came out with us.  The unwitting Pit Bull was in our front yard, which since we were both poor and without time to mow it ourselves it was rather high.  In fact it was higher than the Poo.  Our little shit saw her unsuspecting victim before we did.  She bolted off the porch and tore through the high grass barking up a storm.  The Pit Bull had no idea what was going on.  He couldn’t tell from where the ferocious roar was coming from.  Just before the Poo could reach him he bolted, tail between his legs down the street.  The Poo heeding Judy’s “Dammit  Poo get your ass over here!” returned obediently to the porch, satisfied that she had done her duty.

Well things progressed in the Poo’s life, she ate, got fat, and defended the realm.  While I worked in my parent’s hometown of Huntington West Virginia as an Emergency Department Chaplain in a local teaching hospital’s Emergency Room we frequently spent time with both of my grandmothers.   My parents had long before retired from the Navy in Mudville, sometimes known as Stockton California and it was by either chance or the Deity Herself and Her providence that I landed the job after my residency.  As it were it gave us the chance to spend a lot of time with both in their sunset years.  One day while visiting my maternal grandmother with Frieda and Poo we got ready to leave.  Now both of the dogs responded to voice commands so we would let them walk to the car when we left.  As we walked out the door onto the porch the Poo took off flying down the steps.  She took off across the yard and made a right turn into the side yard.  We heard a “yelp!” and then saw a black chow tearing out from the yard screaming as it raced away from my grandmother’s house.  Following close was the Poo.  It was like a Messerschmitt 109 diving on a B-24 and pumping it full of holes with its 20mm nose cannon.   As the chow raced away, the Poo heeded our call to turn around. As she ambled back our way we saw something in her mouth.  It was a huge mouthful of black chow fur.  Our tough little Poo had taken the fur off of a chow nearly 4 times her size and weight.

Mommy's Poo portrait rs for email“Classic Greta Poo…with every roll of fat shown” Drawn by Judy

After Frieda died in 2001 Poo continued her ways, she stayed active and when we got Molly she was determined to still be the Alpha-Poo but Molly wouldn’t be bossed around and the Poo had to make a grudging peace with the new little shit. Poo remained a fighter her entire life.  She would never back down from a fight and was determined to defend the realm.  We lost her in June of 2003 while stationed in Jacksonville Florida after she had battled cancer and paralysis.  She was one tough Poo.  She was her mommy’s baby and absolutely devoted to Judy.  We do miss her.  She and Frieda were there with us in our toughest times.  Now the tradition of a little red dog defender of the realm is carried on by Molly, as ferocious as Poo but nowhere near as obedient.

So life continues for us, defended by 15 pounds of hell and terror.

Peace, Steve+

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Star Trek, God and Me 1966 to 2009

star-trek tos castThe Original Series Crew

I grew up with Star Trek.  I remember as a kid when the original series was still on NBC and when it went into syndication I tried to watch it whenever it was on, or whenever I could get control of the television.  There was something that captured my imagination, a glimpse of a positive future, possibility and adventure.  Since I have always been seeking new frontiers, note my career in the military, Star Trek, the Original Series was an inspiration.  Kirk, Spock, Scottie, McCoy, Uhura, Sulu, Chekov and Nurse Chapel became part of my life.  When not watching it I was reading Star Trek novels, something that I countinued with the Next Generation. I was fascinated by the Klingons and Romulans, the though of other planets with other intelligent beings was something that did not frighten me, or casue me to question my Christian faith.  Since I have always believed in a very big God, the fact that God did not have to be limited to just dealing with humans seemed, as Spock would put it “logical.”

No I know that some people could be offended by this, or could give me some flak for what I just said.  But I see no reason why God couldn’t be working in all of the gazillion galaxies, solar systems, planets and maybe even parallel or alternate universes.  Why not?  What if there was a planet where there was no fall and the inhabitants didn’t screw it up?  I think it would be cool.  My God is big, in fact the Bible and the Christian tradition is pretty clear that God is like really super duper powerful and capable of handling a whole lot of stuff all at once.  In fact we like to call God omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and a bunch of other om’s.  Likewise, we believe that God is a creative God.  So why would we look out and see this vast universe and say: “Nope Clem, just us out here.”  So since I am backed up by the testimony of Scripture and Tradition about some of the attributes of God I think it is safe to say that God indeed could well be working elsewhere in the universe.  If I believe that God is who Scripture state him to be, then I have to at least give some thought to this possibility.  Can I positively say this is the case? No, but I can infer it from what the faith teaches me about God and by what science has revealed to us over the past couple of hundred years.  None  of this takes anything away from God working his plan of redemption through Christ with humanity.

star-trek uss enterpriseUSS Enterprise NCC 1701

Anyway that rabbit chased back into the woods, I continue.  I followed the Star Trek movies, with The Wrath of Khan and the Voyage Home being my favorites.  Not long after I learned to drive in high school a friend and I went to a Halloween party.  I had made me a Mr. Scott uniform and my friend was dressed as an alien.  After the party we headed home. We had just gotten on I-5 and I looked at him and said  “set course 010 Warp 8” and being young and dumb took my 1966 Buick LeSabre 400 with a twin barrel carburetor up to about 90 MPH.  I noticed a pair of headlights coming up behind me.  I slowed down for the Benjamin Holt Drive exit and exited the freeway where a stoplight was red.  Beside me pulled a CHP cruiser.  The trooper looked at us, me with my Star Trek uniform and my friend in his alien suit, laughed and waved.  I watched my speedometer like a hawk the rest of the way home and prayed that the trooper would not turn around to get me.  Later in Germany I was driving my first German “beater” a 1976 faded powder blue Ford Escort, to my base on a Saturday with Judy.  Ahead of us a Mercedes crept along.  Since we were on a two lane state highway going through the hills of the Saarland along the bank of the Nahe River there was no way to get around this guy.  I have never been patient when people clog the road by driving well below the posted speed limit, which in this case was 100 KM or 62 MPH.  My little car known as the “Blue Max” had its emergency flasher located on the center of the dashboard. It was a red button about an in round.  I looked at Judy and said “fire phasers.”  I reached down pushed the button of and on and in front of us the strangest thing happened.  There was a boom, a flash and the guy’s muffler and tail pipe dropped off.  I avoided the debris and he coasted to a halt alongside the road.  Judy and I both looked at each other with looks of shock and disbelief.  Yet it had happened.  I have tried this again on every other car that I have owned with no effect.  I guess phasers are not standard on this side of the Atlantic.

tng_crew_season3The Bext Generation Crew

When Star Trek, the Next Generation, or TNG came out in 1987 I was a young Army Captain getting ready to go to seminary the following year.   I fell in love with TNG and its cast.  In fact during my clinical pastoral education residency my supervisor was able to use analogies from the TNG characters, Lieutenant Worf and Lieutenant Commander Data to help me gain insights into what was going on in me.  I had a lot of affinity for both of these characters as someone who wrestled with where I fit and where was home.  Something I shared with these characters.  Likewise there were a couple of episodes dealing with Captain Picard entitled “Family” and “Tapestry” which actually woke me up to a couple of things in my life.  I think I can say that the Deity Herself used them to help me through that time when I was still sorting through my life, vocation and issues of home and heart. I thought that the character development in TNG was great and I still will watch TNG whenever I come across it or want to pull out one of my DVDs.  I liked the darkness of Deep Space Nine and the fact that baseball was a part of it.  I did not take as well to Voyager or Enterprise as my life was getting really busy with military deployments and operations.  As was the case I ended up collecting the entire TNG series on DVD.  I also have a jacket similar to the TNG jacket in Science/Medical Blue with the communicator badge and Lieutenant Commander colar insignia. I also have a very rare Starfleet Chaplain pin with a white Greek Cross on it.  This came out of one of the old TOS Technical Manuals dealing with rank and branches of Starfleet.

niners_pennantDeep Space Nine “Niners” Pennant

When I first saw the hints of the new movie a couple of years ago I wondered about it.  I wondered how they could pull of the feel of the original series. I heard friends rave about it and every review I read was sweet.  So since there were no ball games in the local area, though the Tides continued their winning was with a 13-2 victory in Columbus against the Clippers, we decided to go to dinner and a movie.  We headed over to Gordon Biersch and had a nice dinner with great beer and went to the theater a couple of blocks away.  The movie was great.  The cast, most of whom I had seen very little of in other roles, had the feel of the old cast.  Chris Pine (Kirk), Zachary Qunito (Spock), Karl Urban (McCoy) and Simon Pegg (Scotty) had great chemistry.  The supporting cast worked well too.  I was simply blown away as they pulled this off and managed to do a “prequel” which worked.  As a side note, my undergraduate campus, California State University at Northridge served as Starfleet Academy.   All in all it was a very satisfying experience and the crowd applauded loudly as the final credits came up, preceded by Leonard Nimoy  doing a voice over as the Enterprise went by saying; “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Her ongoing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life-forms and new civilizations; to boldly go where no one has gone before.”  This was followed by the theme music of the original series as the credits rolled out.  That was special.

So I guess I am a Trekkie, or Trekker, depending on which Star Trek sect I belong, but nonetheless, Star Trek has been, and will reamin part of my life.  Thanks Gene Roddenberry, and all who over the years have brought the Star Trek universe to us.

Live long, and prosper my friends.

Peace, Steve+

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