Tuesday, March 31, 2015

O'Reilly and Krauthammer Debate Bergdahl - And Both Are Wrong

I was listening to a debate between Bill O'Reilly and Charles Krauthammer last night as they discussed Bowe Bergdahl's pending trial and the deal the Obama administration made to get him back.

O'Reilly started off well. He said the deal made by the Obama administration, five Taliban commanders for one (alleged) deserter was far too great a price for the US to pay. I absolutely agree. Returning five of the enemy's top leaders who will, in all likelihood, return to the battlefield and kill Americans, in exchange for one soldier whom was known to have deserted his post and, if convicted, can be executed for it according to the UCMJ, was a bogus deal in favor of the enemy. (Much like the disastrous nuclear deal Kerry is putting together with Iran where Iran gets everything they want and we get nothing in return.)

O'Reilly went on to say that Bergdahl, regardless of how we got him back, should face court martial for the charges leveled against him - desertion and misconduct before the enemy. So far - so good. But the Bill left common sense behind and went out on his own. O'Reilly said Bergdahl has suffered enough and that if he's convicted he should merely be give a dishonorable discharge. Period.

Krauthammer, on the other hand, surprised in the opposite way. Krauthammer said it is so important to bring home soldiers that are overseas fighting for the USA that any deal would have been OK with him. In fact, he said he himself would have made the same deal as Obama if he was President.

Charles Krauthammer, as brilliant as he is, is apparently like some of the liberals out there who have convinced themselves that Bergdahl was still "fighting for the USA" and that "every soldier should be returned from the battlefield."

While the second part of that is true - every soldier should be returned from the battlefield - Bowe Bergdahl wasn't on the battlefield. Bowe Bergdahl abandoned his platoon and walked away seeking the enemy. Once he found them it seems he changed his mind about what he wanted. Bergdahl wasn't returned home from the battlefield. He was returned home from captivity by the enemy he sought out. He wasn't even a POW because he wasn't captured in battle. He went looking for them after he deserted.

Surprisingly, Krauthammer returned to his senses when it came to Bergdahl's punishment. He said Bergdahl should absolutely be prosecuted and, if convicted, should at least serve prison time. Good for you, Charles. but you're completely wrong about the deal.

It's obvious, even if I didn't already know it, that neither of these fine gentlemen ever served in the military. Veterans don't take too kindly to deserters, particularly in time of war. I don't know if Bergdahl is a coward or if he left for some other reason. His fellow platoon members have never said he is a coward - just a deserter. And his letters home didn't express cowardice - only disenchantment with his situation. From all accounts he left because he was simply unhappy.

As I stated yesterday - Bowe Bergdahl should be prosecuted to the full extent of the UCMJ. If found guilty he should serve a lengthy prison sentence - at the very least. As for the deal made by the Obama administration - that cannot be changed. And given his performance so far, I shudder to think what the final deal with Iran might be.

The Indiana Law - My Take

I watch in amazement as the liberal media leads the LGBT community around by the nose, making them believe that the new Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in Indiana is an anti-gay law. I also can't help but shake my head listening to people demand tolerance of their beliefs while at the same time telling another group of people that they will not tolerate theirs. Hypocrisy and hatred abound in the protests that are going on right now about the new law in Indiana.

Contrary to what is being spread across the headlines and web pages about the new law - it does not and will not legalize discrimination - against anyone. It actually protects a group of people from discrimination. Unfortunately, in today's America it's the wrong group of people.

This new law doesn't discriminate nor does it give anyone the right to discriminate. What the law says is that if you refuse service or refuse to provide a product to someone because their actions (such as same sex marriage) violate your religious beliefs you have the right to do that and the right to be heard and make your defense in court. You cannot immediately be judged guilty without a chance to defend yourself and your beliefs. It does not say businesses don't have to serve gays and/or lesbians or blacks or anyone else. It is strictly about a person's religious views and whether or not they must be respected and tolerated just like the other people who want respect and tolerance.

Would the law ever force a Muslim or Jewish deli owner to make and sell someone a ham sandwich? Of course not. It would go against their religious beliefs. Why hasn't the left and LGBT activists taken up that cause, I wonder? Because it reflects freedom of religion that doesn't effect them. That's extremely one sided thinking.

Seriously, does everyone realize just how few businesses this will probably effect? How many small businesses, bakeries, florists, photographers, in Indiana are owned and operated by Christians who will refuse to give service to a same sex couple? Nationwide I think there have been four cases. At least four who were sued. And two of them were sued successfully because the cases appeared before sympathetic liberal judges.
I'm amazed at how many people just don't understand that this is about tolerance in reverse. But I guess I'm not really amazed. The liberal left and the main stream media are lying with the intent to mislead America, just as they did about Barack Obama, Benghazi, the IRS, and as they're continuing to do about Hillary Clinton. And they're succeeding.

This law is about tolerance - only in reverse. It's about respecting people's religious rights to not agree with you about a controversial topic and to not be forced to accept and/or participate in what you do.

That's really the bottom line. The law is designed to prevent people with religious convictions from being forced to participate, against their deeply held religious convictions, in things that someone else does which violate those convictions. It's about tolerance of one's Christian beliefs.

And what is wrong with that?

The left and the LGBT activists want everyone to accept and tolerate same sex marriage. Many Christians believe the Bible specifically spells out that homosexual behavior is a sin. Those Christians feel very strongly that they should not, voluntarily or by court order, have to participate in same sex marriage. Yet there are some in the LGBT community, and some liberal judges, who insist that the rights and beliefs of Christians simply don't matter. Christians are being forced to participate, against their will, in same sex marriages or close the doors to their businesses.

The hatred and boycott of Indiana because of the misleading information being put out by the main stream media and the LGBT activists are a perfect example of liberal tolerance at its best. "You must accept and tolerate what I do and say but I will not tolerate what you do and say if it disagrees with what I believe" seems to be their motto.

The only real problem Indiana has right now is no specific law preventing discrimination against the LGBT community. If that community and the left want the governor to enact such a law that's what they should be demanding. This law isn't meant to discriminate against them. It is meant to protect the rights of religious groups to disagree with them. If you want another type of law for your protection then fight the correct fight.

The ignorance of truth in this country is absolutely amazing to me. Many people believe everything the main stream media puts out whether it's true or not. They don't research things to find the truth. They take in what the main stream media tells them then regurgitate it as truth. Is it any wonder the people twice elected a President who is so clearly anti-American and whose anti-American foreign policies could trigger World War III? Is it any wonder those same people want to elect a very obviously corrupt woman to replace him?

I worry about the country I love and served my entire adult life. I worry about her not because the current President is black, as the left would have you believe, but because in my opinion, after 30 years of work for the federal government, his policies are destructive to this Constitutional Republic. I worry because there are so many uninformed Americans who support what he's doing without understanding what he's doing. I worry because those same uninformed voters will try to elect Hillary Clinton, not because she'll be a good President but because she's Hillary Clinton.

I worry because President Obama has done everything he can do to alienate our allies and befriend our enemies, including Iran, whose leaders shouted "Death to America" as the Obama administration was attempting to forge a deal concerning their nuclear enrichment program. I worry because our closest friend, Israel, is being maligned by this President and has been threatened with abandonment by the Obama administration if they don't do what he wants.

I worry because so many people believe that President Obama has the best interests of the United States at heart - even after he began his first term by apologizing to the world for the United States of America.

2016 cannot get here soon enough.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Palm Sunday

The Bible says that on this day Jesus left Bethany for Jerusalem. His thoughts were on that holy city as He knew their future. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her!" the Lord said. "How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it."  (Luke 13: 34)

As He neared the city the scripture says Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying "Go ye into the village . . . ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither. And if any man ask you, Why do ye loose him? thus shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him." And as they were loosing the colt, the owners thereof said unto them "Why loose ye the colt?" And they said "The Lord hath need of him. And they brought it to Jesus."  (Luke 19:29-35)

As He rode over the top of the Mount of Olives and saw Jerusalem the Bible says Jesus wept over it.

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, "Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:41-44

Having recently been on the Mount of Olives and in the city of Jerusalem, this scripture means so much more to me. But I never really thought of what the above verse (Luke 19:41-44) meant until this morning as our pastor was reading it from the pulpit.

Jesus knew even then that the great city of Jerusalem was doomed to be destroyed because they failed to recognize who He was. Only 40 years later the City of Jerusalem was leveled; completely destroyed by the Roman army in 70AD.

Palm Sunday, as that infamous day is now called, was the day that many people celebrated Jesus' entry into the city of Jerusalem with hosannas; celebrating Him not a the Messiah but as the son of David who would lead them in a revolt against the Roman empire. He rode the colt of a donkey, one that had never been ridden, in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy in Zechariah 9:9. 'Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'

In Luke 19:37-40, Jesus came close to saying that He was indeed the Messiah.

When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives,the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!"

"I tell you,"
He replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."

The people knew not who He truly was and just five days later, in the wee hours of the morning, they would demand His death. 

to be continued.....

Is World War III Beginning?

Anyone who is paying attention knows what a complete failure President Obama is at foreign policy - at least sound American foreign policy. If he's doing the things he's doing intentionally, for another nation or for Islam, and the United States is not in his best interest, as many believe, he's doing a good job - for them.

Let's take a look at some of his foreign policy. Russian President Vladimir Putin has no fear of Obama or the United States. Just six years ago that wasn't true. Since Obama has been President Putin has invaded Ukraine, threatened to use nuclear weapons when and if necessary, and has been flying his bombers closer and closer to the US coast in recent months.

The United States has long had a treaty with Ukraine promising to protect them against Russian aggression. We have done nothing to protect Ukraine. Congress has called upon Obama to honor the treaty and at least send lethal weaponry to the Ukranian army so they have more capability to fight back. So far Obama has refused.

Recently, the Chechen President threatened Obama. (Ukraine is a part of Chechnya.) He said if Obama sends weaponry to Ukraine he would send aid to Mexico to assist them in taking back the territory the USA took from them (California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.) Not that it's a serious threat but it's clear no one in Russia and the surrounding territories has any respect for Obama.

Obama is supposedly fighting ISIS. He says he has a "60 nation coalition" helping him do that. In reality - there may be 4 countries in the coalition doing anything and what they're doing is more irritating to ISIS than deadly.

Jordan and Egypt launched attacks on ISIS after ISIS killed Jordanian and Egyptian citizens. (For Jordan it was a pilot who was burned to death and Egypts was a group of Coptic Christians who were all beheaded. Both nations launched retaliatory air strikes against ISIS - that were immediately criticized and condemned by President Obama because they were not part of the coalition strikes.

Wait....  what? There are nations out there who are now ready and willing to fight and Obama criticizes them because their attacks are not what he wants? Yeah - that makes sense.

In more recent developments, President Obama has begun negotiations with a longstanding enemy of the United States, Iran, on their development of nuclear material. The deal is so bad even France has criticized it. Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, went so far as to come to the United States to address Congress on how bad the deal was for the US and Israel. Saudi Arabia has also criticized it. And what did Obama do? He chastised those three nations for their disagreement with him and threatened to cut Israel off. Imagine that. Obama would toss Israel aside to make a deal with an enemy that to this day screams out "DEATH TO AMERICA!"

Now that Obama's "counter terrorism success story," Yemen, has fallen to Iranian backed terrorists, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have joined forces to fight against those terrorists. Both nations have launched air strikes against the rebels that are taking control of Yemen. They are also mounting a ground campaign. The United States has, so far, backed Saudi Arabia in their efforts but has said nothing about Egypt. But since Obama is trying to be buddy buddy with Iran and Iran is backing the terrorists (Houthis), President Obama must be having a difficult time right now.

The big problem here, the World War III problem, is that Iran is condemning Saudi Arabia and Egypt for their attacks on the Houthis in Yemen and saying that the two nations may be instigating a war in the region. If Iran goes to war against Saudi Arabia and/or Egypt who will Obama back? He's trying so hard to befriend Iran that if he backs our allies, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, his deal is gone. But if he backs Iran he has severed ties with our allies. Of course, he doesn't seem to have a problem with that given that Egypt threw his Muslim Brotherhood choice for President out and he has threatened Israel.

If the major Middle Eastern countries begin fighting each other it could easily trigger World War III. Iran, helped by a wishy washy and often lame Obama, will work feverishly and unchecked to develop a nuclear weapon. The interesting thing is - I believe they would use it first on Israel rather than Saudi Arabia or Egypt. Other nations would have to join in to prevent nuclear holocaust in the region. And Obama will probably sit back and watch, afraid to do anything, even though it will be largely his fault if it happens.

I his six years as President, Obama has gone about degrading America, reducing our military and reducing our status as the leader of the world. He wanted to be President but he wanted the job not to make America even greater but to bring her down. It's obvious in his words and actions. And there are so many liberal progressives in this country who want the same thing that it's scary.

World War III in the Middle East would be frightening as well. Israel, Pakistan and India all have nuclear weapons. Would one of them use one? How close is Iran to having a nuke? I have no doubt that they would use one if they had it. And that's what's so dangerous about Obama trying to make a deal with them. Nobody believes they will keep their word and not continue their nuclear development. It has been reported recently that the USA just learned of a secret, underground centrifuge facility that our negotiators are going to allow Iran to keep using. What kind of idiots do we have making these decisions if they are not being made for a deliberate reason?

Obama's efforts to appease Iran may be the single most dangerous thing he has attempted while in office. No one in their right mind believes Iran should be allowed to attain a nuclear weapon. But Obama's deal doesn't prevent that from happening. IF Iran was to follow the deal it would only delay it from happening for a few years. And that's not a good deal for anyone but Iran.

We can only hope that the other nations involved in the negotiations say no to Obama's poor deal. They're refusal to do what Obama wants may just save the world...

Saturday, March 28, 2015

New York Times: "Bergdahl's Desertion Should Not Be A Crime"

So says the New York Times and other liberals about Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. The Times says that the Army will have "a tough time explaining why it's worthwhile to prosecute a soldier that the Army recruited despite 'significant concerns about his psychological state' and who endured years of torture and privation during his captivity. As a general matter the American military has good reason to punish service members who desert. However, it should exercise discretion in extraordinary cases. Sgt. Bergdahl's is certainly one."

The Times acknowledges that Bergdahl is probably guilty of the charges but apparently believes that because of what he suffered at the hands of his captors, prosecuting him is just not fair.

"But trying him for desertion and misbehaving before the enemy - for allegedly engaging in misconduct that endangered his unit - stands to accomplish little at this point. A conviction would most likely deprive a traumatized veteran of benefits, including medical care, which he will probably need for years. A dishonorable discharge would make it harder to rebuild his life as a civilian."

That reasoning is so flawed that it is simply unbelievable to me. Bergdahl would never have suffered the torture and privation if he had not intentionally left his unit and gone out alone seeking refuge with the enemy. It was his choice after becoming disgruntled with the Army and the war. He wrote home about his intentions and was advised by his father to follow his heart. He didn't leave because he was mentally ill. He left because he didn't want to be in the Army anymore.

The Times cites other military members as having "a deep animosity for him. Some called him a coward and argued that he put troops in Afghanistan in harm's way as they devoted significant resources and energy to searching for him. This anger is understandable."

They conveniently left out the fact that 6 American soldiers died while on missions to find him. They believe Bergdahl has suffered enough, deserves his benefits even though he deserted, and should not receive a dishonorable discharge. They don't say he's innocent - they say what he did shouldn't matter.

What about those six men who lost their benefits when they lost their lives? They lost their ability to build their lives as civilians because they're dead - because they had to go out looking for Bergdahl. What about them and their families? Don't they deserve some justice?

I got to thinking last night, while watching news reports about Bergdahl, that something was odd about Obama's actions in this whole thing. They day the deal was made with the Taliban and Obama released five Taliban commanders from Guantanamo Bay for Bergdahl, there was a celebratory news conference in the Rose Garden at the White House featuring the President with his hands all over Bergdahl's attractive mother and his father speaking Arabic to his son.

A few days later, after some men who were in Bergdahl's platoon went public about Bergdahl's desertion, White House staff went on the defensive about the swap. NBC's Chuck Todd spoke about it:

“They did not expect this backlash on Bergdahl himself,” Todd reported on NBC’s “Today.” I’ve had a few aides describe it to me as we didn’t know that they were going to ‘swift boat’ Bergdahl. And that’s a reference to that political fight back in 2004 over John Kerry’s military service.”
Swift boat Bergdahl? These guys tell the truth about him (as did John Kerry's former military teammates) and Bergdahl is being swift boated? They had to do something. Obama's deception of the American people was becoming evident.

If Bergdahl's release was so wonderful why did the President not go meet his plane when he landed, with a full camera crew? Why did they fly him into the country secretly and not tell anyone where he was going until he was there? Why has the President of the United States not once acknowledged the six soldiers who died while out looking for Bergdahl?

Why? Because the Obama administration knew that the deal he made was flawed and illegal (he did it without the approval of Congress) and he knew from the beginning that Bergdahl was a deserter. And once the details about Bergdahl became public the American people (the thinking ones at least) were disgusted with the President's actions.

Should Bowe Bergdahl be prosecuted for desertion and misbehaving before the enemy? This eight year military veteran believes he should be prosecuted to the full extent of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Desertion is a crime against the UCMJ for a reason. If Bergdahl's lawyer wants to use mental illness as a defense - that's his option. But for the six men who died looking for him, for the guys in his unit he left behind to continue fighting, for the welfare of the United States Army and the entire military, for a US President who deceived the American people, and for the military veterans who expect all military members to live up to the oath that they voluntarily take - this court martial must take place. Period.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Hillary Clinton: "It Doesn't Matter How They Were Captured"

Such was Hillary's summation of the deal the Obama administration struck with the Taliban in order to gain the release of Bowe Bergdahl, who has now been formally charged by the Army with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

In June of last year Mrs. Clinton was interviewed by Diane Sawyer concerning her (majorly failed) book. Sawyer asked Mrs. Clinton about the Bergdahl swap and whether it was a good move on Obama's part.

"If you look at what the factors were going into the decision, of course there are competing interests and values," Clinton said. "And one of our values is we bring everybody home off the battlefield the best we can. It doesn't matter how they ended up in a prisoner of war situation.”

Really, Mrs. Clinton? It doesn't matter? And you want to be the next Commander-in-Chief? I guess your answer to the grieving parents of the six soldiers killed while out looking for Bergdahl would be "What difference, at this point, does it make?" Or perhaps you could simply lie to them and say "We're going to arrest the man who made that video," as you did Charles Woods, grieving father of Tyrone Woods, after the debacle in Benghazi that was very much your fault.

Bergdahl is an "innocent until proven guilty" deserter from a war zone. Unhappy with the Army and how they were doing things, he left his gun and his supplies and walked off into the night seeking the enemy. Local Afghani witnesses said he was asking how to find the Taliban. And without a weapon or supplies it seems pretty certain he wasn't out to kill them.

Bergdahl wrote home about his displeasure with conditions in his unit in Afghanistan before he left. (Reprinted exactly as written.)

"The future is too good to waste on lies," Bergdahl wrote. "And life is way too short to care for the damnation of others, as well as to spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong. I have seen their ideas and I am ashamed to even be american. The horror of the self-righteous arrogance that they thrive in. It is all revolting."

"The system is wrong. I am ashamed to be an american. And the title of US soldier is just the lie of fools. The US army is the biggest joke the world has to laugh at. It is the army of liars, backstabbers, fools, and bullies. The few good SGTs are getting out as soon as they can, and they are telling us privates to do the same."

"I am sorry for everything," he wrote. "The horror that is america is disgusting."

Those are not the words of a patriot serving "with honor and distinction," as Susan Rice said. Those are the words of a man who has become disillusioned with the Army and his situation - who then decided he was done with it. And he didn't legally have that option. (His father told him to "Follow your heart." Apparently he did just that.)

Yes, Hillary - it matters. The Taliban didn't get a deserter in exchange for a deserter. They got five of their top commanders released for our deserter. It kind of compares to Obama's "Cash For Clunkers" program - also a failure. We gave the Taliban cash (and that also may be true) and they gave us a clunker. 

Following the recent deal to restore relations with Cuba, Senator Marco Rubio said of President Obama “At minimum, Barack Obama is the worst negotiator that we’ve had as president since at least Jimmy Carter, and maybe in the modern history of the country.”

I certainly can't disagree. In fact - bad as they were, I would place Carter's negotiating skills above Obama's. Obama is perceived (correctly) by our allies and enemies as being very weak and having no leadership capabilities whatsoever. Vladimir Putin laughs at him. As do the Iranian leaders with whom Obama is negotiating a deal on nuclear development even as the mullahs are saying "Death to America." 

ISIS is laughing at him for his minimal response to their activities. Egypt and Jordan are scratching their heads in wonder as they receive criticism from a do-nothing Obama for their retaliatory strikes on ISIS.

The biggest problem with the things Obama is doing is whether he is incompetent or he is doing them intentionally. Many believe he is intentionally helping Iran, intentionally allowing ISIS to gain power, and intentionally downgrading America. He has increased hatred of America around the world while decreasing the size of our military and firing top military leaders who may disagree with him. He has alienated many of our allies and has threatened to downgrade our relationship with Israel, who has been one of hour best friends and allies since her rebirth in 1948.

The more I watch Obama the more I'm convinced that his actions are intentional and not incompetent. I saw Trevor Loudon speak yesterday evening. Mr. Loudon is a New Zealand author and political activist who has studied and researched our government extensively. His descriptions of Barack Obama's communist/Marxist ties, as well as those of the Democrat party, make one truly wonder about the future of America in Democrat hands. I have included a link to his blog page at the bottom.

My hope is that with a majority in the House and Senate we can survive another 22 months of Obama's continued failed (as far as America goes) policies and practices. Our brilliant founding fathers set things up in our government to prevent a President from becoming a tyrant. It is now time to test their wisdom.

If Obama is incompetent (which I don't believe), and our Republican elected officials get off their butts and act, Obama's negative actions can be thwarted. If they're intentional and Republicans act they can also be thwarted. But if they're intentional and Republicans continue to sit around and appease him and do nothing, our nation is doomed. And if another Democrat, or Jeb Bush, is elected to the Presidency in 2016 it could easily be the end of this great Constitutional Republic. 

Think about it...

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Church Should Not Work

In our Bible study last night we were studying the end of Philippians, Chapter 1. Near the end of the chapter, in verse 27, Paul says "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ."

Our pastor, Dr. Marr, made the bold statement that given all of the various personalities, opinions and spiritual gifts given to believers in the church, by human standards the church simply should not work. God gives each believer certain spiritual gifts they can use to promote the Gospel. No gift is exactly the same since no two people are exactly the same. Yet all of those personalities and gifts combine into one group in the church. It shouldn't work - yet it does.

He explained with the following analogy.

Imagine you're in a cafeteria, carrying your tray along the serving line and getting the foods that you're going to eat. When your tray is full you move toward a table but you stumble and fall. The tray goes flying - as does your food, landing all over the floor.

The person who has received the gift of helpfulness will immediately go to the closet, get a broom and a mop and begin cleaning up the mess. The person with the gift of compassion will check to see if you're OK, tell you that it's OK - it could happen to anyone, and say "Let's get you up and get you another tray of food so you can eat."

The person with the gift of mercy will cry real tears for you. "I feel so badly for you. I'm so sorry this happened to you. It just breaks my heart to see you suffer so...."

The person with the gift of evangelism says "This is what happens when you don't have Jesus in your life!"

The person with the gift of logic and order looks at the situation and says "I can give you at least three reasons why this occurred and how to prevent it from happening again."

And the person with the gift of prophecy will say "We really need to get some rubber mats placed here to prevent people from slipping because we're going to get sued one of these days if we don't."

Dr. Marr was quite animated as he got into it and it was humorous as well as informative. He got some laughs but people were paying attention.

He finished up by saying that in the church, all these different personalities and gifts are brought together as one. By human nature they should not all get along. But their faith in Jesus Christ holds the church together. Certainly there are exceptions when people try to run things instead of letting Christ do it. Some churches fail for that reason. But Jesus is the glue that keeps the faithful together.

The analogy was spot-on. I can't think of anything to add.

Defending The Undefenable - Bergdahl To Be Charged With Desertion

In a move that's got to be, at the very least, irritating to the Obama administration, the Army said yesterday they will charge Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl with desertion and misbehaving before the enemy. If convicted, Bergdahl could face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. And with that announcement the Army validated what many Americans already knew - the President of the United States aided the enemy by giving five of their commanders back in a trade for an American deserter.

"Was it worth it? Absolutely," State Department Airhead Spokesperson Jen Psaki said last night when questioned by Megyn Kelly. "We have a commitment to our men and women serving in the military, defending our national security every day, that we're going to do everything to bring them home if we can, and that's what we did in this case," Psaki said.

Really, Jen? "We have a commitment to our men and women serving in the military, defending our national security every day." That statement, in and of itself, is true. But you forget one minor detail when you say it in this case. Bowe Bergdahl wasn't serving in our military and defending our national security. Bowe Bergdahl walked away from the military and sought out the enemy. You have a commitment to do what's right for the nation first, above all else. Trading multiple enemy commanders for one deserter just doesn't live up to that commitment.

Let's take a close look at the trade. The Obama administration traded five of what are believed to be the worst of the worst Taliban leaders we had in our custody. Three of them have already made contact with terrorist organizations in attempts to reconnect.

The five men are bound at this time by a one-year deal with Qatar (a leading financial sponsor of terrorism in the region) but after that the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency says all he can do is warn his officers if they return to the battlefields at the end of that year. 

"I've seen nothing that causes me to believe these folks are reformed or changed their ways or intend to re-integrate to society in ways to give me any confidence that they will not return in trying to do harm to America," Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., a member of the House intelligence committee, said recently.

Military intelligence sources have said that "multiple options" were on the table in the Bergdahl case that did not involve the swap of the five Taliban leaders. The Obama administration made the decision to go forward with the trade. One cannot help but wonder why.

In return, we got an American back on American soil. That's really all we got. That American now faces life in prison for deserting his platoon and deserting America. The Obama administration also likes to ignore the fact that in the months following Bergdahl's desertion six of his platoon members were killed while engaged in "Personnel Recovery" missions, out looking for him. He didn't serve his country "with honor and distinction" as Obama's National Security Advisor, Susan "I Say Stupid Things On TV All The Time" Rice said during one of her Sunday morning news show rounds. He deserted in a war zone and joined up with the enemy.

I can't seem to place my finger on it but something about the trade just doesn't seem quite equal. Perhaps it's just me. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Where Is The Justice For Darren Wilson?

On August 9, 2014, Ferguson, Missouri, resident, Michael Brown, was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson. According to all reports, including the lengthy Justice Department report that had to have been difficult for Eric Holder to accept, Wilson's shooting of Michael Brown was justified because Brown, a very large young man, violently attacked Wilson inside his patrol vehicle, injuring him, then attempted to attack him again outside the patrol vehicle.

Before the day was over, an eyewitness to the shooting, Brown's friend Dorian Johnson, was on TV telling the media and the nation that Officer Wilson pulled Brown into the vehicle, shot Brown in the back as he was running away and that Brown was on his knees with his hands up when Wilson fired the fatal shot into his head. By his statements, Johnson was the originator of the "hands up - don't shoot" mantra that became a national slogan. Except none of Johnson's statements, except that he was there with Brown at the time, was true. None of them.

Other eyewitness testimony, combined with forensic evidence, proved not only that Brown's death occurred exactly as Officer Wilson said it did but that nearly everything Dorian Johnson testified to was completely untrue. So where are Wilson and Johnson now?

Officer Wilson, vindicated by the St. Louis County Police Department and the Holder Justice Department, was forced to resign from his job as a police officer for his own safety and that of his fellow officers. Dorian Johnson, after fabricating his story and lying to the grand jury about what really happened, was recently hired by the City of St. Louis to a temporary position.

According to the St. Louis Dispatch: 

Jeff Rainford, Mayor Francis Slay’s chief of staff, has confirmed that Johnson was hired under a state grant through the city’s Agency on Training and Employment, or SLATE.

Officials said he is doing work for the city. The job, listed as a temporary position, pays about $8.50 an hour.

Rainford said Johnson met the low income eligibility requirements for the hiring.

Well, isn't that special?

Darren Wilson, an honest and decorated police officer who did his job correctly and then told the truth about what happened, forced to resign while Dorian Johnson, a thug with a criminal record who was with Brown when he robbed the store and lied to the grand jury and to federal investigators, gets a job with the city government.

Why is Eric Holder not pursuing criminal charges against Johnson for lying to federal investigators? That is a crime. During my career with the Justice Department I knew several people who spent time in federal prison for lying to federal investigators.

I guess charging Johnson would be the final nail in the coffin of Holder's racially biased investigation into the Brown shooting. It had to be hard enough to admit Wilson did nothing wrong. But wait - he didn't actually say Wilson was innocent, did he? He merely said there was insufficient evidence to show that Wilson committed a crime (based on eyewitness testimony and forensic evidence.) Holder would never admit out loud that Wilson was right and justified in shooting Brown. Nor will he prosecute Johnson for lying to his investigators. Although Holder could use Johnson's lies to vindicate himself, saying Johnson's story was credible enough that the investigation was warranted, Holder would see it as an admission of biased incompetence, which is exactly what it was.

Darren Wilson will find another job, most likely as a police officer in a small, out of the way town where no one really knows him. The state of Idaho would seem to be a safe prospect.

I wonder if Dorian Johnson has any feelings about the fact that his lies helped force Darren Wilson into the unemployment line? If I had to guess I'd say probably not. Johnson had no conscience when it came to lying repeatedly about what happened that night. I doubt he even has a conscience.

Personally, I think Wilson should find a really good attorney, sue Dorian Johnson (for a chunk of that $8.50 an hour and for general purposes), Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson (for slander and character assassination), and Eric Holder for undue emotional stress caused by Holder's vigorous and biased efforts to prosecute a white man for the deaths of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin.

We all know what Holder's motivation was. If Darren Wilson looked like Barack Obama the investigation and interference by Al Sharpton would never have taken place. They wouldn't even have been considered.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Obama's Foreign Policy Failures

In 2011, thanks to the surge by the American military (that then Senator Obama voted against), the nation of Iraq was fairly quiet and stable. It had been so for nearly three years. The number of troops deployed to the country was being reduced and the terrorist network had been greatly diminished.

Enter Barack Obama's lack of sound foreign policy. In December 2011, President Obama made good on a campaign promise that he made to his liberal base and, against recommendations from all of his top military advisers, withdrew all American troops from Iraq.

During his 2012 re-election campaign President Obama said repeatedly that Al Qaeda had been "decimated." In an interview with David Remnick of the "New Yorker," President Obama was asked about the Al Qaeda flag is now seen flying in Fallujah in Iraq and in certain locations in Syria, suggesting that Al Qaeda hadn't been decimated after all. President Obama dismissed ISIS, calling them the junior varsity team.

“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” the President said. “I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.”

By early summer of 2014, ISIS had taken large areas in Iraq and Syria, including the Iraqi cities of Tikrit, Mosul, Baiji, and the Syrian cities of Abu Kamal, Tal Afar, and Aleppo. They have since moved to surround Baghdad and are slowly but surely moving toward Damascus. 

In September of 2014, President Obama was interviewed by NBC's "Meet the Press" host, Chuck Todd. To his credit, Todd actually asked the President about his comment referring to ISIS as the JV team.

Todd remarked that the way the President was now speaking about ISIS was "a long way from when you described them as a JV team."

"Was that bad intelligence or your misjudgment?"

The President decided to dance. "Keep in mind I wasn’t specifically referring to (Islamic State)," Obama replied. "I've said that, regionally, there were a whole series of organizations that were focused primarily locally, weren’t focused on homeland, because I think a lot of us, when we think about terrorism, the model is Osama bin Laden and 9/11."

Right. And if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor. Even Politifact rated the statement as completely false.

Obama launched some air strikes against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria but it's not a serious campaign. On average, the U.S. air forces are flying between 7 and 10 sorties (missions) per day against ISIS. During the war in Afghanistan sorties averaged about 800 per day. That's how you defeat an enemy, particularly if you're only going to use air power. 

Air Force pilots are frustrated with the lack of tactical information they could use to locate and destroy ISIS targets. Such tactical information is only readily available when we have ground forces in the area giving targeting information to the pilots. Since Obama refuses to put boots on the ground the pilots are "flying blind" in their words.

ISIS, Iraq and Syria - failure number 1.

Failure number 2 has developed just recently in the country of Yemen. In September 2014, President Obama and Vice President Biden touted Yemen as one of Obama's success stories in the Middle East. Last month they ordered the evacuation of the American embassy in Yemen due to ongoing terrorist violence. (Marines assigned to the embassy are rumored to have been ordered to destroy their weapons before boarding the plane.) Yesterday the President evacuated the rest of  United States military troops because of continued violence in the area. ISIS is claiming responsibility for the takeovers of various Yemeni cities.

Yet the White House continues to say that Yemen is a "template" for Obama's counter terrorism efforts.

"Yemen did serve as a template for the kind of strategy that we have employed and that we did employ," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said yesterday. Right Josh - because it worked so well, huh?

Yemen - failure number 2.

Obama and his minions have been having a temper tantrum since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu came to the United States, after being invited by Speaker of the House John Boehner, and spoke to both houses of Congress. The White House wasn't happy because neither Boehner nor Bibi asked for Obama's permission for Bibi to address Congress. Not that it's required. It's a courtesy. Congress can invite anyone they wish to address them - even foreign heads of state.

The invitation brought out all the ignorant liberals who proved they know nothing about the Constitution and/or the law. Citing a Logan Act violation, many demanded that Boehner be charged with treason for "breaking the law and inviting Netanyahu without asking the President." They demanded the same thing after six Senators sent a letter to Iran about the nuclear deal the Obama administration is working on.

These Constitutional geniuses don't quite understand that despite the power grabs made by President Obama recently, we have three equal branches of government. The House and Senate have as much right and authority to invite a foreign head of state to Washington as the President himself. As does the Judicial Branch, although I can't think of an instance when they would do it.

President Obama's attitude toward Israel and their Prime Minister has always been hostile. Despite assurances from both leaders that the relationship is as strong as ever, anyone paying attention knows that's simply not the case. Obama has been angry at Netanyahu since it was first announced that Bibi would speak before Congress without Obama's permission. 

Members of the Obama administration whined incessantly because Netanyahu didn't ask permission. They also said that Netanyahu's visit would undermine the President's efforts to attain a nuclear deal with  Iran. But that was the entire point of Netanyahu's visit.

The nuclear deal currently being negotiated by the Obama administration is dangerous to Israel and her people. It barely limits Iran's nuclear development, reduces sanctions against them before they comply with the deal (a good faith effort by a clueless President) and lifts the arms embargo against Iran. Republicans, along with many Democrats in Washington, say the deal is a win/win for Iran and a lose/lose for the United States and Israel. But the President is anxious to go through with it.

Obama is livid that Netanyahu won re-election - particularly after Obama's big push to unseat him. What's truly funny is that Obama really believed Netanyahu would lose and the main stream media rallied around the President (again). They were all surprised and offended when Bibi won in a landslide. 

Obama's puppeteer chief adviser, Iranian born Valerie Jarrett, has stated that Bibi "will pay a price for spitting in the President's face." Since Ms. Jarrett was born to Iranian parents one cannot help but wonder if her heart is in the right place when it comes to relations with Israel. Iran has been threatening to "wipe Israel off the map" for decades. And President Obama is helping them gain the strength to do it.

The Obama administration, in another childish tantrum, has threatened to re-evaluate our protective relationship with Israel, saying that Israel's resistance to Obama's two-state solution is undermining negotiations with the Palestinians. Obama continues to demand that Netanyahu make peace and give up territory to the Palestinians even after the Palestinian Authority aligned itself with Hamas last year - even as Hamas was attacking Israel from Gaza. President Obama denounced Israel's defense of itself when their military moved into Gaza to take out Hamas targets and end the attacks.

So why would Netanyahu and Israel even think about trusting Obama? I certainly wouldn't.

Obama's personal relationship with Netanyahu - failure #3

Obama's relationship with Israel - failure #4

Obama's one sided (the wrong side) nuclear deal with Iran - failure #5

Despite what he says, Obama's foreign policies have been a complete failure. The world is not safer, as Secretary of State John Lurch Kerry says. The world is more dangerous. ISIS is running wild in Syria and Iraq and threatening to take Europe and then the United States. (And they're not JV anymore.) Iran is quickly developing the capability for nuclear armament and Obama is assisting them. Vladimir Putin is doing whatever he wishes including flying reconnaissance missions near Canada and the U.S., invading Ukraine, and threatening to use nuclear weapons against his enemies if necessary.

Oh yeah... Obama vs Putin - failure #6

One can only hope that the United States and the world survive the next two years of Obama. His foreign policy practices are flat out dangerous to everyone - even Iran. Because if Israel believes Iran is on the verge of having an actual nuclear weapon they will attack, in spite of Obama and his demands. A nuclear armed Iran would be the strongest threat against Israel since Adolph Hitler. And Netanyahu will not allow Iran to be that threat. And rightly so.

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Jerusalem Post Script

One month ago today my wife and I left on our trip to Israel. I have documented that trip as well as I can in my "I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked" series, that came to a close yesterday. Except yesterday I remembered one more thing I needed to document.

I have no idea how I could have forgotten this final portion of the trip except that as I've been writing this series I have been using my photographs to remind me of what we did on which day, etc. When you see so many things in such a short time and have four or five of them crammed into each and every day things run together in your head after a while. As I was finishing up yesterday I remembered our visit to Yad Vashem. It's a story that needs to be told.

"And to them will I give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name (a "yad vashem")... that shall not be cut off." - (Isaiah, chapter 56, verse 5)

So begins the introduction on the Yad Vashem web page. What is it, you ask? Yad Vashem is a living memorial to the holocaust; a living memorial to the Jewish people who died in those camps and to those who survived. It is a living reminder of what can happen when evil rules the hearts and minds of men.

Also from their web page:

As the Jewish people’s living memorial to the Holocaust, Yad Vashem safeguards the memory of the past and imparts its meaning for future generations. Established in 1953, as the world center for documentation, research, education and commemoration of the Holocaust, Yad Vashem is today a dynamic and vital place of intergenerational and international encounter.

The museum is filled with pictures and artifacts from the holocaust.

Note in the bottom picture on the right - the piles of clothing that were stripped from the Jews before they were killed. There is a collection of hundreds of pairs of shoes in a case in the floor of one area of the museum.

There is another area of the museum where the floor is made up of actual cobblestones and railroad tracks from one of the towns in Germany. For the life of me I can't remember where - perhaps Dresden. But the stones and tracks are from an actual location where Jews were placed on trains to be shipped to the concentration and extermination camps.

Another room houses part of the frame of one of the box cars that carried Jews to Auschwitz. Some of the wooden shell is intact but not much.

There is a replica of the sign that was over the gate at Auschwitz that reads "Arbeit Macht Frei" - "Work Will Set You Free." Except that wasn't true. Jews were exterminated systematically by the millions in six death camps, all in Poland. They were Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor, and Treblinka. Of the 9 million Jews who lived in Europe at the time, nearly 6 million were killed by the Nazis.

In one section is a model of a typical living quarters in Auschwitz and in another an actual set of bunks.

There is a section dedicated to the people who were used for medical experiments at the hands of Josef Mengele and others.

There is a "Hall of Names" in which every known Jew who died at the hands of the Nazis is annotated - many with pictures. 

One section of the museum is a large building with the names of 21 (or possibly 22) Nazi camps on the floor. There were between 15,000 and 20,000 detention camps throughout Nazi occupied Europe but the worst were the 21 on this floor. 

When I was stationed in Germany in the early 80s I got the opportunity to visit Dachau, the small camp just outside Munich. (I say small only because it was small compared to Auschwitz. Most were small compared to Auschwitz.) Dachau had one building that was set up as a large shower. Jews were stripped naked and forced into the "shower" in large numbers. But there were no water lines connected to the showers. They were connected to poison gas lines. There were fingernail marks still in the walls where people fought to survive.

Once they were all dead the room was flushed with fresh air and the bodies were removed, either for burial in a mass grave or incineration in one of the two crematory ovens. 

There was a feeling of gloom and evil that hung over Dachau when I was there. I can't imagine it being any different today.

Finally, there was a positive exhibition. In one room, near the end of the main museum, was a tribute to those who helped save Jewish lives throughout the war. Oskar Schindler and Irena Sendler are two such people. (We passed the cemetery in Jerusalem where Schindler is buried but didn't have time to stop.)

As you make your way back around to the entrance building you see the Children's Memorial on your left. 

The Children's Memorial is underground. As you enter you hear the names of the approximately 1.5 million Jewish children being read out loud. As you go through the doorway you are in darkness. Once you round the corner suddenly there are what appear to be thousands of candles flickering. I'm sure it is done mostly with mirrors but it is quite impressive.

Yad Vashem is quite a moving experience. For most people the reminder of the evil that men do is sobering and powerful. For those who deny the holocaust ever happened I would tell you to go to one of the extermination camps and see it for yourself, then decide.

As we walked out through the entrance building Arden noticed something she wanted. It was a pin in the shape of an olive branch dedicated to "remembering the past and shaping the future." She bought two of them. I asked her who the other one was for and she said "It's for Yair." (Yair was our guide.) She wanted to give him something to thank him for being such a great guide and an all around good guy. I thought it was a great idea.

We got back on the bus and as we were driving back to the hotel Yair told us that sharing the museum with us was very significant to him. People's understanding of what happened to so many Jews during the reign of Hitler needs to be refreshed now and then. I must agree.

Arden gave him his olive branch pin and he was very grateful and said he didn't have one.

I hope I have told the story of Yad Vashem correctly. As I said, I wasn't allowed to take photographs that would help me remember things more accurately. I have used photos from their web page to recall as many things as I can - hopefully correctly.

Now my story is complete. Thank you to all who have waded through these 12 somewhat lengthy posts. I hope it was at least entertaining and that you were able to get something out of them - even if it's just a little Israeli history. If you ever have the chance to visit Israel yourselves I would highly recommend it. Ours truly was the trip of a lifetime.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked - Part 11 - Heading Home

Waving good-bye to Dr. Marr and the gang we headed out on the bus one last time. I forgot that Dr. Tolar was staying behind as well. He was meeting another group on Friday and was going to give them the same wonderful information that he'd given us. He was going to be in Israel for about a month.

We got on the freeway and headed West into the darkness. We were tired, happy and sad all at the same time. Even though we were anxious to get home we (Arden and I, anyway) didn't want to leave. Arden wanted to go back up to Tiberias and spend a few more days on the Sea of Galilee. That would have been OK with me - although I liked Ceasarea and the Mediterranean better.

As we drove out of Jerusalem we headed down in altitude from 2500 feet to 135 feet above sea level. Our ears let us know more than the road did.

The bus was fairly quiet. Yair spoke to us a couple of times but mostly he sat in his seat in the front and had a quiet conversation with David, in Hebrew. Others in the group talked quietly or napped. Arden and I had gotten up at 5am to make sure most of our things were packed and ready. I'm sure some others did the same thing. The ride to the airport was only about 45 minutes and it passed by quickly.

As we neared the airport Yair stood up and grabbed the microphone. I can't remember his exact words but he told us he truly enjoyed getting to know us and thanked us for the opportunity to show us his country and to tell us about his people. If it was an act he was good. But I don't think it was. Yair very much enjoys what he does and enjoys sharing his knowledge of Israeli history with others. We couldn't have asked for a better guide and we told him so. (He and David also received sizable monetary gifts from the group as well.)

The travel agency had a representative waiting for us to assist with our check-in. We got off the bus and said our good-byes to David. We took our bags and followed Yair and the agency representative inside. Once inside, Yair said his good-byes to each of us, giving each of us a hug. We were going to miss him.

We got our ticket/boarding passes from the kiosk before we got in line to go the counters to check our luggage. Before we could check our luggage we had to be screened by a security officer. Israeli security profiles people. They look at your tickets and passports and ask  you a couple of questions - judging your reaction and mannerism as much as your answers. They are very serious about airline security. They're very serious about security everywhere.

After our screening we got into another line to check our bags. We got to the counter, gave our tickets and passports to the agent, and I put our bags on the scale. My bag, which contained some of Arden's clothes as well as mine, was 9 pounds over the 50 pound weight limit. The ticket agent said I could either transfer some items to Arden's bag or pay $200 for the extra weight. I had to think about that one.... transfer some stuff or pay an extra $200...  Gee, what should I do?

I took the two bags, laid them on the floor and opened them. I took several pairs of my jeans, which were the heaviest clothing items I had, and stuffed them into Arden's bag. I also had a couple of plastic bags that contained rocks that I had collected from various sites on the tour. I moved them as well. When I closed the bags and put them back on the scale both were under 50 pounds. Whew.

By the time we finished with that everyone else in our group had already moved toward the gate. The agency rep (I cannot remember her name) bid us farewell (she had waited until we were finished) and we headed down the corridor to passport control. Between the ticket kiosk and passport control we had showed our passports 4 times. (To get your ticket you put your passport in the machine to be scanned.)

Next we had to pass through airport security before going to our gate. So we got in line again. We had to show our tickets and passports again before going through the metal detector. I emptied my pockets, put both laptops in separate bins, put my carry-on bag on the conveyor to be scanned, and stepped through the metal detector, which promptly went off. I realized I still had my belt on and stepped back through. I removed my belt and put it in Arden's bin and stepped through the metal detector again. Again it sounded.

The security personnel were beginning to look at me seriously. I patted myself down and discovered the problem. In the leg pocket of my carpenter style jeans was my cell phone. I took it out, stepped back through the metal detector, put it in Arden's bin with my belt, and stepped through again. This time I cleared it. I was glad because one of the security guys looked like he really wanted to search me. And the people behind Arden weren't liking me much by then.

I apologized to them for my absent mindedness and began collecting our belongings. When Arden got through the detector we headed for the gate which was, of course, the last one at the very end of a mile long corridor. There were four moving sidewalks between us and the gate. Three of them actually worked. I was carrying both carry-on bags to balance the load. They were both heavy. On the three moving sidewalks I put the bags on the railings so they rode along with me. I was really sorry when I got to the one that wasn't working.

Finally we got to our gate. Most of the others in our group were there. We had passed a few of them in the various shops along the way and saw at least one of them going into the restroom. Many of them were napping. It was almost 9:00pm by then and our plane was scheduled to depart at 10:40. But wait - great news! Our plane was now delayed until 11:30!

I needed something small to eat because I had to take some medication. And I needed water. So I went over the a little store across from the gate and purchased a bag of really good cashews and a bottle of water for about six bucks. It was an airport, after all.

Around 10:00 Arden wanted to go for a walk. Another couple from our group, whom we were sitting near, said they would watch our bags for us. We took advantage of it and walked all the way back to the security checkpoint then turned around. Without the two carry-on bags it wasn't all that bad. We looked in a couple of shops and took our time. We would, after all, be on a plane for over 12 hours in just a little while.

Eventually we wandered back to the gate and sat back down. We had about 20 minutes before we were supposed to board the plane. At least the departure time hadn't been delayed again. At 11:00 they finally announced that we were boarding. We got in line again and again showed our tickets and passports to get on the plane. We got lucky on that flight. We were in the last seats on the left side of the plane. There were only two seats instead of three so Arden got the window and I was on the aisle. The bathrooms and the galley were behind us. It wasn't bad at all.

I think we actually took off just before midnight.

I didn't want to watch a movie so i got out my book, American Sniper, and read it until it was time to eat. They served our first meal about an hour into the flight, when we reached our cruising altitude.

Arden had salmon croquettes and I had chicken and pasta - the same chicken and pasta I had on the way over. Salmon isn't my favorite and the chicken was really good.

After dinner I read some more and then tried to sleep. It didn't work out well. Even though I had been awake since 5am and it was now after 2am the next day, I didn't sleep well - perhaps 2 hours. I can never sleep on a plane. I told Arden that next time we were going to fly first class. The seats folded down into beds. Sure, it'll cost us several hundred dollars but hey - maybe I'll be able to sleep!

I turned on a movie, although I can't remember what it was now. I watched it and then got my book out again. We had now been flying for about six hours. How about that? Halfway to Newark!

The rest of the trip was uneventful. I read, watched another movie, dozed a little, read some more...  then, about two hours away from our destination they served us breakfast of eggs, fruit and coffee. The coffee was good.

Finally we were approaching Newark. We were supposed to land, originally, at 4:30am (EST) and our connecting flight was at 6:30. That was going to be difficult now since we didn't touch down until 6:10am Newark time. And we had to get our luggage and go through customs, then re-check our luggage. Fortunately for us (I guess) Newark had been blessed with a snow storm and our flight was cancelled. How great is that?

So while we didn't have to worry about missing our connection anymore, we did have to worry about getting home. We stood in line going through customs for about 20 minutes. Then we went to the United counter to arrange transportation to DFW. Fortunately for us they had a flight with enough seats - at 1:30 in the afternoon! There was a 10:30 flight that a few people were lucky enough to catch. Since Arden and I were in the very back of the 777 it took us a while to get out. We weren't so lucky. But at least we had a flight home.

It was 8am. We now had been traveling for 14 hours and we still had a 5-1/2 hour layover and a 3-1/2 hour flight to get to DFW. Then we had to pick up Arden's dog from where she was boarded before we went home.

We hung out at the gate for a while then, about 9:30, we decided to go get something to eat. Once again some of our kind group members said they would keep an eye on our carry-on bags and we wandered down the corridor to find a restaurant. We found a really nice, albeit small, place that was open for breakfast. But we didn't want breakfast. We had breakfast at 4am on the plane. Now we wanted real food. We asked the waiter if we could have lunch instead. He went to the kitchen and checked and returned with an affirmative answer. We ordered cheeseburgers and fries - good ol' American food. I had them put bacon on mine. No salad, no fish, no hummus. All beef cheeseburgers.

They were $20 apiece. Airport prices. But man, they were great!

Finally it was time to board our plane for Texas. Because of our last minute bookings on the flight, our group was scattered around the plane. Arden and I sat four rows apart, each in the middle seat. Other couples in our group were seated the same way. In fact, everyone from our group that I saw was in a middle seat. It wasn't worth asking someone if they'd trade. Who would trade an aisle seat or window seat for a middle seat in a sardine can?

But we were on our way. And everyone got on the plane - even those in our group who had been placed on standby. I think God had decided we'd had enough by then and helped us get home.

The flight to DFW was uneventful except after flying for 12 hours on the other flight it was just irritating. I just wanted to get it over with. We landed at 4:10pm.

We got our luggage fairly quickly and said our goodbyes to the group. Many of them had been unknown to us before the trip. But now we were friends and fellow pilgrims.

We were supposed to be in Fort Worth to pick up Allie before 5pm. There was no way we were going to make it. Arden called the vet, gave them a credit card payment over the phone, then called her brother and asked him if he would pick up Allie for us. He agreed. So we had to go to his house on the way home to get her dog. But that was OK.

The weather forecast said a winter storm was coming and was supposed to begin around 7pm. We picked up Allie, stopped and got Mexican take out (another food type you don't find in Israel) and made it home right at 7. We had our dinner, watched some news for a little while, and went to bed exhausted. Jet lag wasn't a problem that night. We left Israel at 3pm CST on March 3rd and arrived home at 7pm on March 4th. 28 hours of travel time. Sleep came quickly.

We awoke the next morning to this:

I was ready to return to Jerusalem....

I noticed as I wrote Part 10 that I didn't take any more pictures once the actual tour ended in Israel. No airport pictures, no group photos. Not sure why except that on the way back everyone was tired and we were missing some members.

When we arrived home, and for days afterward, both Arden and I said we'd not go back to Israel. We've been there and seen it and that was enough. Funny thing - as I began writing about the trip and Arden began reading about it, as I looked at the pictures we took to determine which ones would be included in each post, we both changed our minds. We definitely want to go back. The next time we will go with a group but will probably stay a few extra days on our own. That way we can go other places or return to those places where we felt we just didn't have enough time. Tiberias and the other towns on the North shore of the Sea of Galilee will be one of those areas. And I want to spend a day or two in Tel Aviv and a few more in Ceasarea.

If you haven't figured it out from my blog posts, I have no other way to explain how deeply being in Israel affected me. I feel profoundly different when it comes to my Christian faith and I have a new love and appreciation for Israel and her people.

I said in Part 1 that from the time we decided we were actually going to go the song "I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked" began to run through my head on a regular basis. Since our return it has been daily. Most of the time, when a son stays in my head for hours it's irritating. This one has been there for a month now and it doesn't bother me at all. If you're unfamiliar with it I've posted the lyrics below. Those lyrics now have personal meaning for me and I have pictures in my head (as well as my camera) of each place.

I walked today where Jesus walked,
In days of long ago.
I wandered down each path He knew,
With reverent step and slow.

Those little lanes, they have not changed,
A sweet peace fills the air.
I walked today where Jesus walked,
And felt His presence there.

My pathway led through Bethlehem,
Ah! mem'ries ever sweet
The little hills of Galilee,
That knew His childish feet.

The Mount of Olives, hallowed scenes,
That Jesus knew before
I saw the mighty Jordan roll,
As in the days of yore.

I knelt today where Jesus knelt,
Where all alone he prayed.
The Garden of Gethsemane,
My heart felt unafraid.

I picked my heavy burden up,
And with Him at my side,
I climbed the Hill of Calvary,
I climbed the Hill of Calvary,
I climbed the Hill of Calvary,
Where on the Cross He died!

I walked today where Jesus walked,
And felt Him close to me.

I would say that this concluded my series on my trip to Israel but I have one more post to compose. I completely forgot about it until today because I had no pictures to remind me. The last thing we did on Tuesday afternoon before returning to the hotel was go to Yad Vashem, the museum of holocaust history in Jerusalem. We were not allowed to take pictures inside it so I left my camera on the bus. I will include pictures with my narrative but they will be from the museum website rather than taken by me. 

If you are interested in holocaust history this was the place to be. I have been to Dachau and have seen and felt first hand what evil lived therein. Yad Vashem is the only other place I've been that gave me that same emotional feeling. That's why I can't exclude it.


Friday, March 20, 2015

I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked - Part 10

Tuesday, March 3rd, dawned cool but sunny. Our last day in Israel was going to be just as full as the rest of them. We had attended a meeting after dinner the evening before to discuss what we were going to do as far as transportation to the airport. Our tour was going to end early today - around 3pm - so we could return to the hotel and prepare for our trip home. The bus would leave the hotel at 7pm and our 12 hour flight was scheduled to leave at 11:30pm.

We climbed on the bus after breakfast (I still didn't eat the fish) and headed for the Southern wall of the old city. Near the Southeast corner lies the ruins of the ancient City of David, which is considered to be the origin of Jerusalem. It is being excavated slowly, hampered somewhat by the fact that the population of the area is mostly Arab.

As we neared the place we were to depart the bus we passed some excavation being done on the outside of the Southern wall.

We got off the bus a block or two up the street and headed on foot down a side street, arriving at the portion of the excavation that is now open to the public.

Inside were the ever-present olive trees.

The view of the Mount of Olives was impressive, as was the view of the housing area just on the other side of the Kidron valley.

But the secrets of the City of David were underground - or used to be.

The sign explains how the archaeologists dated the site from official document seals found during the excavation.

We headed down some steps to the bottom of the excavation. From here we could see how the homes were built into the hillside. Some of the foundations are original.

The City of David once looked like this (from the model of the old city in Part 9).

We headed back up to the top to watch a short video about the history of the city and the temple. On the outside of the wall was an almond tree. Arden had told me that in her Bible study class she had learned about the almond tree in Israel and how in the springtime it's the only tree that bears seeds (nuts), flowers and leaves all at the same time. Sure enough, it was as she said.

As we walked back up to the bus Arden wanted a picture of our guide and driver. David, our driver is on the left and Yair on the right. The Mount of Olives is in the background. There are not a lot of olives up there anymore.

Next we were headed back up Mount Zion to the church that is built on the very spot where Caiaphas lived. It is a Roman Catholic church called the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu and it is there where Christians and Biblical scholars believe Peter denied knowing Jesus.

We got on the bus and David navigated us through those narrow, crowded streets as he had been doing successfully for the last 7 days. We arrived safely at the church, located on the Eastern slope of Mount Zion.

The front door to the Church in Gallicantu (meaning rooster crows) was ornately carved and painted to depict the scene of Peter denying Christ.

The church itself is simple inside. It doesn't have all the ornate decorations like some of the other churches we had visited. There were murals on the walls, inside and out, depicting various scenes of Christ and/or Peter.

(On the outside wall)

There is a beautiful stained glass cross at the top of the dome ceiling. This picture doesn't do it justice.

The alter is simple yet elegant.

As you move down to the second level of the church you enter another small chapel that is built into the hillside.

Like everything else in Jerusalem, the house of Caiaphas was destroyed and built upon time and time again over the centuries. The old walls and many old rooms, some actual holding cells in the days of Caiaphas, have been uncovered. It is believed that Jesus himself may have been held here and scourged.

(The walls in this room have mounts believed to have been used for restraint)

Various signs throughout the church told us what things were and what had been discovered in the area by archaeologists. (Archaeology is a hard word to type.)

A sculpture of Peter in denial stands in a courtyard off the second level.

(Note the Dome of the Rock in the background)

My favorite thing about the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu wasn't inside. My favorite part was outside. There is an original stone stairway next to the church that was the original pathway from that area, very near to where the Upper Room was, down to the Garden of Gethsemane. These stone stairs, preserved and now protected, would have been the very stairs that Jesus traversed to and from the garden. There are two large wall plaques that depict Jesus going down to the garden and being brought back up to Caiaphas after His arrest.

These stairs were a highlight for me. Once again I literally walked where Jesus walked.

At the top, above the gate in the picture, are six steps that have not been enclosed. I knelt there and put my hand on one of the steps, literally touching a place where our Lord Himself had been.

The group gathered in a courtyard and Dr. Marr read the Biblical passage about Peter denying Christ.

Luke 22:54-62

54 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest's house, and Peter was following at a distance. 55 And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. 56 Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58 And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” 59 And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.

And here I was in the very place where it happened, on the very stairs that our Lord and His disciples had walked. That knowledge was overwhelming.

It was time to move on. We had one more stop to make - one more sight to see. 

There is a small garden just outside the city wall to the North that many believe is the actual place where Jesus was crucified and buried. It is appropriately named "The Garden Tomb."

Our Biblical history professor, Dr. Tolar, says that all archaeological evidence indicates that the site of Jesus' crucifixion was where the Church of the Holy Sepulcher stands today. And that may very well be. But the people at the Garden Tomb make a pretty good case for it being the site instead.

The place of Jesus' crucifixion was called Golgotha, which means The Place of the Skull." To the East of the Garden Tomb, outside the city wall, is a cliff that is at the very end of Mount Moria. In the face of that cliff is an interesting formation of caves and ridges.

Do you see it? 

This picture is from Google. Perhaps it will give you a better mental image:

From a distance, with some imagination, it looks like a skull. Could this be the hill atop which Jesus was crucified? 

In the garden itself is a tomb that many believe is the actual tomb that was used. It is cut into a hillside and would have been created by a wealthy man, such as Joseph of Arimathea. 

On the wall outside the tomb is a cross that was etched in long ago. You can barely see it today because of erosion but it is there.

Inside the tomb is a picture on the wall of what the cross actually looked like.

In front of the tomb is a trough that would have held the stone. The doorway into the tomb is larger than it would have been but chisel marks on the doorway itself indicate that it was enlarged after the fact. 

Inside the tomb were two slabs where bodies would have been laid. In Biblical times a dead body was placed into a tomb until it completely decomposed (I believe it was for three years) then the bones were collected and either buried or, if it was a family tomb, placed in a specific part of the tomb so the slab could be used again. 

The very significance of Jesus being placed in the tomb was that on Sunday morning the stone was rolled back and the tomb was empty. 

The Bible says when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary arrived at the tomb an angel was sitting on the stone which had been rolled away from the opening. It was at that moment that the prophecy was completely fulfilled.

"He is not here whom you seek, but go quickly tell His disciples and Peter that Jesus has risen," the angel said to them. "Come and see the place where the Lord had been laid."

The empty tomb is what ensured that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh. Had He still been in the tomb he would have been just a man. His resurrection is what made Him the Savior of the world.

The garden itself was beautiful and there were many things to see. 

(This tree was cut in the shape of a cross)

Various Bible verses were printed on tiles and scattered throughout the garden.

(A fountain in the rock)

(An ancient wine press)

(And a prayer for peace)
(Keith - our official photographer)

Doctor Marr had arranged with the tour company for a private communion service here in the garden. It was the thing that affected me the most during the entire tour.

Sitting in this place, knowing whether our Lord was crucified and buried here or at the other place He did it for me; reminiscing about everything we had done and seen over the last 8 days; walking in the very places where Jesus Himself walked... was overwhelming to the point of tears. I couldn't stop them. I can't write it now without the emotion returning.

I sat quietly with tears streaming down my face as Dr. Marr distributed the bread and the cup(s). I have participated in numerous communion services in my lifetime but never one as meaningful as this one. I don't know if that's good or bad. I suppose they should all be that emotional considering what it means. But there was something special about this one. Something reached deep into my heart and held it....

When we were done we sang a hymn and Dr. Marr invited us to sit and ponder what it meant to us. I was way ahead of him on that one.

Eventually we headed back toward the bus (by way of the gift shop. Did I tell you there was always a gift shop?) Just outside the gift shop on the wall of the building I took a picture of another relic. It didn't date back to Biblical days but it was an antique, nevertheless.

With that it was time to return to the hotel to pack and prepare for our trip home. Dr. Marr decided he might like to drive the bus. Fortunately for us - he was persuaded not to do it...

We arrived at the hotel and stuffed all of our things, including purchases, into our luggage and our bags were picked up by the hotel bellboys at 6pm. We would catch up with them in front of the hotel before they were loaded on the bus.

The dining room allowed us to eat early that night, at 6pm, so we could be on the bus for the airport at 7pm. Our last meal in Israel. The good thing - there was no line. The bad thing - it was our last meal in Israel. 

I ate some hummus. I like hummus anyway but it was served with every meal. But I ate it anyway. (I have been home now for 16 days and haven't had any...) I can't remember anything else that I ate that evening but I did eat hummus.

It was time to leave. Dr. Marr, his wife Tanya, Julie, his secretary, and our photographer, Keith, stayed behind. Dr. Marr wanted to get pictures and video of various things to use in some upcoming sermons. I offered to stay and carry his bags but he said Tanya was responsible for that.

We hugged them all and thanked Dr. Marr for an incredible experience. We waved good-bye and our last bus ride began....