Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Real Heroes

From the memoirs of a Vietnam POW ¹ :

Prior to my arrival, Bill Lawrence had been languishing in Calcutta [prison camp] for weeks. He had been shot down four months before me, taken to Hoa Lo, and locked in a torture room, known only by its number, Room 18. There he suffered five days of beating and rope torture. From his cell he could hear the screams of his backseater, Lieutenant j.g. Jim Bailey, who was
being tortured in a nearby room.

[Later] The Vietnamese introduced a new torment to their punishment regime—flogging with fan belts. Prisoners were stripped and forced to lie facedown on the floor. Guards would take turns whipping them with fan belts, which unlike ropes and cords would only raise welts on the sufferer's back and not tear his flesh. They would not relent until their victim had mumbled his assent to whatever statement their torturers demanded he make.

…Guarion was the first senior to be taken. He was rope-tortured, sleep-deprived, clubbed and whipped for weeks, until at long last he broke and gave the Vietnamese an acceptable confession.

…what packages we were allowed to receive from our families often contained handkerchiefs, scarves, and other clothing items. For some time, Mike had been taking little scraps of red and white cloth, and with a needle he had fashioned from a piece of bamboo he laboriously sewed an American flag onto the inside of his blue prisoner's shirt. Every afternoon, before we ate our soup, we would hang Mike's flag on the wall of our cell and together to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. No other event of the day had as much meaning to us.

The guards discovered Mike's flag one afternoon during a routine inspection and confiscated it. They returned that evening and took Mike outside. For our benefit as much as Mike's, they beat him severely, just outside our cell, puncturing his eardrum and breaking several of his ribs. When they had finished, they dragged him bleeding and nearly senseless back into our cell, and we helped him crawl to his place on the sleeping platform. After things quieted down, we all lay down to go to sleep. Before drifting off, I happened to look toward a corner of the room, where one of the four naked lightbulbs that were always illuminated in our cell cast a dim light on Mike Christian. He had crawled there quietly when he thought the rest of us were sleeping. With his eyes nearly swollen shut from the beating, he had quietly picked up his needle and thread and begun sewing a new flag.

And THIS knucklehead, Obama, comes up with some lame excuse as to why he doesn't/won't wear a flag lapel pin…and he wants to be OUR PRESIDENT/Commander-In-Chief??!! He isn't worthy to tie the shoes of someone like Mike Christian. I wouldn't care if Bo-Bo the Dancing Kangaroo was running against Barack Obama…I'd vote for the kangaroo.

¹ From Faith of My Fathers, John McCain, Pgs 306, 320, 335-336. NOTE: Just because I quote John McCain, doesn't mean that I'm a big fan...but the guy's a hero in my book.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Northern California Trip - Pt 2

We woke up Tuesday morning to a clear blue sky; temperature in the mid to high 50s. We grabbed bagels and coffee at the motel office (Bodega Harbour Inn) and had breakfast on the patio of our room. Before we left Bodega Bay, we stopped at a little grocery store next to the motel and bought stuff for a picnic later along the coast.

Highway One is a two-lane road that runs right along the coast, with some places a straight drop-off into the Pacific Ocean. It is absolutely beautiful! If you're driving, it's difficult to do much sight-seeing because the road has very few straight sections. We drove most of the day at a top speed of 30-35 MPH because of all the sharp turns and "switchbacks." There were several places where the grade was anywhere from 7-15%…uphill and downhill. We drove with the windows down so we could enjoy the cool ocean air. I don't think we had a single day over 70-75 degrees while we were driving the coast. In fact, the three nights we stayed on the coast, our rooms didn't even have AC; we didn't need it…IN JULY!

NCA_31_NorthSalmonCreekBeachNot too far outside of Bodega Bay, we stopped at Salmon Creek State Park and walked down to the beach. The waves crashing against the rocks were SO LOUD! The beaches in Northern California are so different from the beaches we've been to in Ft. Walton/Destin Florida. The beaches in Northern California are broken up with lots of large rocks and tidepools; the waves also look much bigger than the waves in Florida. When the waves hit the beach/rocks, the noise is a crashing BOOM, then the water shoots straight up and sprays everywhere. We spent about an hour just walking the beach and climbing the rocks. We had hoped to find lots of shells, but the few we found where busted up and not worth picking up. Another thing about the California beaches we saw was the sand was almost black- a stark contrast to the Destin FL beaches.

We stopped in Jenner to top off the gas tank since we weren't sure when we would find "services" again. We paid $4.75 per gallon for regular unleaded. Up the highway, we stopped at Salt Point State Park for lunch. Dana and I were the only people in the area where we stopped. After lunch, we walked down to the beach.

NCA_39_PointArenaPoint Arena Lighthouse was our next destination. Point Arena tower is the only Pacific West coast lighthouse of significant height (115 feet) that you can climb to the top! However, much to our disappointment, the lighthouse and museum were recently closed for renovation; we were still able to get a few pictures. There were several sea lions sunning themselves on the rocks and playing in the surf below the lighthouse. We spent about 45 minutes just enjoying the spectacular view, then continued on to our stop for the night, Fort Bragg where we had reservations at the Surf and Sand Lodge.

NCA_50_SurfandSandThe lodge is on the north end of town and sits about 50 yards from the ocean's edge. Our room was on the second floor and had a balcony that overlooked the Pacific ocean. After moving our luggage, etc. from the car to the room, we headed into town for dinner. The desk clerk at the lodge recommended a local "bistro," so we figured we would give it a try. Shortly after we were seated, we began to notice: "It's HOT in here!" The restaurant had NO air conditioning. When we asked about the AC, our waiter told us that they weren't ALLOWED to have AC in the buildings that sat on the coast. We didn't ask why. We apologized for any inconvenience we may have caused and informed him that we couldn't enjoy our meal under the circumstances and we left. He apologized to us...but I have a feeling he just thought we were country bumpkins that really couldn't afford to eat there and were embarrassed to say so. (Pssst. The prices were a little steep.)

Now, what to do for dinner? We had purchased one of those "tour books" and Dana had previously read about a restaurant down by the docks on Noyo Harbor named "Capt'n Flint's." The reviewer said the fish and chips were good and the prices reasonable, so we figured- why not? Unknown to us at the time, Capt'n Flint's (and several other locations in Fort Bragg) had been used in filming the movie Overboard with Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn. In fact, Capt'n Flint's is where they go out for Goldie's character's birthday. The sign on the door states: "We don't take credit cards, debit cards or personal checks. CASH ONLY." Apparently, they didn't spend much of the cash on decor, but what Capt'n Flint's lacks in atmosphere--actually, it looks exactly like something you'd find on a fishing dock, and smells like it too--they make up for in the food. Dana had the fish and chips; I had the prawns and chips, along with a cup of clam chowder. No complaints! The food was really good.

NCA_51_SurfandSandWe finished out the evening walking the beach in front of the lodge, then sitting on our balcony and watching the sun set. We left the sliding door to the balcony open all night and let the crashing waves lull us to sleep. Dana already wants to move to northern California.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Northern California Trip - Pt 1

NCA_18_GoldenGateA couple of months ago, Dana and I were talking about where we might go on vacation this summer. Ryon, our oldest, was planning on taking a summer course at the community college and Alex, our youngest, wasn't interested in a vacation (I think we burned him out last year at the Grand Canyon). He was going to church camp for a week in July, so we decided we would go somewhere during the church camp week. Destination: Northern California's coast, specifically, Highway One. I have been to southern California several times, but neither of us had ever been to the northern part of the state. We had been reading that there were several lighthouses along the route--none of which are operating, but they still sounded neat--so we bought plane tickets to Sacramento on ExpressJet (they fly nonstop from Tulsa), booked a rental car, and began scouring the web for places to see and stay along the way.

Day One: Four o'clock in the morning is EARLY! We had to be at the airport for our 7:00 flight to Sacramento by 5:30 AM. A quick stop at McDonald's and we were on our way. We sailed through ExpressJet's check-in and then stood in line at Airport security for about 20 minutes, which really isn't bad for a Monday morning at Tulsa International. I think everyone else was flying American Airlines to Dallas.

We arrived in Sacramento about 20 minutes ahead of schedule, but ended up spending that time waiting for our luggage. After a short shuttle ride to the Car Rental area, we picked up our PT Cruiser, and hit the road. I bought a Garmin Nuvi 260W (GPS) several months ago and took the time before we left to enter several of our destinations which, in San Francisco, was a lifesaver!

NCA_07_FishermansWarfIt took us about an hour to drive from the Sacramento airport to our first stop: Fisherman's Wharf. What a tourist trap! If you can slap "San Francisco" on it, people will buy it. Put it in the shape of a cable car, and you've got yourself a sure-fire winner. Actually, once you get past all the T-shirt/souvenir stores, the wharf is a pretty neat area. We had heard about the seals (sea lions?) at Pier 39- they congregate there (for some reason) by the hundreds. But not today. A sign at the pier stated they had left on their "summer migration" or something like that.

We ate at Bubba Gump Shrimp; pretty good. We sat at the back of the restaurant looking out over the Bay and watched the tour boats, many of them headed to Alcatraz Island. There are quite a variety of birds that hang around the wharf; one particular group/flock/herd of pelicans continuously circled the area. They're huge!

After Bubba Gump's, we walked around the pier, looking for souvenirs- I may "complain" about it, but I felt like I needed to do my share to help the local economy. A couple of hours of Fisherman's Wharf was enough for us though, so we continued on toward the Golden Gate Bridge.

We stopped at Chrissy Park/Beach, just east of the bridge to take a few pictures, then we got back on I-80 and crossed the Golden Gate, stopping on the north side for more pictures and a stroll back across to the halfway point. It was EXTREMELY windy on the bridge. It probably seemed worse than it really was with the cars zipping by at 60+ MPH!

NCA_20_MuirBeachFrom SF, we headed north on Highway 1 (CA-1) toward Bodega Bay. One of the many vistas we stopped at on our trip was Muir Beach Overlook just outside of SF. It was really our first unobstructed view of the Pacific Ocean, and it was/is breathtaking! CA-1 runs RIGHT ALONG THE EDGE of the ocean for the most part which makes it really difficult to keep your eyes on the road if you're driving.

We spent our first night at Bodega Harbour Inn (in Bodega Bay). Our room was quaint and clean (always a plus); the woman at the office (I didn't catch her name) was very friendly and eager to welcome us. The bay was across the highway, and had an obstructed view. Dana read somewhere that part of Hitchfork's The Birds was filmed in Bodega Bay. (You can read more about that here.)

The woman at the motel recommended Lucas' Wharf for dinner. The food and service was good, but a little pricey in my opinion. We were really tired after being up so early, then driving all afternoon, plus the time change, so we ended up going to bed early - 9:00 PM (11:00 PM Oklahoma time).

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Checkin' In

I've been out of town the past week, driving Hwy One in Northern CA with my wife. I'll be posting pics soon.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Small Town - Part 4

Mrs. Wode died last week; she was 87 years old. I called her "Miz Wode" (pronounced Wood-ee). She and her husband, Bob, came to Collinsville in 1943 and opened Wodes Hardware on Main Street in 1962 where it remained until closing in 1990. In the photo above, Wodes is the white building--first one on the right.

Wodes was one of those small town hardware stores that carried EVERYTHING from tractor parts to nails and screws to seeds and tomato plants...and anything in between. We had another hardware store in town--Burnside and Heinrichs--just down the street from Wodes. If one store didn't have something, they'd send you down the street to the other store.

Mrs. Wode knew where everything was in that store. And it didn't matter what you needed, she knew what it was. I took a "thing-a-ma-jig" off my lawnmower in once, and as soon as I showed it to her, she said: "That's a fetzer valve off a 1978 Briggs and Statton 5HP lawnmower motor. We've got five of them in the back. How many do you need?" (The conversation may not have gone exactly like that, but it was close.)

That was before Lowes and Home Depot and back when the people that worked at the hardware store actually knew something about hardware.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Friday Photo and Evangelism

We've been studying through the book of Acts in our Sunday School class this quarter. The central theme/verse of Acts is : ...and you will be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Smaria and even to the remotest part of the earth (Acts 1:8b) Jesus spoke these words to the Twelve as a prophecy and a command. The words also apply to us today. As Christians, we are called to be witnesses, i.e. "ambassadors for Christ" (2 Cor 5:20), "salt and light" (Matt 5:13-16) and "the aroma of Christ" (2 Cor 1:15) in a lost and dying world. So how do we do that? Is there more than one way to accomplish our task? to obey Christ's command?

Mention the word evangelism, and many people panic. The image of going door-to-door, handing out gospel tracts immediately conjures up feelings of fear, anxiety, frustration, dread, etc. The idea of walking up to a total stranger and talking to them about their salvation (or lack of it) is usually not at the top of the list of "fun" things to do.

I know some people that LOVE doing door-to-door evangelism; they are very comfortable doing it...and they are good at it. That's great. BUT, that's not the only way we accomplish Jesus' command to "go into all the world (Matt 28:19-20) In fact, I'll just be honest here: I really don't enjoy this method of evangelism. I am one of those people that doesn't appreciate door-to-door salesmen or impromptu visits from strangers. In fact, if you happen to knock on my door and I don't know you, I'm just as likely NOT to answer my door. Sorry. I like my privacy.

I have no problem talking to people about Jesus/sharing the Gospel of His death, burial, and resurrection to pay the price for our sins. I've done the door-to-door thing, but I prefer a more "everyday" approach. As I interact with co-workers, people I meet at the store, etc. I try to show them Jesus Christ in the way I speak to them, treat them with respect or encourage them with a kind word. And, I look for ways to either include in the conversation, or steer it toward, something about my relationship with God. Nothing over-bearing like: "If you don't accept Jesus you're gonna fry like a sausage!" (I actually heard about a guy using this line). I try to let them know that Jesus Christ is real in my life and He can be real in their life, too. Some people respond positively; most don't. I don't press the issue, because I know that everyone isn't going to accept/believe what the Bible or I say. (Matt 7:14) Regardless, the "seed" gets planted. God will take care of the rest.

Friday Photo (a little late)

Self Portrait