This IS What I Am About

I am old!

Don’t believe it? Well, the first two ships I served on in the Navy were made of wood. (Of course, they were minesweepers and needed wood instead of steel so as not to detonate magnetic mines.) Seriously, in retrospect, my life was-and in some ways still is-the Navy.

I joined twenty one days after my 17th birthday and served as an enlisted man for seven years on active duty and in the Navy Reserves. I loved every second of my service…even the bad ones. About four years after receiving my discharge, while driving down the road, my then wife said to me, “Kenny, I’m tired of competing with your other woman.” To be blunt, I couldn’t believe my ears. I was completely faithful to my wife.

“What are you talking about?” I shouted, quite agitatedly. “You are the only woman in my life!”

“No,” she said. “You have another. It’s the Navy. And I cannot compete with her.”

Six years later, with her agreement, I was commissioned an Ensign in the United States Navy Reserve as a Theological Student Program Officer. For the next twenty years I served proudly, and thankfully, members of the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines. I even had a short stint with the Army!

It was a contentious time. Political Correctness was the buzz phrase, even in the Chaplain Corps. The Chief of Chaplains travelled the globe having serious discussions with Chaplains about their demeanor, their interaction with personnel not of their particular faith group, even how they should pray in public.

Today, I’m sure things are much different than when I retired in 1999. But one thing remains constant. Faith. No matter what is going on – good, bad, indifferent – faith is the foundation for life.

Why am I writing this in an “About Me” column? Because what you just read IS about me. Also, it’s what I am about.

I am a husband, a father, a grandfather, a retired chaplain and church pastor. I am a writer. I am an American Patriot and Vietnam combat veteran. I am 100% disabled due to my experiences in Vietnam. I am 71 years old and have basically been set aside by society to shrivel up and die. But I’m far from ready for that.

My life belongs to God. As long as he allows me to walk this earth, I will strive to learn and grow and contribute.

This IS what I am about.

Celebrities in South Viet Nam

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While serving in South Viet Nam (for those ignorant of history, there used to be such a country), I saw several US celebrities pass through my little domain. Hank Snow, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Martha Rae, John Steinbeck and a few others. They, for the most part, were more than happy to see us, to be among us, To cheer us on. But not all. One, in particular, appeared to me, at least, to be more interested in himself. John Steinbeck.

It was sometime in late summer or early fall – monsoon season. Our base was situated on a river with a 15 knot current at ebbtide. The water level at full tide was quite high, nearly to the brim of the river bank. During monsoon, the water was easily 3 feet above flood stage and flowing rapidly. Of course, when the rain stopped and the tide fell, the ground was muck. Pure muck. Quick’muck’ at that.

We built walkways to get around the base since it was nearly impossible to walk in the muck without getting stuck. When stuck, the more you tried to extract yourself, the deeper you went. Politely, it was a mess!

One morning, I was walking on the concrete walkway. As I turned a corner cautiously, I almost bumped into a man walking briskly toward me on a walkway barely wide enough for passing. The first thing I saw was his deck shoes, then bare legs and khaki Bermuda shorts. Looking quickly up, I saw a pair of aviator sunglasses and, immediately above, a blue cap sporting four stars. I immediately, without thought or hesitation, jumped backwards, landing straightlegged in the quagmire beneath. I went in to my knees while trying to salute.

To my complete surprise, when I looked up, I discovered this gentleman was not a 4 star general, but a civilian, with a US Navy captain, and others tagging along behind. Not only did this man not give me even a glance, the officer did not return my salute, which by this time I was struggling not to convert into the one-finger version. They kept on walking, leaving me to figure out how to extract myself from this dilema. It was later I learned who this distinguished person was. One of my favorite authors.

I learned at least four things that morning.

1. Never jump backwards into muck
2. 4 stars do not mean anything when worn by a civilian
3. A silver eagle means nothing on the collar of a tag along
4. Disrespect is just that. Disrespect. No matter who exercises it or why.

I lost my respect for the man that day. To this day, I have not read a single thing he has authored. I also lost my respect, as an enlisted man, for senior officers. Rather, I should say, from that point on to have my respect was to earn it first.

That was a long time ago. Nearly 50 years. I think it’s time to let go. Afterall, of the half dozen or so in Mr. Steinbeck’s party, I am probably the only one left around.

Honestly, as I consider it, was it really worth carrying all these years? Did it recompense me for the humiliation, embarrassment and anger? Did it change anything at all? Probably not…except for in me. If I had let it go then, I wouldn’t be struggling with the memories now.

©Kenneth Pepper 2016

The Right – and Freedom – to Choose

“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. (Jn 3:18 NLT)

Most people recognize John 3:16 (if you don’t, take a minute and read it.) Few know the following verses. In this segment of scripture, Jn 3:16 -21, is hidden one of the most fundamental truths of the Bible: choice, the exercise of free will.

This isn’t because God intends it to be hidden, it is because most of us don’t (were never taught) the deep meanings of our own language, whichever one that may be. We make conscious and unconscious use of our right to exercise free will (to make choices) almost second by second. 

When God decided (chose) to create, he exercised free will. He was not required to create. He wanted to. When he created Human (a pronoun), he chose to make a creature in his likeness (like him, not equal to him – nothing ‘created’ has the ability to be equal to its creator.) This means Human was give the attributes of godliness, which included ‘free will’, the ability to choose.

You and I also have the attribute of creativity. We can (are able to) choose to “make” things, to cause things to happen. The commedian Flip Wilson used the punchline, “The devil made me do it!” in many jokes. The fact is, the devil can’t make us do anything. God can make us do “it”, but he doesn’t because he gave us the ability to do things our self through exercising our ability to chose.

We see this in Jn 3:16 – 21. It isn’t so obvious because the translation from the original language in scripture to English and other languages does not include the intent known by those who spoke those languages. The translation of the verbs (action words) into english, for example, must be expanded to comprehend the full meaning (like looking up a word in an unabridged dictionary).

Using Jn 3:16 as an example: “God so loved the world, he gave [chose to give] his only begotten son, that whoever believes [chooses to believe] in him has everlasting life.” 

It is clear in scripture Jesus is the “lamb slain before the foundation of the world”. When God decided to create us, he also decided to sacrifice in order for us to have a path leading to eternal life with him. He chose to do this. He chose to make this Path available to us. But he did not choose to force us to walk this Path. He left this choice to us. We can choose his way or our way. It is strictly up to us. But only one way leads to God.

This is explained, using the understanding of the verb tenses as just explained, in Jn 3:17 – 21. Verse 18 is like a summary: “There is no judgment against anyone who believes [chooses to believe] in him. But anyone who does not [chooses not to] believe in him has already been judged for not believing [choosing not to believe] in God’s one and only Son.”

This is reinforced by what is written in James 4:17, “Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” (NLT) Choosing not to believe (to acknowledge and accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior), is a sin, The only thing that can remove us from our sin is the Blood of Christ, and the only way that sacrifice can deliver us is by our exercising our free will, and choosing to acknowledge and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

PS: If you think, “A loving God would never send anyone to hell,” you’re correct. God never sends anyone to hell. He has given us the right to choose that path for ourselves, the same as he has chosen to give us the right to choose the Path to him.

“If you openly [choose to] declare that Jesus is Lord and [choose to] believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing [choosing to believe] in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring [choosing to declare] your faith that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who  trusts [chooses to trust] in him will never be disgraced.” Romans 10:9‭-‬11 NLT

What Can Separate Us from God’s Love?

No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:39 NLT
http://bible.com/116/rom.8.39.NLT

This verse tells us what ‘cannot’ separate us from the Love of God. That being the case, is there anything that can? Yes!

In Jn 3:18 (NIV) we read, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

Literally it says, “Whoever [chooses to believe] in him is not condemned, but whoever does not [choose to] believe stands condemned already because they have not [chosen to believe] in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

There is one, and ONLY one, thing that can separate us from God’s love. US. You. Me.

This does not mean God loves us any less – Jesus still died for us. It means we have ‘chosen’ not to be contained within His love and grace, but have chosen an existence of eternal separation.

However, no matter what, until our dying breath, we can ‘choose’ Jesus. We can choose God’s love and grace. We can choose to be eternally with Him.

Get Real, People!

Ever notice how certain words cause immediate emotional reactions in you? Many cause not only an intellectual response, but also physical. To make a sound, to move part or all of the body. To twist, turn the head, to grown, gag, and so on.

Logically, it doesn’t make much sense. Emotionally, the word can bring pleasure, surprise, reversion, confusion. But why? Words are words, right? Maybe so, maybe not.

Words paint pictures. Each person’s picture is predicated, embellished, moderated, magnified, minimized by beliefs, cultural norms, education, upbringing, experience. The amazing thing is, a word is totally neutral. It’s what we bring to it that makes the difference.

As i considered this, I began thinking about the word appendage, “- ate”. I don’t remember why, but I began writing down these words as they came to mind. Within a relatively short time, without trying hard, I had 37. Each one, to some degree and in some fashion, emoted varying responses. Pictures, sounds, smells. I told myself, “OK. Nice exercise, but so what?” And I moved on to something else.

That was several months ago. Today, I came across that worksheet. I had forgotten about this little exercise, and began wondering about it again. I read each word. As I did, I began sensing what I had before.

I looked up the suffix, “- ate” in the dictionary. What I found made the fog clear. These – ate words ‘make’ verbs out of nouns. They create adjectives. Of course! I had discovered the “why” of my conundrum.

A noun is a person, place or thing. An adjective is a modified noun, giving emotion to a noun, bringing it to life. The brain no longer perceives an object, but an activity. The noun comes to life.

Examples: pontif – pontificate; gravity – gravitate; number – enumerate.

Without this ending, we would be unable to express ourselves. We would reside solely in a black and white, static world. A life without an existence. Just think. How bad off would we be if we only had “urine”, but not “urinate”!

Of course, we naturally ‘do’ the action which would occur if we had no language to express it. The point is, until expressed, there is no way to bring that noun to life in the mind, heart and spirit. This is our job as writers.

No matter how hard we might try, it would be impossible to explain anything if we had no adjectives, if all we had were nouns. We would never succeed in bringing a story to life.

The greatest story in history would be a mere compilation of facts. Details. Statues on a page. Only adjectives bring the dynamic. Only adjectives give life to a writer’s message.

When you write, be always mindful of your nouns and verbs. More so, carefully choose your adjectives. These are the words that bring depth, dimension and color. They are what grabs the reader, bringing a bunch of cold, objective facts to life.

Adjectives bring a story to life. They create what could become an intense, meaningful, memorable message. A story that makes a difference. A story readers carry with them, that encourages them to share with others.

Adjectives make a story real.

©2016 Kenneth Pepper

The Manger

image Lord God,

This morning I talked to you. I realize you know everything there is to know about me to begin with, but I tried opening myself to you anyway.

My heart was heavy, I was confused, depressed and pretty much directionless. I made the mistake of not taking time to try remembering what I said and write it down – even though, as I was talking with you, I felt I should do this. But by the time I got home I had forgotten. As usual.

All I know is things have gotten worse. I chose the wrong time, the wrong way, the wrong words, the wrong attitude when I talked to Mary. As usual. I try to help, but I only hurt. I try to clear things up, but I only make them muddier. I try to show concern, but it always comes out as criticism.

What has happened to me? What is happening? What ever happened to the man I was? Or was he just a fantasy, a figment of my imagination, a lie that I lived to avoid seeing the truth about me? About who I really am?

Years ago, I discovered the thing that hurts me the most is betrayal. Being betrayed. Now I am wondering if it hasn’t been me betraying myself all along. Lying about myself. Lying to myself. Denying the real me.

But who am I, Lord? Who am I? What am I? For that matter, why am I? Why do I even exist, take up space? I don’t even deserve the right to take up the space it would take to stuff my body into the ground.

I get in the way, I talk too much…do too little. I don’t attract, I repel. I am an embarrassment to you and a burden for others. I am the perfect example of how a Christian should not be. Not an example of you, not an example for others. Only an example of how, who, what and why a man should not be.

Maybe that’s the answer. Maybe I should not be. No one will miss me when I’m gone, they don’t even think about me now unless it’s with irritation, anger or resentment. They’d be better off if I didn’t exist. If I was out of their sight, out of their life, out of their mind.

Forgotten. Remembered no more. As if I never existed.

What good am I anyway? What am I good for except to be a loadstone around their necks? Someone to tolerate, to endure, to suffer through my being in their presence. In their lives. They will be relieved when I’m gone. Good riddance!

Maybe even the saddest part is that, as I am writing this, I feel nothing. Not in my head, not in my heart, not in my soul. I’m dead already. Too stupid to stop breathing. Too numb and dumb to just fall over and cease….

Forgive me Lord, please forgive me. I have ultimately failed you in every way. On every quarter.

I’m even too stupid to know what to do.

Forgive me. Please forgive me.
Amen.

A Christmas Wish — and an Apology

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas! May it be a day of blessings and great memories.

I also wish to thank my followers for showing interest and, at the same time apologize for being off line for so long. My wife and I have experienced several setbacks over the past few months in our health and finances.

Jesus said, “Worry over nothing, only evil comes from it.” Unfortunately, I have not been a good practitioner of this advice. I ask for your indulgence and pardon.

I will be posting a Christmas short story today. It’s a bit long for a blog, but it’s kind of an introduction to a book blog I am considering. Please feel free to comment, and also to share.

Merry Christmas!

Ken

Authenticity in Writing: Scene Description

Charlesaznavour10

“Oh-me, oh-my, oh-you

Whatever shall I do

Hallelujah, the question is peculiar

I’d give a lot of dough

If only I could know

The answer to my question . . .”*

should I ask or let it go?

I was in combat. I know what it’s like to enter intentionally into an area of a potential firefight. I also know what it’s like, in a sudden, unanticipated situation where the bad guys have you cornered and you have no idea what will happen next.

In the first scenario, I wore what was the closest thing we had for body armor. A Kevlar flack jacket. And it was not designed to stop a bullet. The second situation I was in civilian clothes, which obviously would not even slow down, let alone stop “flack”.

When I see the stuff our modern day warriors and police have, I’m envious. If only . . . .

With modern body armor, things for many in my time might have been much different. Ours didn’t do much more than give us a good case of heat rash. If we had that stuff, you can bet we would have worn it to the potty.

This is where my conundrum develops. At least with movies and TV. Each time I see this, I immediately begin scolding the idiots for their . . . idiocy. It has to do with law enforcement officials (cops, FBI agents, etc.).

20130718-05b7473771741ce3f3ca5b207fab28b559ad7c0ccf27a7295bb6a8e-1024

I am appealing to those of you who use SWAT units in your stories. Maybe I’m being too picky about reality in writing, but I can’t stand it anymore. I have to ask:

When non-SWAT team members accompany SWAT teams into a potential firefight, how do they dress? What do they really wear to protect themselves, and what position do they take in the assault?

I continually see, usually not as often, the Tagalongs with no body armor at all. Most often, they wear what appears to be a glorified flack jacket but nothing else. Meanwhile, the SWAT team is armored head to toe, wearing eye and hearing protectors and gloves. Also, the non-SWATers usually lead the assault.

What’s up with this? Are they supposed to be human shields to protect the SWAT team?

This is how it seems to me it should go down:

1. The non-team members stay in the rear until notified by the SWAT leader the area is secure. Then, and only then, they may enter, wearing no less than eye and ear protection, and real body armor.

2. The non-team members accompany the SWAT unit. Those officers/agents directly involved in the takedown, wearing SWAT gear, helmet, eye/hearing protection, full body armor, gloves follow directly behind the team. They are armed and ready but do not engage unless absolutely necessary. The Team leader is the boss.

Even when we inserted Green Beret A-Teams or SEALS, while aboard the patrol boat, the crew fought the boat. Not the passengers.

So, I ask you, which is correct? The movie version, or what appears to me to be appropriate and correct? If I should ever write a novel involving such a situation, I want to portray it accurately.

Your input is requested and will be appreciated.

Ken Pepper

Credits:

* Photos:

Muppets – Charles Aznavour

SWAT Team – Google Images

* verses borrowed from song, “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose it’s Flavor”

Shared from “authenticdreamer”

I.N.D.E.P.E.N.D.E.N.T. – http://wp.me/p5XxHm-1R

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    I.N.D.E.P.E.N.D.E.N.T.

An Independent Woman.

Something to aspire to?

We sing songs about it, wear the badge proudly, teach our daughters….

Independent.

Where exactly, in the Word, is this concept?

(Hint….it’s not!)

In the world, yes.

In the Word, no.   It’s not in His plan.

It’s a lie. A lie we have bought in to hook, line and sinker.

We are told and taught we should not  depend on any man. And that much is true…to some degree.

Our dependence should be on God.

Not on any man….at least not in full.

And definitely not on ourselves.

Not a popular opinion, I know. But not just my own either.

It is the way God created us…wired us.

And listen, this is coming from a single mom who raised three kids with precious little help from any man. I was forced to pick up slack. I had to juggle more than I ever thought possible.

Was it stressful? Hard? Completely overwhelming?

ABSOLUTELY!

And why?

Because I was not created to carry such a load by myself! 

What an incredibly free-ing moment when I finally saw that I was not a failure!

What is failed is the notion that any woman can—and should—aspire to ‘do it all.’

Go ahead, grit your teeth and tell me I’m trying to set women back to the dark ages.

I will politely disagree.

I’d like to see us catapult into a ‘light age’—where dark lies no longer hold us hostage and men and women know the roles for which they were created, and live in them.

Men…..Husbands love your wives as Christ loves the Church.

Women….Wives submit….

Oh….OH…..wait! Oh, that word! THAT. WORD. Submit! Submit!?!?!

We have become so afraid of that word!

It has become a ‘bad’ word. A bad idea. A bad joke. Just bad….

But wait….Who said we should submit?

Only the One who created us. The One who never changes. The One we say we are submitting to…..

The hard truth is we can’t pick and choose what we will submit to when it comes to following God.

It’s all or nothing. Hot or cold. No double-minded-ness. No lukewarm-ness.

We can follow God or we can follow culture. It’s a choice we have to make every single day, in many areas.

I am a single woman. I am not dependent on any man.

I am also not independent. I am not dependent on myself. (I’ve tried it. It’s exhausting and ultimately futile!)

I am not ashamed or afraid to tell you I am completely, utterly, desperately dependent on God.

I submit to Him. Because I trust He knows best….

AUTHENTICDREAMERSEPTEMBER 25, 2015

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