Ezekiel Highlight

My beloved is really disappointed when my posts do not include a photo. Tonight as the sun was tickling the horizon, I made my way around the 3-mile loop and snapped a few photos. I let her pick her favorite.

Now maybe she’ll read the rest of this post.

The main reason for writing is to provide an Ezekiel study update. Basically, that first chapter was hard to wrap my imagination around. I was really tempted to call in some kind of study aid, but I pushed on through it. By the time you get to chapter 7, it is rather clear that God wants Ezekiel to communicate that Israel has been evil and that He plans to visit them with grievous punishment. Some of the things in the book lend themselves to some pondering (perhaps a challenge for those of you that feel a need for continuous entertainment), but when God has evil to deal with,…

“My eye will show no pity nor will I spare. I will repay you according to your ways, while your abominations are in your midst; then you will know that I, the Lord, do the smiting.” (Ez. 7:9)

…the message is very plain.

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Ezekiel

Some might opine that I think too much.

Cutting television out of my life has been extremely rewarding. There are many reasons television-free living is rewarding, but that is the topic of a future blog post. More important today is one of the greatest benefits of being TV-free…the encouragement to think…meditate…ponder.

Pondering as I was, I realized that it has been considerable time since I last studied Ezekiel. I decided, therefore, get to it. Then, (still thinking of course) I wondered how to go about it. If you have ever read Ezekiel, you understand that that this piece of the holy scriptures includes some very strange stuff. My first instinct was to assemble a mountain of commentaries to explain the meaning of the symbols and things seen in Ezekiel’s visions, but (yes, you guessed it) I thought about it some more. Why not just READ Ezekiel? Slowly and thoughtfully, mind you, but simple, straight-ahead reading is the plan this time.

I might find out otherwise later, but my pre-study guess is that Ezekiel was not written for the purpose of confusing us. Nor was it written with the intent of only being understood by professors of theology and experts in the Hebrew language. As strange as this book is, I am entering the study thinking that it was written and preserved for us so that we can read it, become more holy, and draw closer to the Almighty of heaven. I will pray that He will open my eyes to see what He would have me see and I will proceed in faith that He will give what I’ve requested.

“I am sending you to them who are stubborn and obstinate children, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ As for them, whether they listen or not – for they are a rebellious house – they will know that a prophet has been among them.” (Ez. 2:4-5)

Maybe I THINK too much and don’t DO enough. So forgive me, but I THINK I’ll go DO something…but it won’t involve television.

Busy Weekend


It’s been a busy weekend up here on the prairie. In addition to the two previous posts, it seemed good to toss in a few photos to help illustrate why living in rural areas is so…charming. As I’ve said before, I don’t make this stuff up. This is just the way it happened.

First of all, this grasshopper was spotted on the front porch wandering around looking for his large back legs.

I came across this gathering of horses that looked rather suspicious. I heard one of them say, “Shhh….here comes somebody…”. Then they all looked up at me at the same time.

We have some interesting art up here in north Denton County. At least that’s what I think they call this stuff that looks intentional, but very hard to explain.

I’m constantly amazed at some of the wildlife I see in my early morning rides. This is easily the largest racoon I’ve ever seen hugging a mailbox.

Oh yeah, and for you dog people, I noticed that male dachshunds are not prone to celebrate diversity and have shunned Marcie.

Even though this Sunday afternoon is one of the hottest days of the year so far, the pre-church ride this morning was quite pleasant.






…and I know all about these things, because I was there.

In Denton County, Texas…

Saturday night in Denton County, Texas, on the way back from purchasing an annual Texas Parks Pass, the clock says 8:15 pm, the sun drops down closer to the horizon, and the temperature drops down to 94 degrees. So Janet and I roll down the windows, and crank the radio, playing authentic Texas music, a little bit louder.

Provisions

There is certainly more than one way to obtain provisions for the household. One way is the hurry-up, git-r-done, let’s-get-on-with-it-and-move-on-to-the-next-task way. One possible alternative is what actually happened this Saturday morning…a much less efficient approach, I’m proud to say. Life moves pretty fast, why not slow things down a bit?

Instead of the local grocery or the Denton big city grocery, we opted for the Gainesville small town grocery over 20 miles away. Instead of one person making the trip while the other is scurrying around trying to check something else of the to-do list, this trip involved both of us. Instead of traveling together to Gainesville, we took two different vehicles.


I rolled out of the driveway on the bike at 7:30 and took advantage of the tailwind all the way to Gainesville. Janet left somewhat later such that we arrived within minutes of each other…at the coffee shop. We treated ourselves to what Janet calls dessert drinks and a leisurely mid-morning breakfast. We sat outside in the shade since it was not yet too hot.


She drove straight to the grocery and I noodled around town a bit, took these photos in town, and caught up with her later. We packed up the provisions and the bike and drove the backroads back to the house. It was a rich and pleasant morning activity.


We could have completed this activity much more efficiently, but then it would have simply been another chore.

Guest Blog 2

Well…before I could compose a suitable entry of my own, SN Johnson followed-through with her own committment for another entry from the ship. The is the “Day in the Life…” entry she promised. Now that she’s demonstrated her own writing skills, I’m a little intimidated and have suggested that she create her own blog. I’d like to encourage her writing, but just not here where she can show me up. Now without further ado, Lisa’s second guest blog post…

Day in the Life of a Lowly Sailor

As always, check the footnotes for Lisa’s Amazing Coast Guard Dictionary.

My day begins at 1000 with the pipe “Now, up, up, all late sleepers. Knock off ship’s work. Commence coffee break.” Most people have been up since 0645, at reveille(1), but I work nights, so I sleep in, along with everyone who had midwatch(2) the night before. Coffee break lasts 15 minutes, so I have a quarter of an hour to get dressed and be ready for work.

At 1030 we, the other messcooks(3) and I, begin setting up for lunch. Messcooking is a month dreaded by nonrates(4). The nonrates on the boat rotate every month to be removed from their usual division to be the slave of the cooks. The job is easy enough, even the JOs(5) could do it with a little bit of instruction.

We put out napkin dispensers, salt and pepper, Tabasco(6), refill the juice, and set up the salad and dessert bars. At 1115 the noon meal is served. During the meal we run dishes from the scullery back to the messdeck, take out the trash, and refill the juices. The meal lasts 45 minutes and at 1200 we hear “Now the noon meal is secured” over the 1MC. This is where the fun begins.

For the crew this means their break is over and they have to get back to work, so obviously they loiter on the messdeck as long as humanly possible pushing the last few grains of rice around on their plate trying to prolong their break, for us it means our break is in sight. As soon as the messdeck is clean we have a couple of hours to relax. It is a highly amusing struggle of will and power.

We begin by stealing the napkin dispensers and condiments off the table or out of their hands whether the people are finished or not. We wipe up the tables around them. We do everything we can to politely usher them back to work. After about 15 minutes of this, patience is running low. These guys should be working and we should be getting a break soon. My personal favorite tactic is to sit across from one of those slow eaters and stare. My piercing gaze generally freaks people out enough that they give up and leave. Other widely used tactics are loud sarcastic remarks to nobody in particular if the slow people are above you in rank, or just yelling at them to hurry up and get off the messdeck if they are also nonrates.

Once we get everybody off the messdeck we put up a sign that reads “MESSDECK SECURE” in the doorway. Messcooks are the lowest of the low as far as positions on the boat, but we are given one exceedingly fun bit of power to exercise, and that is to yell at anyone who comes on the secured messdeck without permission and to randomly choose who we feel like giving permission to enter the secured messdeck. It is our vindictive pleasure to chase people out of our AOR(7) with brooms if they disobey the sacred sign. After the petty arguments among ourselves of who will sweep, who will swab(8), and who gets stuck with trash are resolved, we finish up around 1330.

The next 2 hours are spent trying to slow the gelatinization process a messcooks mind goes through. We read books, blast music, e-mail, surf the web, or hide out in our racks. Mostly we just try to stay out of the cook’s way so as to not incur their wrath and get stuck doing a busy work type task such as scrubbing the baseboards or cleaning grease traps.

Our break comes to a quick end at 1530. “Now sweepers, sweepers, man your brooms. Give the ship a clean sweep down fore and aft. Sweep down all lower decks, ladder wells, and passageways. Now, sweepers.” If you think the point of sweepers is to get the ship clean, you are very much mistaken. The point of sweepers is to be seen. I have spent countless hours this patrol cleaning the same two bulkheads. The paint is threatening to come off, but they must be wiped down until Senior Chief and XO(9) see me cleaning them.

I will compare this phenomenon to the proverbial tree in the forest. Does it really matter if it happened, if nobody was there to witness it? One of the last times I messcooked we would enjoy testing this theory. We would get told to clean a passageway and would do a terrible job but got commended after Senior saw us working on it. At other times we would spend an hour getting a passageway looking absolutely spotless, but if Senior didn’t see it happen he would make us do it over again.
Sweepers begins to loose energy around 1545-1600, just in time to set up for dinner.

It is the same idea as lunch, but for dinner one of the other messcooks and I have an unspoken game. The goal is to set up more items than the other person. This involves halfhearted sabotage on both our parts, but it does make the tedious task at hand more bearable. Remember, the goal of Messcooking is to retard the gelatinization process of your mind as much as possible. At 1700 “Now the evening meal is being served” is piped. This is my salvation. I am off of work and get to do whatever I so choose for the next 4 and a half hours.

At 2100 my alarm goes off, I put down my book, shut off my movie, or wake up and head up to the messdeck for midrats(10). I’m working as I hear the taps pipe(11). We serve at 2300-0000 but I start running dishes in the scullery, setting up, and washing dishes in the deep sink. There is only one messcook for midrats so multitasking is important.

Alia is the cook I work for at night. She is tougher than Samuel L. Jackson, but funnier than Dave Chappell. Working midrats is my favorite part of the day. If I feel like cooking, Alia lets me cook the meal, and I get to choose whatever my heart desires. After midrats we bake all the desserts and breads for the next day. Working together we usually get out early, around 0200 but if there is a lot of baking to do we have to stay up until it all gets done. The latest we’ve ever worked is about 0530.

When there is a lag in the dishes to be washed or cakes to be baked I often go out on fantail, sit on the picnic table, and enjoy the night sky. I firmly believe there is no better place to sit and think than the middle of the ocean at night when everyone else is asleep. After I get off of work in the early hours of the morning I curl up in my rack and drift off to sleep.

1. Reveille – Most obnoxious pipe that wakes everyone up. People tend to scream it in the most annoying voice they can muster.

2. Midwatch – Watch from 0000-0400

3. Messcooking – Doing menial work for the cooks. It only lasts a month because if it lasted any longer everybody’s brain would turn into Jell-O. As a messcook your primary goal is get complete your month with your brain at least 56% brain mass and only 44% delicious jiggly dessert.

4. – Nonrate – a person who hasn’t gone to school yet to learn a specific job. Either part of deck division or an engineer. Their title is either SN (Seaman) or FN (Fireman)

5. JO – Junior Officer. They are generally acknowledged by the enlisted folk to be as dumb as a box of rocks and only half as good looking.

6. Tabasco Sauce – the most important condiment in the Coast Guard. Any terrible food can be improved dramatically by dousing it in Tabasco Sauce

7. AOR – Area of responsibility

8. Swab – to mop

9. XO – Executive Officer, second in command, under the CO (Commanding Officer)

10. Midrats – the meal served to those who have midwatch

11. Taps pipe – My favorite and least favorite pipe. “Taps, Taps, out all white lights. Maintain silence about the decks. Now 2200, taps.” It is very relaxing as it is usually said in a goodnight type of voice, but if you get some goofball trying to sound sexy, it is just obnoxious and can ruin your entire sleep that night.

Underway

I am very proud to have my first guest blog from my daughter, Lisa (SN Johnson of the United States Coast Guard). Through the marvels of modern technology, I have been able to receive this from her during an active patrol somewhere off the west coast of Central America. I know you will enjoy it and you will quickly learn that her job is nothing like your last vacation cruise. How about some well wishes to her and all her buddies on USCGC Sherman serving our country!

SouthPat08

I have decided that my first blog entry will simply catch readers up on what has been going on this patrol. I understand not everyone speaks the jargon of the Coast Guard so if there is an unfamiliar word, check the footnotes at the bottom for Lisa’s Amazing Coast Guard Dictionary. We are almost halfway through this patrol and many of you don’t know anything about what goes on while underway(1) on a Coast Guard Cutter(2).

Welcome aboard Coast Guard Cutter Sherman (WHEC-720)(3). This vessel is one of the largest boats in the Coast Guard Fleet. From bow to stern it measures 378 feet.

We left our homeport of Alameda, CA on June 19th and set sail south. Within a few days of being underway we hear the pipe(4) that is everyone’s worst nightmare underway. “Now fire, fire, fire. A class Alpha(5) fire has been reported in the incinerator room(6).” If you were at work and a fire alarm went off you would evacuate the building and call the fire department. When I’m at work, I am the fire department. We frequently spend time training everyone onboard in basic and advanced damage control skills.

The fire was out in minutes and the workday continued.

A couple of days later, I was laying in my rack(7) at about 0100(8). I had just gotten off of work and was drifting off to sleep. Suddenly the absolute worst pipe came over the 1MC(9). “Now fire, fire, fire. A Class Bravo(10) fire has been reported outboard the number 2 main diesel engine.” If there is anywhere you don’t want a fire, it’s the engine room. Within 3 minutes the entire boat was awake, dressed and ready to fight a fire. Luckily it was put out quickly by the security watch stander.

A couple of days after this I woke up at 0520 and went the head(11) to wash my face and brush my teeth. I push the faucet down to start the flow of water and nothing comes out. Being very groggy I tried this a few more times, with no success. “What happened to the water?” I managed to slur out to one of my 13 roommates. “Evap(12) is broken again, or maybe it’s the pumps, I’m not exactly sure all I know is messdeck gossip(13). Anyways, we have no water at all.” Being a cook this does not work well for me…

Imagine cooking thanksgiving dinner and cleaning up afterwards after you forgot to pay your water bill and all water is shut off in your house. With 5 cooks working tirelessly we managed to get 3 meals out for 170 people that day and clean up using bottled water and sea water. The cooking was tough, but surprisingly, the clean up was a blast.

After working for 4 hours in a hot galley (the temperature gets up to 105 degrees sometimes) then standing in front of a steam line serving a hot and sweaty, grumbling crew for an hour an enormous pile of dishes is hardly encouraging. Senior(14) had us scrape as much food off the dishes as we could and then we took them out to the fantail(15). We had 5 buckets of sea water, soap, chlorine, and bleach set up to scrub and sanitize the dishes. It was pouring rain outside. By the time we got done scrubbing, we looked as if we had just climbed out of the ocean. At least we were finally cool.

Saturday was our first port call(16). It was an unscheduled event, but very good for the moral of the crew. Every time I visit a new place I put it on a list I have. The list is places I would wanted to retire and places I definitely want to avoid when I retire. El Salvador is a place I will not retire to.

Today we got our second helo(17). Most of the crew is skeptical that we will get any drugs this patrol. Our last two patrols we were very successful and it is hard to imagine 3 successful patrols in a row. This pessimism makes getting a helo just an annoyance for most. Nothing is more irritating for the sleep deprived crew than to hear “Flight Quarters, Flight Quarters,” piped over the 1MC in the early hours of the morning. It always seems like go fasts(18) only work at 2 in the morning. Why don’t those drug runners work a 9-5?

Those are some of the highlights of the first half of the patrol. Look for my next blog soon… “an average day in the life of a lowly sailor”

1. Underway – At sea

2. Cutter – Large sea going vessel

3. WHEC – High Endurance Cutter

4. Pipe – announcement made over the 1MC for the information of all hands

5. Class alpha fire – fire caused by the burning of normal materials, such as trash.

6. Incinerator room – Room where all trash burning takes place. We sort trash while underway, the garbage men have a hard time making it out to the pacific ocean. Plastic gets burned and food, paper, glass, and metal get thrown overboard.

7. Rack – a ridiculously small bed that sentences you to a lifetime of visiting a chiropractor. To any normal person, it is a terrible place to sleep. To those of us onboard, after a long day you want to be nowhere else but curled up in your rack.

8. 0100 – 1:00AM

9. 1MC – PA System

10. Class Bravo Fire – fire caused by the burning of oil or fuel

11. Head – Bathroom

12. Evap – Turns sea water into drinkable water, breaks way to often.

13. Messdeck Gossip – any non reliable information, generally heard on the messdeck. People often try to start outrageous rumors just to see how many people they can get to believe them.

14. Senior – Short for Senior Chief, not a guy you want to mess with, he can make you have a very bad day if he wants to

15. Fantail – Deck on the back of the boat. Much of the crew hangs out here to smoke.

16. Port Call – Liberty being granted in a foreign port. Makes the crew very happy to get off the boat.

17. Helo – Helicopter

18. Go Fast – Small boat that transports drugs