Self-Portrait

image: Padre’s Ramblings

Not as young as I used to be

Wiser, well just maybe

Student, Warrior, Student again

Then Professor and Teacher

In a cyclic spin

A lot greyer, and not as fit

But I’m still content with all of it

 

Padre

 

dVerse

Beyond Shadows

Trees Sunrise, Shadow, Nature, Landscape, Mood, Forest

Pixabay

“Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” Abraham Lincoln

 

Am I what you think of me?

Just my Facebook image carefully constructed?

Shadows and silhouettes

Of profile-building I’ve conducted?

 

Or is by the deeds I do?

Even those not seen my men?

Of my word kept, and friends helped

And such things as them?

 

Let us not mere shadows be

But true humans – even with our flaws

And as we strive to better be

Let doing right be our true cause

 

Padre

Me

Palenque, Table, Painting, Triplets, Costume

Pixabay

Well Heraclitus, it is funny that you should ask.

The “You” of which “You” speak is “Me.”

That “Me” may well be an older “Me,” a fatter “Me,” and hopefully a wiser “Me” than the “Me” I used to be.

But that “Me,” you see, is still the “Me” known by my family.

So it’s plain to see, that when it comes to “Me”, my “Me,” is an ever changing constancy.

I hope “You” will agree.

 

Padre

 

Fandango’s Provocative Question:

Is the concept of “you” continuous or does the past “you” continually fade into the present and future “you”? Considering that your body, your mind, and your memories are changing over time, what part of “you” sticks around?

 

 

 

Hold the Course

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

At thirteen I was taller than many of my classmates and very much stronger.   I was a shot putter on the track and field team, and was good at sport in general.  Despite my size and strength, I was often bullied, precisely because of those characteristics.  I however held the conviction instilled in me by my mother that it would be wrong for me the harm a smaller child. Therefore, I endured the bullying.

At thirteen, I had teachers who saw me as clever, and some diligently tried to convince me of my non-physical abilities.  But I, whether because of the bullying, or whether I had something to prove to myself, stayed fixedly focused on athletics.

High school was an uncomfortable turning point.  By fifteen I had stopped growing and settled in at five foot – seven.  I still competed in the shot put, but each year my ranking fell, as others first caught up to me in size and then surpassed it.  My response was to practice more, spending long hours with the weights and in the shot put ring.  I remained strong, and especially strong for my size.  My academics, however, were not a priority.  Yes I got mostly A-s, but not consistently so.  My senior year, I even took only the classes I needed to graduate.

Alas, I am no athlete.  I got a job, married, and went to community college, where I got A-s yet again.  Then I joined the forces, where academically I did well even being noted on three occasions as “honor man”  in military schools.

I left the forces, and went to uni, and then into ministry.  I eventually even did graduate study at the University of Cambridge.  I am still no athlete, but I am, as my teachers at age thirteen tried to show me – clever.

So what advice should I give a thirteen year old me?  Give up the sport, you will end up too small?  Hit the books, your future lies there?

No!  The message to the thirteen year old me is:  “Hold the Course.  The path you are on is the one that will make you – you!”

Padre

Haunted Wordsmith Nonfiction Prompt: What is something you would tell your 13-year-old self?

Who Do You Say?

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Pastor Vince brought a message yesterday that was more multi-faceted than a 1970s disco ball.  Because it was so rich in content I will be addressing it in more than a single post.

He drew his text from Matthew chapter 16: 13-20,

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”  They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.  And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”  Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

For a brief account and an even briefer conversation we have a lot of names dropped: John the Baptister, Elijah, prophets, Simon Peter, Messiah, God . . . .  The key question is about identity and the recognition of it.  Jesus asked the disciples “Who do people Son of Man is?” They respond with the rumours and speculations of the day.

The Son of Man, and interesting phrase, occurring  81, in the Greek texts.  The title (name) is only used in Jesus’ teachings, and is normally in reference to Himself.  It name also is an Old Testament allusion to a fulfillment of prophesy (Daniel 7).

Jesus accepts the various popular speculations, then takes the discussion further with “Who do you say I am?”  This is asking for them to make an acknowledgement, a sort of commitment.  But there is an interesting idea that can be drawn here.  He does not tweak the core question on “who is ‘the Son of Man’?” but more directly  “Who do your say I am?”  Is this a veiled leading statement?  “Who do you say ‘I Am’?”  Jesus uses this construction in several places: “I am the bread of life (John 6:35);  I am the light of the world (John 8: 12); etc.”  

In Exodus 3:13, Moses asks God what His name is.  The response is powerful! “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you (v. 14).'”  The tetragrammaton ( יהוה ) “I Am” is the name given as God to refer to Himself.  In Judaism it is often just referred to as “the Name.”  It is an interesting point to ponder.  Jesus is “The I AM.”

It is Simon bar Jonah that plucks up the faith and courage to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah, the son of “I AM.”  Jesus readily acknowledges this, and even says it is The Father who gave the knowledge. 

Simon’s own name then comes into play.  He is no longer to be called “Simon,” but “Peter.”  Simon in its simplest form means “Listener.”  This is again a wonderful point in this passage.  The disciples had “listened” to the rumours of the people concerning Jesus’ identity.  Simon Peter was not content with that. We can take this further by taking the slightly different take.  “Simon” can mean “one who hearkens.”  Simon learned Jesus’ identity from the Father, Jesus said, and hearkened to the word.  But not mere recognition, but a boldness to repeat and profess it.  He had stood firm in the truth.  Not a mere harkener, but a firm “Rock -Peter” in standing on it.  He was to be Peter!

Another take on the name Simon, though with an uncertain etymology, is “Reed:” a plant that sways in the wind. If this is another of Jesus’ word plays, it too is powerful.  Peter no longer bent by the thoughts of others has become an advocated for a truth: “Jesus is Messiah, the Son God.”  A truth and steadfastness upon which this rock I will build my church.”

Padre

 

 

0311: Pride

0311

photo from ebay

I arrived at Camp Geiger a day early. Bravo Company had already been formed, and I was dropped off at the company street for Charlie. Here I was on what could just as well been Mars. White prefab timber buildings in the North Carolina woods. It was bright, and warm (but not as warm as the Air Force base in Mississippi, I had arrived from). I was met by a sergeant who gave me an immediate task of phone watch. There I sat, monitoring the phone, which did not ring.  I was in my still factory scented battle dress uniform, camouflage forest green, and my Navy E-2 rank hashes on my collar still shiny from the box.  Yes, I was a sailor beginning my journey in the FMF, first stop Infantry Training School.  Here I was to train as an 0311 Rifleman.

Second Platoon, C Company and with the “Elevens.” My journey began at Recruit Training Command Orlando, Florida. Here I learned the basics of being a sailor in the US Navy (something I never did do much of). I was then sent to my Rating (MOS) training in a joint service school at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi. On completion I was given a choice of two duty stations: an aircraft carrier or the FMF.  One of the reasons I had gone for my rating was for the possibility of serving with the Marines, so the decision was simple.

But here I was at Camp Lejeune, literally “a squid out of water.” My rating (Religious Program Specialist) had existed for a little over two years. The job description called for RPs to serve with Navy chaplains in support of the FMF.  But this early in the RPs’ existence, there was yet to be a Navy school to train us (thus Keesler), and neither was there a dedicated training facility (which there is today) for training RPs and Chaplains in the necessary field craft and combat skills for serving with the Marines. The solution was to send the RPs to Infantry Training School (ITS).  Every Marine is a rifleman, and now a handful of sailors (with a clear acknowledgement of the Sea Bees and SEALs as being expert naval infantrymen) would become 0311 Riflemen.

Up to this point, there seems to have been a practice of sending RPs to ITS in pairs.  My fellow sailor, however, had returned from leave early and been put into Bravo. This left me to train “alone.” I was there, an E-2 sailor, and “the phone private.” As the day went on more of the company began to arrive.  We were later sorted into barracks, and classified by MOS.  There was some talk of putting me with the “31s” to become a machine gunner, but this was quickly reversed as the specification for RPs was that we were to be “11s.”

I was treated alright by the Marines I trained with.  I did everything they did, we were taught the basics of grenades, mines, the M203 launcher, and the LAW tube. We drilled, we shot, we trained, we ran, and we trained some more. The only real difference was when we were in barracks and sang the Marines’ Hymn before getting in our bunks for the night, when we got to the third verse and all of my colleagues would turn to me when they sang the words “if the Army and the Navy ever look of heaven’s scenes, they will find the streets are guarded by United States Marines.” I was sometimes referred to as “the Squid,” and the guys in my fire team addressed me as “Squidly,” but it was respectful, and I would hope generally affectionate.  In fact, more than once I was referred to by men in the squad and platoon more generally as “our squid.”

In the end I did earn the respect of the Marines (both the trainees and the NCOs), in the end I was even named as the platoon honor man.  I was the first “squid” to gain the title.  The meritorious mast I received from the Corps reads that I was “to only sailor” to be so recognized, while the one I later received from the Chief of Chaplains reads a more optimistic “the first sailor” to be so recognized.

While the “Atta Boys” are nice, what I am most proud of from my time at Geiger is that I earned the MOS 0311.  My DD-214 clearly notes me has having the Navy Rating Religious Program Specialist, but also the Marine Corps MOS 0311.  I am a grunt, and proud of it.

Padre

 

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With Ninth Marines, Korea

Identity(ies?)

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In the past two weeks I have had the opportunity to be privy to two different takes on identity.  The first was a speech given by my wife, in which she noted that we are constantly developing and framing our identity, and that the “me” of today is not necessarily the “me” of tomorrow.  Then Steven Colborne posted on his blog a series of 10 facts about himself.

I find the idea of identity intriguing philosophically. If you ask most people “who are you?” – you will probably be responded to with a name.  But are we our names?  In a sense yes, but is this intrinsically us, or is it something we become?  After all, most of us did not name ourselves, but rather were named.  The motivation of our namers is also diverse.  Did they name us after someone?  If so, was it to please the namesake, or to honour them?  Was is something about them our namers wanted us to emulate?

For long periods of our history people were named after saints and biblical characters – presumably as models for us to follow.  Others received names such as Faith, Grace, or Charity.  All great attributes to mould ourselves into.  I knew one man named Dowell who was one of these. “Do well” is a great aspiration for a parent to wish upon their child.

But even this positive take on names, can lead to less insightful or thoughtful attempts by namers to make their charges “unique.”  I have had students over the years named Kayleigh, Keyleigh, Kayley, Kayly, and even a Kaleigh.  Fair enough.  But I also had a class mate once named Dawn Keyes, her parents apparently unaware of how five year-olds would respond to it.

This to begs the question, “If you were the only person on Earth, would you need a name at all?”  After all, names are to differentiate us from others. So we must be more than just our names.

Who are we then? Are we the sum of our parts? I am a Christian.  I am a man. I am an educator. I am ex-forces. I am a graduate (several times over). I am a husband.  I am a father.  But is this “Me”?

Perhaps even more important than who we were are to our namers, is who are we to our creator. It is He who knows the secrets of our self, our soul, and our destiny. The real us.

“For you [God] created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you . . . (Jeremiah 1:5).” 

We may well “invent” our image.  We may recreate ourselves in the eyes of others.  But who we really are is in Him.  By becoming what He has called us to be we are our “true selves.”

As a related aside, I recently saw a meme which builds on this call of defining ourselves from the inside, not the outside. “Worry about your character, not your reputation. Because your character is who you are, and your reputation is only what others think about you.” 

Let’s find our true identities today.  Beyond names, beyond outward forms. Let us manifest what and who has made us.

Padre

 

I’m Not A Number

As I was reflecting on my visit to Portmeirion, it called to mind the cult television series The Prisoner which was filmed there.  The main character, known only as Number 6, is incarcerated in the Village, and repeatedly seeks to escape and to assert “I am not a number, I am a free man!” 

Many of us can share in his view.  We hate the idea of being a number, or faceless customer.  We strive to assert our individuality and are jealous of our identity.  And, why shouldn’t we?

The Prisoner Shop, Portmeirion

The stripping away of identity is one of the marks of institutions.  Hospitals, insurance companies, and the military are replete with those who want to know account numbers, service numbers, or assorted other “identity checks” that fail to have anything to do with what we ourselves see as “ourselves.”

In one of the darkest episodes of modern history this erasure of identity was practiced by the Nazi regime. People considered enemies of the Reich were stripped of possessions, positions, and even names.  One such individual was Czesław Ludwiczak, Auschwitz prisoner 72124. He like many of his fellow inmates resisted this depersonalisation. In December 1942, he received a ring crafted for him by fellow prisoners who were metal workers. Upon it were the initials CL, a prisoner triangle, and his prisoner number. He was more than that number.  He was a man.  He was CL. He was Czesław.

ring

Ludwiczak’s Ring from Auschwitz. Photo: A-BSM Collections Department

 

While institutions may well attempt to distill us into faceless, nameless statistics, God does not. “But now, this is what the LORD says– he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine (Is 43:1).”  God knows our names.  He values each of us a individuals.

Jesus remarked, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God (Luke 12:6-8).”

 

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We are not numbers.  We are the children of God, bought with a price.  We are people with a name (not a number) written in a Book of Life.

How’s that for identity?

Padre