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Cell Phones for Soldiers

My son got a new cell phone for Christmas. Even his old phone was better than the ancient one I carry around, so I'm upgrading to his.

I thought I'd find out if I could donate my old phone to an organization that benefits military members. Sure enough, right away I stumbled onto the website for Cell Phones for Soldiers.

The group accepts gently used cell phones (and accessories like chargers) through drop boxes or by mail. They recycle the phones and turn the cash they get for them into calling cards for troops.

On the website, you can print out a mailing label. You can even link to a program that erases data like stored phone numbers from your phone before you donate it.

If you got a new phone for Christmas, please consider giving your old one to Cell Phones for Soldiers. You'll be making a great call!  Read More 
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Christmas prayers for the deployed

The executive director of the Christian Missionary Alliance's chaplain endorsing agency, Rev. Robert W. Collins, II, Chaplain (LTC), U.S.Army(Ret.), sent me this message about praying for deployed troops during the holidays. Thank you, Chaplain Collins, for sharing these thoughts and prayers with us.

"Christmas can be a particularly difficult time for military families. Many are serving at installations far from home, family and friends. Others have a loved one deployed, making it hard to focus on the 'reason for the season' as they anxiously mark the days until their family member's return.

In addition to the pains of separation during the holidays, many National Guard and Reserve families experience reduced income while the breadwinner is deployed, making gift exchanges problematic. Deployed personnel have limited opportunities to shop, and gifts sent to them are subject to customs limitations, and must be mailed by late November or early December to arrive by Christmas.

The absence of a parent or other family member during the holiday season invariably dampens the joy of a family celebration of the Savior's birth, and many military families opt to delay 'Christmas' until the return of their loved one.

Churches can help mitigate the 'holiday blues' for military families by reaching out to encourage and involve them in holiday activities to ease some the stresses they face.

Remember our deployed troops in your prayers during the upcoming holidays. Here are some specific requests you can make on their behalf.

- Lord Jesus, as we celebrate your birth this Christmas, may we also remember military families who are separated by the requirements of their service.

- Blessed Savior, be especially with those women who, like your mother Mary, may be giving birth over the holidays, yet can not fully enjoy the experience because their husband is deployed.

- Gracious Lord, bless and protect those who defend our nation in distant lands during this special time, and give them the joy of the season even though they're away from home and family.

- Heavenly Father, shower our chaplains with your grace and bless their ministry of presence as they remember your son's birth with the troops. Read More 
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It's an iBook!

I just learned from my publisher that Miracles and Moments of Grace is available as an iBook in the iTunes iBookstore. (Say that three times fast!)

If you have an iTunes account, you can download the free iBookstore app and find the book under its title or my name. For those who already have an account, the link is here.

The book received a lovely review over the weekend from a reader identifying herself only by her initials, CBW. In part, she says, "What a beautiful, insightful, inspirational book.... We have all seen news reports of wars, and the fighting in other countries, but not much of the behind-the-scenes happenings. This book gently takes us there, showing the commitment, dedication, and faith of our soldiers and clergy.... This book would make a wonderful gift, for others, and for yourself."

I'm honored by CBW's review, and I appreciate the fact that she mentions giving Miracles and Moments of Grace as a gift. That's something I always had in mind while I wrote the book. I think the book would be a great gift for a member of the military, or for families of those serving. In writing the book, I wanted to show that our servicemen and women are not alone, that our miltiary chaplains are caring for them. I hope that brings some comfort, particularly during long and dangerous deployments.  Read More 
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Visit with a reader

Chaplain Beauregard and his wife Susan
Over Thanksgiving weekend, I paid a visit to a very special person, Allen Beauregard. Chaplain Beauregard took the trouble to write me a note after reading Miracles and Moments of Grace. It was a lovely note, the first I received after publication of the book.

At his home, Chaplain Beauregard told me about his life. He is a disabled veteran who served for 17 years in the Navy. He spent 38 months in Vietnam, during the height of the conflict. He was aboard the USS Ranger when the last helicopter lifted off from a Saigon rooftop on April 30, 1975.

Chaplain Beauregard ministered for over six years at a VA hospital in upstate New York. He spent six months on an Alzheimers ward, another year in a surgical recovery ward, and five years in a hospice ward.

"As I went from patient to patient, the one thought that was always in my mind was how God was blessing me by ministering to veterans and their families," he told me.

The surprising thing about Chaplain Beauregard is that he is legally blind. Where drugstore reading glasses are at most a 3+ or 4+ prescription, his reading glasses are 35+. Yet even with this disadvantage, he wanted to minister to others.

We had a great visit, and I thank you again, Chaplain Beauregard, for taking the time to tell me how much you enjoyed the stories in Miracles and Moments of Grace. I hope we can visit again some day soon.  Read More 
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A Thanksgiving thought

Blessed are those who can give without remembering and receive without forgetting.

-- Elizabeth Asquith Bibesco
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Reverse Trick-or-Treat

My faithful friend and fellow writer (and a darn good photographer, to boot!) Chaplain Jeffrey Neuberger shared a Veterans Day reflection with me this week. It is my pleasure to share it with you.

"My grandson just entered the first grade, but I think he’s on to something. This past Halloween was his first opportunity to welcome 'trick-or-treaters' at his door. He had recently moved from an apartment to a new home, and the concept of Halloween was ever on his mind, with costumes at school and the like. The first group of kids arrived and stood at the door with bags outstretched.

In the background, my daughter watched as Andrew greeted them. The trick-or-treaters held their bags wide open as he paused, and then slowly reached into each bag to retrieve a piece of candy. It was a case of reverse trick-or-treating! I can imagine the bewilderment of those kids. My daughter handled it perfectly, and after a brief explanation Andrew understood the concept and the rest of the night proceeded 'in keeping with the tradition.'

As I write this article, it’s Monday morning, the day after we honored veterans in both worship services at our church. It was really wonderful to have each of the veterans stand to be recognized. I was amazed at how many veterans were in the congregation. We also recognized three of our acolytes, each who has a parent currently deployed. In my sermon, I noted the important statistic that a mere 1 percent of our citizenry are in uniform to protect and defend the other 99 percent.

You may be asking yourself at this point what a 'reverse trick-or-treat' has to do with our veterans. It occurred to me that as citizens we are like my grandson Andrew, unknowingly taking from a bag which we should be putting into. The difference, however, is that our veterans, the men and women who serve in our military, stand before us freely offering the gift of their service for us to enjoy and appreciate as a nation. With their permission, we can reach into their 'bag' whenever we want. On this Veterans Day, give thanks for them."  Read More 
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Monument to Jewish Chaplains Erected

A monument to Jewish chaplains who have died while on active duty was dedicated yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery.
You can read about the ceremony here.

Incredibly, until now, Jewish chaplains have not been recognized on Chaplains Hill at the cemetery. The oversight came to light in 2007 when someone went looking for Rabbi Alexander Goode's name and could find no mention of him. Chaplain Goode was one of the "Four Immortal Chaplains" who perished along with more than 600 men when the USAT Dorchester was torpedoed during World War II. All of the chaplains -- two Protestant ministers, a Catholic priest and Rabbi Goode -- gave up their life jackets to others. The chaplains were last seen on the deck of the listing ship, their arms linked, singing hymns and offering prayers together.

A grandson of Rabbi Goode attended the ceremony yesterday. It must have been an immensely satisfying day for this family, and for those who have benefited from the ministry of Jewish military chaplains.  Read More 
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Chaplain job posting

I thought you'd like to know about a job posting I saw on a facebook page yesterday. Samaritan's Purse, the Christian relief and evangelism organization, is looking for a retired chaplain to fill a full-time opening.

Here is the listing from the Air Force Chaplains facebook page:

Chaplains: Samaritan’s Purse is looking for a retired chaplain to fill a full-time paid position beginning Jan 2012 at their headquarters in Boone, NC, directing four months of summer activities (to include counseling) that provide injured military members and their spouses with a week of “healing” at a lake-camp in Alaska. For more information, please contact BGen (Ret) Jim Walker at (828) 278-1549 or at jwalker@samaritan.org.

I know so many chaplains who would be perfect for this job!  Read More 
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Thank you!

I want to say thank you to everyone who has encouraged me in my writing and shown enthusiasm for Miracles and Moments of Grace. I'm happy to report that the book is going into a second printing. I'm so glad for my chaplains!
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"Am I heroic?"

A chaplain friend of mine who has contributed several posts to this blog, retired Air Force Chaplain Lt. Col. Jeffrey Neuberger, sent me this reflection from his deployment to Balad in 2006. This is a good day to remember those who have come forward to serve our country in times of war and in times of peace.

"Among the many opportunities to boost morale here, there is a large movie theater -- it’s very near an outdoor stadium complex. This was not only an Iraqi Air Force base but the Olympic training center for Iraq. The Morale, Recreation and Welfare program offers full-length films. Several of us from my office drove early to attend the first showing of 'Flags of Our Fathers' about the men who were involved in the raising of the American flag at Iwo Jima.

As we approached the movie theater, it appeared parking would be a problem -- the parking lot was full of Humvees, ASVs, trucks and other vehicles. We stood in line with dozens of soldiers and Marines. Every soldier is required to shoulder his or her weapon at all times, even in PT gear. Marines shoulder weapons no matter where they are. So there we were, filing into a large movie theater with 95 percent of attendees carrying guns. Though we were early, almost every seat was filled. Our small group of five had to disperse and look for single seats. The theater was filled to its capacity of more than 300 people.

When you visit a movie theater stateside you expect to see movie trivia, advertisements, etc. Instead, we were treated to a short film on ‘attack responses’ at our base; overhead, we could hear fighters and helicopters flying.

After the standard previews we all stood for the national anthem, which is observed in every military movie theater. The room was full of so many young people, mostly young men but some young women.

I wondered how high the testosterone meter would climb during the battle scenes of this World War II movie. To my surprise, there was near silence. Three times there was laughter, a natural and appropriate response to humor in the movie, but for the most part it was eerily silent.

One of my colleagues, also a chaplain, was sitting in the midst of Marines who were almost reverent in their response to the film. We saw the iconic Marine Memorial (the Iwo Jima statue and raising of the flag) many times during the film, which I’m certain had an effect on them -- as it did on us.

As the final credits of the movie rolled by, there was the normal shuffling of a crowd leaving a theater, but absolutely no talking. I thought the place would reach a crescendo in a matter of seconds. Not so; silence reigned.

An important line spoken at the end of the movie, and heard in our context, was almost spiritual: They fight for their country; they die for each other.

I’ve heard so many stories that illustrate this truth. They watch each others' back. They are 'wingmen' for each other. I’ve heard the dramatic stories and I’ve seen small groups of soldiers visit a friend at the hospital. When life is on the line and you depend on someone else to protect your life, it changes one’s perspective. No doubt about it.

The movie closes with a reflection from one of the characters who considers what it means to be a 'hero.' His thought is this: 'Heroes don’t create themselves, others create them. We need them, at least the idea of those who perform noble acts.'

I couldn’t help think that this same thought was going through many young minds now, in the silence of the moment: 'Am I heroic?' I would like to answer that question: Yes, young Marine, Soldier, Sailor, Airman, you are heroic. You are the grandchildren and great grandchildren of those military men and women who, 65 years ago, stepped forward in the name of freedom and liberty, and you’ve done the same."
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