Monday, May 30, 2011

A Memorial Day Tribute to America

Victor Davis Hanson is a historian and a classicist. He is also one of my favorite writers. You might appreciate his Memorial Day thoughts, which you can find here. It's a short read, but worth your time.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

In Memory of an American Hero

Think the weather is bad here in Greenville? Tired of the rain?

Let's take a trip to the USS Belleau Wood, CVL 24, the week of Memorial Day, 1945, which was a week of bad weather, and listen in on the personal diary of Lewis M. Cobb. His job was to fly a Gruman F6F Hellcat whereever he was ordered and come back again, preferably in one piece. And preferably with his airplane, which didn't always happen.

Friday, May 25, 1945, At Sea
            Didn't fly today because of weather, only 4 teams flew. Pixton shot down a Frank and Skipper got a Betty. The expected air attack took place today but because of weather it didn't bother us much. I think many Jap planes were shot down around Okinawa.

Saturday, May 26, 1945, At Sea
            Off the deck at 5 AM for one of the most harrowing hops I've ever had. It was black and rainy with ceiling from 0-100 ft. Before we were launched the Hornet squadron commander, who was airborne, told them not to launch anymore planes because of terrible weather. We were launched on instruments and climbed to 4,000 ft before breaking out. Soon after the order came to land and we let down and landed. There were 2 mid-air collisions and 2 planes that spun in. Upwards of 150 planes jettisoned bombs and rockets in the drink, what a farce!

Sunday, May 27, 1945, At Sea
            Refueled today, did not have to fly. Rec'd 15 letters, 4 of them from Helen. I'm afraid she will be in for a disappointment because I don't see relief in sight for us yet. Guess its back to Okinawa for more support missions tomorrow. A jap plane landed wheels up on Yontan and 21 japs jumped out and blew up many planes and aviation gas before they were shot. Guess thats the reason we aren't going to Leyte on schedule.

Monday, May 28, 1945, At Sea
            Did not fly today because of weather. One hop got up. As of midnight last night we became the 3rd fleet. Halsey has taken over though the change in command is not complete yet. Believe we will go into port for that. We are now Task Group 38.1. That really will ream us if we don't get relieved before he runs amuk.

Tuesday, May 29, 1945, At Sea
            Flew a 4 hr TCAP this AM over Okinawa, weather was better but no business.

Wednesday, May 30, 1945, At Sea
            Bad weather, no flights today. Refuel tomorrow.

Thursday, May 31, 1945,  At Sea
            Refueled today so I spent a peaceful day in the sack. Was surprised to get 4 letters, didn't expect any today. Weather pretty bad.

Good weather was an opportunity to fly sorties, complete with a good chance of getting your plane shot out from under you, or worse.

Bad weather was a chance to get some rest, or, unfortunately, an opportunity for your CAG [Carrier Air Group commander] send you up, but be unable to get you back down.

The amazing thing is that those men put their lives on the line every day, good weather or bad, and then got up the next day and did it all over again, until the war was over and the Axis was defeated.

My dad was one of those men, and was decorated numerous times for exploits of courage. He survived getting shot down, survived landing Hellcats so shot-up that they flipped upside down into the barrier, survived the war, and ultimately survived a distinguished career in the navy, retiring as a full Commander in 1966. By this time he had served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.

He went on to enter Virginia Theological Seminary, and had a distinguished second career serving the Episcopal Church, retiring once again in 1988.

My brother, Lewis M. Cobb, Jr., has a good turn of phrase. In Louie's words, Dad experienced his final pre-dawn launch at around 5 AM, February 21. [Correction: it was actually my sister Georgia who first said that - she loved the imagery it connotes.]

This picture of the Commander and his bride of 66 years, my mom, was taken this past fall at the wedding of their grandson, Louie's son, Jake. Dad had not worn his uniform in years. Still looked good on him.

Miss you, dad. Remembering you on this Memorial Day. In my book, you're an American hero.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Brief Review of The Gospel according to Jesus, revised edition

Why, you might ask, are you reviewing a book first published over 20 years ago (1988)? Good question. First, because I just finished it (I guess you can see how far behind I am in my reading). Second, because this is a significant book that should not be buried by anything as inconsequential as the mere passage of time. So I suppose that I am hoping to put it on your radar. Third, it remains a critical topic for the church today, perhaps even more so now than 20 years ago. At BFC, Pastor Robb and I have been hammering away for years at the false security of many who claim Christ but do not manifest the life-change that always accompanies regeneration.

This is a crucially important book. John MacArthur deals with the Lordship-salvation controversy in a thorough, convincing way.  He begins by examining modern manifestations of the gospel, and finds them inadequate. Specific examples are given, most of which involve reducing a confession of Christ to little more than intellectual assent to the facts of the gospel and the verbalization of it. In this deficient gospel, consecration to Christ’s Lordship is seen as a secondary decision sometimes far removed, chronologically, from the initial confession of faith. “Carnal Christian” is viewed as a state in which one might live, not a passing failure brought on by momentary stumbling.

MacArthur tours the gospels, demonstrating that the call of Christ is always a call to discipleship and commitment. This is illustrated through the encounters Jesus had with seeking sinners, the parables, and Jesus’ own theological statements as to the nature of salvation. MacArthur employs his characteristic skill as a careful expositor in these chapters.

In the appendices, the author marshals plenty of evidence to show that the response of faith manifested by life-change-and-commitment is the same response to the gospel that the apostles demanded (as evidenced by the epistles), as well as the response that the true church has always required as a manifestation of saving faith.

The book is easily accessible to anyone with a high-school education, and is, in my opinion, irrefutable. At critical turns in his presentation, MacArthur uses quotes from his opponents (usually Zane Hodges, Charles Ryrie, or Lewis Sperry Chafer) to illustrate the positions of those who disagree with the Lordship-salvation position (a term the author does not even like, but uses because it has become the main label for this particular debate). This is a critical book for all those wishing to evangelize in a manner faithful to Scripture, and for those who are fighting for the purity and holiness of the church.

BFC'ers: we have this in the library for loan. You can always ask the BFC bookstore to order you a copy for purchase. I encourage you to get it and read it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I just know I'm going to regret this. . .

By popular demand [on this blog, that means three family members],
 I present. . .

The Dr.Seuss workout shorts

Quick P90X Update

Still with the program. That in itself is a major victory. Yesterday was core synergistics, today was cardio. Avoided blowing out my leg today; was able to reproduce the forms and moves much better and perform the workout more continuously. Can already see some improvements. Very encouraged.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Don't try this at home. . . .

Or at church, or seminary, or in the library, or in your study, or in your secret heart of hearts. Because you will fail.

What I am referring to is the lamentable tempation to set dates for the Lord's return. It is a really bad idea, especially since Jesus says in Matthew 24:36 that you can't do it.

So someone decided that they had it figured out. Note the date of this post: it is May 22. Are you still here? Because yesterday was supposed to be a bible-guaranteed judgment day. You realize, I could be posting this from heaven. Maybe you got left behind.

Relax, I am posting this from Panera Bread in Cincinnatti, which is about as far removed from heaven as you can get, this side of Sheol.

Take a gander at this screeprint from my browser - did it just a minute ago, wanted to catch it before their poor webmaster takes it down. Notice my very artistic red circles.

Here is a closeup of the big red circle:

And a closeup of the little red circle. Please believe me when I say that I have not monkeyed with the date:

5/22/2011. Okay, so the countdown clock ran down and the judgment fizzled. The more jaded side of my nature looks forward to the explanation that will have to be posted as to what went wrong. The better side of my nature is heart-broken, and here is why.

We live in a secular culture which has sold its soul for a mess of rationalistic, materialistic [nuance warning: speaking of philosophy here, not greed] pottage. Our neighbors reject the spiritual when it comes to talking about the personal God Who is, who has objective existence, who transcendently exists outside of and separate from all aspects of creation; I am referring to an active, living, thinking, choosing (and judging) personal God. And yet our culture delights in the paranormal, horoscopes, wicca, mother nature, gaia, and other non-theistic spiritualism. America is very picky as to what requires "scientific evidence" for its justification (such as the existence of the true God) and what does not (such as your latest flavor--and there are many--of humanistic spirituality).

By putting such a silly prediction on the front page, and then having it be so wrong (as it must be, because of Christ's statement in Matt 24:36), they make it appear to a secular, skeptical public as though the Bible, and biblical truth has failed.

The purveyors of the "Judgment Day" calculation claptrap above have trivialized and rendered liable to ridicule what is actually a traumatic and dangerous truth: Christ is going to return, personally, visibly, really, in judgment and every knee will bow to His sovereign majesty. We just have no idea when His return will take place; and we were told it would be at a time when we think not (Matt 24:44).

When believers chase ridiculous rabbit trails, they discredit the gospel and make it very difficult to have a serious discussion with a skeptic about the gospel.

Thank you, Family Radio.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Outlander Chronicles: Phoenix - Introduction and Pitch

[5/21/2011 - I have resolved my display problems, and so am reposting this. Note that this post contains only the pitch. Chapter one appears in a separate post. Sorry about the foul-up.]

This is my second novel, and like my first, it remains unpublished. I am working on my final major re-write of Phoenix. At some point maybe I will share what I have learned about re-writing, but that's not for this post.  Joshua, my son, convinced me to do the rewrite and provided me with some good reasons to do so, as well as a few fresh ideas to try. Based on his critique, as well as several others, I felt like the story could be improved. Other than the fact that I am doing a re-write, Phoenix is finished and the complete tale has been read by probably ten to fifteen people. It weighs in at about 100,000 words, an appropriate word-count for a small-to-average sized novel.

What appears in the at the end of this post is called the pitch. It is used to entice literary agents to look further into the story--hopefully to request a full manuscript. If, after reading the manuscript, the agent believes the tale is one he can sell at a profit to a traditional publisher, he will represent the writer to various publishing houses. The agent does much of the work that writers used to have to do for a small slice of the eventual profit.

The pitch is designed to hook the reader. A well-written pitch is going to appear on the dust jacket of the published novel. If, after reading the pitch, you decide you'd like to have a go at reading the finished first chapter, you can find a link to chapter one at the bottom of thi post.
Several things to keep in mind:
  • You are welcome to leave comments (please do), but unless someone finds a huge flaw, I won't be revisiting this chapter.
  • I have chosen to write in an omniscient narrator's point of view (POV). Many don't like this POV; I do, and I don't plan on changing it.
  • Those who have read the story know that it has numerous surprizing twists. Please do not leave any spoilers in your comments.
  • The setting of the story is meant to be mysterious. In the original version, I revealed very slowly, through the words of Hakim, what had transpired to bring the world of the story into its present state of destruction. Based on critique I received, you are learning a lot more about this world much earlier in the story. I am still not convinced that is the best way to go, but it is one point I have conceded. The pitch itself lets the cat out of the bag. Somewhat, anyway.
  • Before writing this story, I wrote a ten-page single-spaced timeline that begins in 2012 and goes to the date of the beginning of the tale (2120). The timeline constructs a detailed series of global events that changed the world as we know it, leading to the setting of Phoenix. After reading my timeline, Laurielle (the viola-playing marathoner - my youngest) recommended that I turn the timeline into a novel. If Phoenix ever goes anywhere, I will.
Here goes. . . .

Jacen Chester is living in a world where the unthinkable has happened. Eighty years prior, the use of biological weapons had resulted in a pandemic of hemorrhagic smallpox. Only the naturally-immune survived. The global population leveled out at a mere eight million. The situation has not improved.

Jacen's collapsing world is hemmed in by death. His mother is dead; his friends are dead; and now he must bury his father. As Jacen grieves, he realizes mere survival is no longer a cause large enough to sustain him. Out of the ashes of the old civilization he determines to found a new one. This is the premise of the Outlander Chronicles: Phoenix.

The young man encounters a wanderer with a mysterious past, named Hakim, who begins to teach him the arts of self-defense and leadership, and the history of the recent global disaster. Together they gather a small group of people who sign on to Jacen's vision of the future. The entire project is continuously threatened from within by Jacen and Hakim’s own sharp differences, and from without by ruthless groups who have chosen slavery or anarchy as the model for the future. The characters grapple with ultimate issues in a world where the margin of survival is too slender to permit mistakes. Catastrophe strikes the growing community, putting everything Jacen has learned to the test.

5/3/2012 - Outlander Chronicles: Phoenix has been published.

Why do shorts get shorter when you put them on?

Two days ago I realized that I needed some exercise shorts for our workouts. Been doing them in regular shorts and they were keeping me from stretching in some of the unimaginable ways required by the chief torturer. So we went to Walmart for a pair of exercise shorts.

Wow! What a wake-up call! Which reminds me, my sister emailed me to say that the P90X routine wasn’t meant for old geezers like me [Thank you, sis, for that reminder]. Anyway, when I went into the shorts section, I began to realize she might be right. I am out-of-step with the exercise styles! Wooo - shorts are looong nowadays. Wouldn’t feel right wearing those things unless I was going to a highland Scottish bagpipe convention [think, kilt, or better, coulotts]. If I wore ‘em pulled halfway down my butt, as is the fashion presently, I’d have me a fine, albeit baggy, pair of slacks. Might even have to roll up the cuffs to keep ‘em from dragging.

Well, you would not catch me dead in those things [although, come to think about it, if we keep at this P90X thing, dead might be the only way to catch me] [Ah, that last was a reference to my mortality, not to any speed I think I may acquire from my exercising; it has been at least thirty years since I had the sort of speed that might make me difficult to catch, unless your preferred mode of racing is in a wheelchair]!

As I was saying before all those editorial comments, I am not going to wear those new-style shorts that come down over my calves. Might as well wear exercise pants, right?

So, I went looking for short shorts. Did you know that no one makes short shorts anymore [unless you are talking boxers or briefs, which I most decidedly am not]? I looked high, I looked low, in the piles and on the aisles, I sought them here, I sought them there, I sought those short shorts everywhere. No luck. Until I found this pair of bright blue, green, and yellow Dr. Seuss shorts [mine say "one fish two fish" on ‘em]. These were the only ones in the whole store of the sought-after length, so after checking ‘round to make sure no one was looking, I bought ‘em.

Now, I have only two things to say about my Dr. Seuss exercise shorts. First, when I got them home and put them on for our workout the next morning, they got shorter. A lot shorter. Probably too short. This I do not understand. Why do shorts get shorter just because you put them on? I can understand why they might do odd things along the other axis (for instance if I thought my waist was still a 32) but not in the length department.

The second thing you have to picture in your mind, but I have to face everytime I do my workout now. You know where weight lifters and boxers exercise shorts say “Everlast” right in the front? Mine say, “Dr Seuss”.

Oh, and I guess there is a third thing about my Dr. Seuss shorts: you won’t catch me dead in those things.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Whine, whine, grumble. . .

I have discovered what C.H.C. stands for: Clutz Hasno Coordination.

Today was day 2 of an enhanced interrogation routine known as P90X. This torture session lasts 90 days. [Please, please, I'll tell you anything you want to know, just stop! What? You want me to say, "Bring it"? Okay, I can do that: bring it. No, No, I did what you wanted, stop, please, stop!]

We did the Cardio X workout today. It was not as bad (from a cardio standpoint) as I thought it would be. And that's because most of the day I was standing slack-jawed, watching it rather than doing it, trying to figure out and then mimic the chief torturer's moves. This is when it was brought home to me that I Hasno Coordination. [Okay, that was jab, cross, hook, uppercut? Which foot is in front? Wait, wait, stop! What do I do with my hips? Which hand am I jabbing with? No, no, slow down! Which foot is in front? My left? Which one is my left? Oh brother. Cross, hook, jab? No, that's not right. . . What? We're done? But I haven't started yet!]

It wasn't bad, it was just sad. Really put me in my place. I will never show my face in an exercise place again, except perhaps as the fat guy restocking the Twinky machine.

And I also damaged something [something besides my self-esteem, that is].  Some thang in my right hip thang. You got to watch those kicks. You know how they teach you not to bounce when you are doing toe touches [actually for me, they're knee touches] because the momentum might cause you to strain a ligament? Well, let me tell you: once you get that leg moving in a snappy kick, the momentum might carry it beyond where it is capable of going. Uh-huh. Heard, felt, something pop followed by a lot of pain. Missed most of that exercise, too, walking out the pain.

The good news, sort of, is that while I was desparately trying to figure out the moves in another routine about ten minutes later, which also involved kicks, I did it AGAIN.

Now, why, you ask, is that good news?

Oh, that's simple. Because, whatever I destroyed in the first kick, I evidently have more of to destroy. Think of it this way: maybe your leg is connected to your body with, like, four rubber band thangs. I only blew out two of them -- still able to walk, hurray! Got two more to blow out before I'll be looking for the wheelchair version of P90X.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Woah! . . . (Woe??)

Have been preparing for a week to start the P90X (Cardio) workout. So for the last week, Doris has moved us onto the menu, and we are eating all kinds of things I can't pronounce. But it has been delicious! I have been eating like a horse!

The box this silly thing comes in says, "Beachbody" on it. Yeah, right, I thought. I'll gain a beach body, alright -- shaped like a beachball, with all this wonderful eating I am doing. This P90 something-'er-other is not so bad!

Of course, we had not started the workouts, just the menus.

Until today.

Woe is me! I am dead, dead, dead! What have I got myself into? Ain't gonna be no beachball after all. This is TOUGH!

Doris and I are just going to go ahead and rent a room at Wayne Hospital. Gonna need it for sure. . . .

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The glory of God revealed in the created world

Flowers strewn across alpine meadows, blossoming in profusion. A sapphire sky studded with puff-ball clouds, like pearls scattered on blue velvet. Black granite peaks outlined with pure, white snow, thrusting high in the distance. The pale green of aspen, flowing in swaths across larger patches of darker evergreen, like small sylvan avalanches.

It's the glory of God in living color. "No," you insist, "it's just the natural result of natural processes operating over time in an impersonal universe."

Natural processes? Yes. Operating over time? Yes, of course. But processes operating through time that have been specially created by God to function just as we see them, and for His glory. It is not an impersonal universe, devoid of purpose. The universe is the creative effort of the God Who is; made for His glory, created for His purposes, and hurtling toward a destination He has carefully designed.

"The heavens declare the glory of God. . ." the psalmist said. Indeed, they do, if you have eyes to see, and a heart to understand.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Baby Duck conquers the Flying Pig

There is, of course, sufficient reason to question the sanity of one who runs 26.2 miles without being chased. Especially when you run in a big loop, ending in more or less the same place from which you started. Really now! I'd rather walk the 100 yards from the starting line to the finish line, rather than run the 42 kilometers the loopy way. The really loopy way.

Be that as it may, my youngest daughter completed her first marathon today!

That's her in the black and red. Not sure who the michelin men in the pink pig suits are. The sign above the line said "FINISH SWINE". Cute.

The day began pre-dawn; which is, of course, in-keeping with the general lunacy. These wonderful pix, by the way, are complements of my wife. She shot pictures while I was very busy complaining about the rain. It did rain.

We were quite a way from the starting line, still on the walkway on the bridge over the river, when things got started. It was actually a great vantage point from which to watch the surging mass of thousands of runners.

Doris and I hoofed it over to the five-mile marker, and found an overhang where we could escape from the dreary drizzle. After a few minutes, the first runner sprinted by; he was really booking it. Within another 10 minutes there was a steady flow of runners jogging by. Thousands of dollars of tennis shoes going by, every sixty seconds. Amazing.

Some of the running costumes were very interesting. Many were in keeping with the pig theme; some women had on pink tutu's and pink pig hats. Saw a tube of Crest toothpaste run by, and something that I think must have been a shark. Not sure what he was advertising. One guy ran past in his birthday suit. All he was wearing was shoes. Definitely don't want to know what he was advertising.

Got to run next to Lauri for a few minutes to encourage her, at the 22 mile mark. Had to wait until the 22 mile mark so she was tired enough so I could keep up with her.

Lauri and her roomate and running partner Rachel, posing next to the Flying Pig.

Now, I don't know if going lala is contagious, but I have found myself wondering if I could ever do this. . . .

Congratulations to Lauri and Rachel for running a great race, and achieving such a great accomplishment!