A Sidekick's Blog

A Proud Papa

November 14, 2012
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My son looked great and was awesome before he went off to boot camp. We didn’t imagine anyone could improve upon such awesomeness, but the U.S Army managed it brilliantly. He graduated from boot camp last Friday and we were there to enjoy three days of liberty with him before he returned to resume further training as a member of the Cavalry. He is 30 pounds leaner. He is ripped, respectful, re-made. A soldier: Proud, able, skilled, resilient, resourceful, disciplined, powerful yet subdued under authority, and well prepared for the intensive training ahead of him.

Whether it’s new or not I don’t know, but the Army pays respectful tribute to the families of their soldiers these days, recognizing that the families of soldiers make huge sacrifices as well. Not as in putting our lives on the line so much, but in matters of the heart and soul. We were treated with high esteem and given every bit of information we needed and affirmation for those invisible sacrifices it has taken to raise a child with the tools and skills and character they need for the responsibility they bear as soldiers.

The graduation ceremony was brief and simple, yet rich with meaning. In five weeks time, we’ll attend “the big graduation” from cavalry school. My son will appear in his dress blues for the first time, swapping the black beret for a Stetson hat and spurs, a cavalry tradition dating back to the Revolution. The Cavalry does the same job in today’s army that they have done since the founding of the nation, serving as the eyes of the army on the battlefield. Rarely on horseback these days, but in awesomely equipped vehicles and in teams on the ground, and typically in advance of the infantry. We have yet to meet a Cavalry Scout that doesn’t love his job. And we are proud to count our son among this elite corps of specialized soldiers.

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How I Absorbed Three Punches and Stood Up Anyway

November 8, 2012
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How I Absorbed Three Punches and Stood Up Anyway.

 

Another blogger who writes better than I – and who shares my sentiments on the re-election of the President and renewed the same balance of power in the Congress.

 


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Alternate Churches?

November 4, 2012
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So today I visited a local “Cowboy Church.” I would never have bothered ordinarily, but my extremely talented but chronically unemployed and more often than not homeless brother mentioned that he’s playing guitar in their worship services. Always looking out for him (and because no one else in our family cares), I went to the “Cowboy Church” to see him. I also wanted to make sure he wasn’t just being exploited by some sophisticated manipulator who will discard him after he has no more use for my brother’s talents, as has happened a few times in the past.

My brother did an awesome job on the guitar as always, but this time there less of my brother in the music and more genuine focus on the Lord and on worship. It was good to see that. That’s what I went there for. I took part in the singing whole-heartedly as always, but couldn’t agree so whole-heartedly with the presumptive content of the public prayers, nor with the all-over-the-place sermon content. If there was a sermon outline or notes hidden on the pulpit somewhere to guide the preaching, I’d bet the pastor didn’t follow them. There was no exegesis of the Scripture, only the typical “proof texting” so typical of evangelical preaching and teaching. But it was a courageous sermon (well, perhaps not so much given it was delivered in that company of conservative Republican churchgoers) about the believer’s duties of citizenship in both the kingdom of God and the United States of America.

So we’ve got gay churches, hiphop churches, rock’n’roll churches, surfer churches, and now cowboy churches. All aimed at a particular subculture and catering to their cultural idiosyncrasies. Maybe I’ll start one just for scuba divers, and hold services underwater. Or maybe a whole conglomerate of dance churches. One for ballet, one for Tap, one for Ballroom, the whole gambit. All it takes is a mail-order ordination from any of several ordination mills and/or a membership fee to whoever dreamed up the association of fill-in-the-blank “churches” to affiliate with and lend legitimacy to one’s ministry. Today’s cowboy pastor was not seminary trained, though he did take a 60-hour course from some bible school and his ordination from one of those “associations” that purports to be “just like a denomination,” except that no one knows what they believe about anything or who is accountable to whom and for what – other than annual membership dues.

“We provide an alternative to traditional churches for people who can’t relate to church as we have known it. We can reach those people for Christ in a way that traditional churches can’t,” they claim. Yet today’s visit was to any typical evangelistic / baptistic church, except for the cowboy trappings. The pastor wore jeans and a vest and a big black Stetson, which he removed only to pray. Lassos and saddles and other tack hung on the walls and from the rafters. A cowbell hung from a rustic lectern and rung softly every time the pastor leaned against the podium as he preached, pacing the floor and rambling without any apparent sermon outline. And of course, a cowboy-modified altar call.

Look for my next post, entitled The Government of God, for a look at what makes a real church and why “alternatives” are unbiblical and dangerous. Originally written as a rebuttal to those who argue that they can worship without church and don’t need church and that church is optional anyway, this article shows us from the Scriptures why church membership is not optional, and what a true church looks like. Accept no substitutes!


Next Stage of Life, Perhaps

November 3, 2012
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Turning a corner, like it or not. Until recently my life was all about my family. Now the “nest is empty,” so to speak, and I’m feeling like the unfortunate folks in the Left Behind novels, just waiting to see what happens next, and in search of what to do with myself other than work to stay alive – but what is life about now?

Career news: After training and supervised procedures, I finally just got signed off on “Alyx,” which is a form of pheresis (automated) donation. Using Alyx, blood donors are able to donate only the needed components (let’s say Red Cells – the “bread and butter” of blood banking) and get back the other components. 85% of transfused blood is what they call “packed red cells.” Alyx allows me to process whole blood into packed red cells and return the plasma and platelets to the donor. Advantages for recipients and donors:

When their donation leaves our center, it is “lab ready.” As soon as the donor’s blood is tested for communicable diseases and passes, those red cells are already processed and ready for the recipient(s), so Alyx gets it where it’s needed faster. Also, if a patient needs more than one unit of red cells, it’s far better to receive two from the same donor because it reduces the chance of reaction to antibodies and such. Alyx donors can donate two units of red cells because they get their plasma and platelets back, and leave the center “fluid balanced.” Much better for them than being a pint low and dealing with light headedness or whatever.

So, not even a year into my career there, I’m advancing to pheresis and making myself more valuable to the company. Hopefully my progress will also result in higher pay before too long. I hope so, because I’m still at starting pay.

Family News: My daughter and her husband flew out to Arizona last week to be evaluated as to their readiness and aptitude for a spot on the mission field with New Tribes Mission. Currently my son-in-law is a flight instructor at a local flight school, but since before they married they had their hearts set on missions. My daughter is teaching special students at the Reading Clinic here in town, and on the mission field she would be teaching the children of missionaries at a base compound while her husband would fly missionaries and supplies into and out of remote tribal areas from that compound. It looks like NTM is trying to “fast track” them to Papua, New Guinea where the need is especially urgent. PNG is where he grew up – the son of missionaries. For him it will be like a home going, but for my daughter, a step into a whole ‘nother world. So it’s especially good that he already knows that world and can help her adapt to it. If all goes according to plan, they’ll be in training right after the school year ends, and out to PNG about late October of next year.

Friday morning my son will graduate from Basic Training at Fort Benning, Georgia. We are driving up on Thursday to join him. He’ll have 36 hours of liberty before returning to the base for Cavalry school. Out again near Christmastime, graduating from “Cav school” with a big ol’ Stetson hat and spurs, an Army tradition dating back to the Continental days. From there, we still don’t know yet. But during that brief respite from the Army a wedding is in the works. My son’s fiancee is a sweet girl who is completely naive and ill prepared for Army life. I think it will be especially tough for her to adapt. She’s smart though, and both are fully committed to God and to each other, and that is the the main thing of course.

So all the cool stuff is happening to my kids and suddenly my own life is just boring. Work is all I have anymore, and church is well, distant to me. Maybe that’ll get better after I adjust to this “empty nest” life, but for now there’s a great, striking emptiness, with only work and more work to fill the void. When I get through with my stupid pity party, maybe I’ll finally get to writing that book I’ve been meaning to get done, taken from the archives of the old ExCharisma ministry.