Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fallen Soldier: Highest Honor, Immeasurable Grief

A while back I gathered with some fellow Red Cross volunteers to "turn out" for a returning soldier killed in Afghanistan.  Like other civic groups, we are occasionally asked to be present at funeral processions and burials in order to show the grieving family the support of the community. 

This was the first such event I had attended.  I had just returned from a long day of teaching and a rigorous workout at the gym.  As I pulled together some semblance of dinner, I pushed the button on the answering machine and listened to a message from a Red Cross office worker asking if I could attend.  My first thought was:  "I'm too tired."

As I ate dinner and then started grading some tests, I felt a big more invigorated by the food.  My mind wandered back to the invitation ... the request.  It was still relatively early with there being about an hour and half before I had to leave if I were to attend.  My mind started pondering the request ...

"I'm too tired ..." sounded pretty shallow in light of the young man's sacrifice.

"You always say you support the troops ... is it just lip service?" I figured it was a simple enough of a request.  If a whole lot of individuals, who most likely had also just gotten home from work, took a brief moment to truly show support for the young soldier and his grieving family, what a showing that would be!

"Are you really that tired?"  Too tired to care?  The need and reward will be so much greater.

I called two other Red Cross volunteers to see if they happened to be going.  Luckily, both were.  So, we met up at a nearby location to carpool over to the funeral home and cemetery. 

The young man would be transported with special escort directly from the airport.  We wore our Red Cross attire.  We were amazed as we pulled up to the location ...

The fire district had two engines at the entrance to the cemetery, each facing the other with their ladders extended into the air.  A huge American flag was suspended from the engines' ladders.  Police cars encircled the engines with lights going.  The road was lined up and down with all kinds of people and groups: Boy Scouts and "regular folks" holding flags.

We Red Cross volunteers met at the funeral home.  We each received an American flag to hold and were deeply thanked by office managers for being there.  I saw men dressed in Scottish kilts, many VFW members, and Marines in their sharp dress uniforms. 

Our tiny group wound up standing right where all the action would be.  First, the young man was escorted to the funeral home in an old, classic pick-up truck, his flag-draped coffin highly visible from the rear.  It must have been an impressive and moving sight as it travelled along the highway escorted by motorcycle cops and limousines.

Before the family arrived, in the distance we heard an odd rumble.  Then, the cemetery grounds were flooded with at least 100 Patriot Guard Riders!  (Yeah -- I counted.)  We all breathed a sigh of relief, feeling that their presence would ward off any whackos that would dare protest the young man's funeral.

And, then, the family arrived.  Each member slowly climbed out of the limousine looking bewildered and distressed.  The family gathered together at the edge of the carport where the pick-up waited.  They were joined by a Scottish Honour Guard, the VFW, and the Marines.  In the precision only the military can muster, the Marines reverently pulled the casket from the pick-up's bed and marched it into the funeral home.  My eyes filled with tears as I thought: "What an awful thing this must be for a parent to experience!"  My heart ached for the mother and father.  Their young son's life snatched away so cruelly, so quickly, so violently ... far too soon.  "Lord, have mercy!" I prayed.

The respect that was displayed by all that night was heartfelt and, hopefully, healing.  As I looked around, I saw police officers standing at attention.  A young soldier dressed in fatigues stood alone at attention, seemingly to have appeared out of nowhere.  Some individuals dressed in civilian clothes stood at attention and saluted.  The Patriot Guard Riders stood along the road in respectful silence, their bikes' flags waving gently in the cool evening.

The coming days, weeks and months will be unspeakably hard for the family and friends.  "Lord, have mercy!" 

They will vaguely recall faces and pieces of conversations, but much will be a blurry dream ... a blurry nightmare. 

I do pray, however, that they will remember the words that lifted them up the most, the presence of dear friends and relatives who in vain tried to comfort them ... and maybe even the presence of strangers who, in rag-tag fashion, gathered to pay their respects to our community's soldier.

May God pour out His healing and peace, like a salve, upon these dear people.  "Lord, have mercy!"

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Chilean Miners: Their T-Shirts Gave Thanks to God

If you were like me earlier this week, you were glued to the TV watching live coverage of the miraculous rescue of the 33 Chilean miners trapped by a cave in back in early August.  I noticed many of the miners sported interesting t-shirts, the front emblazoned with "Gracias, SeƱor!" -- 'Thanks, Lord!"  I wondered about the t-shirts, and today found this at The Christian Post (emphasis added):

Miners Clad in Jesus Shirts Give Glory to God

Lillian Kwon
Christian Post Reporter
Fri, Oct. 15, 2010 Posted: 01:13 PM EDT

When the 33 trapped miners in Chile emerged from underground, at least two dozen of them were wearing T-shirts that proclaimed "Gracias Senor," or "Thank you Lord."

Christian Maureira, national director of Campus Crusade for Christ in Chile, who helped provide the shirts, said the miners wanted to recognize and thank God publicly as the world watched the anticipated rescue this week.

The miners were rescued on Tuesday and Wednesday after being trapped in the San Jose mine in Chile since the Aug. 5 cave-in.

During the 10-week stint some 2,000 feet underground, Jose Henriquez, 55, stepped up as a spiritual leader in the group, leading prayer services at noon and 6 p.m. each day.

He wrote a letter to Maureira after MP3s of the "JESUS" film and the New Testament were delivered to the miners through a 4-inch-wide tube.

"Thank you for this tremendous blessing for me and my coworkers. It will be good for our spiritual edification. I am fine because Christ lives in me," Henriquez, who is part of a Pentecostal church, wrote.

He also quoted the Old Testament passage Psalms 95:4 – "In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him."

That passage was printed on the back of the T-shirts that a majority of the miners wore as they were pulled out to safety this week.

Berry Fiess, director of Field Information Services of The JESUS Film Project, made it clear that the miners decided on their own to ask for shirts that essentially give glory to God. The shirts also have the JESUS Film Project logo on the sleeve.

"They requested – after we sent the MP3s – that we get these shirts for them. They told us what they wanted on the front and back sides," Fiess explained. "There appears to be this strong desire to honor God and I think that this situation must have brought them close to their Maker."

Maureira worked with a designer to produce the shirts and they were delivered to the miners on Monday, just a day before they began hopping into the "Phoenix" escape capsule to reach the surface.

According to Maureira, who had initiated delivering audio Scripture to the miners, several of the men gave testimonies about meeting God while trapped.

Responding to those who wonder where God was during other cave-ins where miners died, the CCC Chile director commented, "I believe that God is sovereign and all miners – either those that have survived or those who have died – accomplish the will of God."

Another collapse could have happened during the rescue process in Chile, or the instruments might not have worked, Fiess noted.

"And like the shirt said on the back, 'In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him,'" he said.

Fiess also noted that there have been many Christians who were saved miraculously and those who suffered and died. But he cited three biblical figures, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the Old Testament book of Daniel, who were prepared to give glory to God whether they were delivered from a blazing furnace or not.

In the case of the miners in Chile, Fiess said, "I think it's valid to give God the honor and the glory here because God is the one who can provide His grace and mercy at any time that He wants."
I'm sure the radical atheists and the PC-minded audience members weren't happy to see the t-shirts.  But, as they say, 'there are no atheists in a foxhole.'

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Abortion: New Movie to Expose the Business of Abortions

From Stephanie Samuel of The Christian Post (emphasis added):

New Film 'Blood Money' Reveals the Business Behind Abortion

Fri, Oct. 08, 2010 Posted: 06:17 PM EDT

WASHINGTON – In a new documentary that looks to blow the lid off the pro-choice movement, a former independent abortion clinic owner reveals the abortion industry as one of sales, scripts and marketing.

“The abortion clinic is a constant cycle of making money,” says Carol Everett, who managed three different abortion clinics in Dallas County before becoming a pro-life author and speaker.

“Blood Money,” which screened Wednesday night at the Catholic Information Center in Washington, features the testimony of lawyers, scientists, priests, abortion patients and clinic insiders to expose abortion more as a money-maker than a medical service.

Everett is especially crucial to the film’s premise. The former abortion provider gives chilling accounts of how she ran her business. According to Everett, counselors answering the phones were actually trained saleswomen reading from scripts. Doctors performing the abortions packed their schedules to perform 20 to 30 abortions an hour. Newly diagnosed moms were encouraged to make on-the-spot decisions for an abortion for a discounted price.

“Nobody knows what goes on in an abortion clinic,” Everett says in the film. “I realize I have been involved in the deaths of 35,000 babies.”

In “Blood Money," as she’s done in a number of speaking engagements, Everett tells the tales of some of those abortions. In one particular story, Everett tells the story of a woman who came in to have an abortion and ended up with a perforated uterus.

“Her uterus was perforated [and] her bowel was sticking out of her vagina,” she recalls.

In another story, Everett tells of a woman’s procedure going horribly wrong.

“I’ve never seen so much blood,” she recalls thinking upon opening the door to the operating room. The patient was eventually sent home, where she bled to death later that night.

“We killed that woman,” says Everett, who was actively involved in the abortion rights movement for over six years.

For “Blood Money,” filmmakers gathered a number of testimonials from advocates in several pro-life groups, including Priests for Life and Pro-Life Unity.

“We asked a number of people in the pro-life community to make a list of those they thought should be in the film,” says executive producer David Kyle.

As for the post-abortive women, Kyle says, “It was providence that we just happened across them.”
In the movie, abortion patients share their stories of being coerced into abortion, and their unforgettable procedures.

They also talk about experiencing depression and suicidal tendencies afterward.

“I took a bunch of drugs and slit my wrist,” one woman says.

Regarding the testimonies, film narrator Alveda King, daughter of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, blames the U.S. Supreme Court for having “opened up the floodgates for abortion clinics to make money off the pain and suffering of women.”

In the infamous Roe v. Wade case, the 1973 Supreme Court held in a 7-2 ruling that the constitutional right to privacy extends to a woman's decision to have an abortion. Abortion, therefore, was deemed a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution.

In addition to testimonies, the film also explores the origins of the landmark Roe v. Wade case, Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, and statistics that some pro-lifers say prove that abortion is wiping out the African-American minority.

Kyle says he is currently trying to drum up enough interest to get the film in theaters.

“If we could find a distributor willing to [show the movie nationally], we would. Unfortunately, to date none have shown an interest,” he reports.

The movie was featured in Chicago last month. A DVD of the film has also been made available for purchase on the website

“Friends of the Film” currently include Priests for Life, King for America, Pro-Life Unity, and Living Hope for Life. The movie also has over 9,000 Facebook members.
How brave of Carol Everett to come forward and testify to the tactics of the abortion industry.  May God bless her efforts at curtailing the abortionists' agenda and assuage her guilt.  She truly is a courageous woman!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Stem Cell Research: New Breakthroughs Diminish Controversy

Several states have recently been caught in the crosshairs of the moral / ethical debate surrounding stem cell research, with many opponents fearing the "harvesting" and wide-scale use of embryonic stem cells.  At the time that Missourians, for example, were considering permitting a research facility within its borders (of course, the campaign heavily funded by the research company), my thoughts were if people were even considering the newly emerging stem cell sources that did not involved human embryos.

Fortunately, scientists are brillianty circumventing the controversy, steering stem cell therapies away from the controversial use of embryonic cells to other, non-polemical sources.  Here's the most recent example as reported by Eric Young of The Christian Post Reporter (emphasis added):

Christian Physicians Hail New Breakthrough in Stem Cell Research

Tue, Oct. 05, 2010 Posted: 05:21 PM EDT

Christian medical professionals are hailing the latest breakthrough in stem cell research, claiming that it further proves that the destruction of embryos is unnecessary to find cures for disease.

"This breakthrough validates many other significant proofs of the therapeutic promise of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) and adult stem cells,” declared Dr. David Stevens, CEO of the 16,000-member Christian Medical Association (CMA), on Monday.

"Compared to the speculative, controversial and dangerous embryonic stem cell research that the [Obama] administration insists on funding illegally, iPS cell and adult stem cell research is a cheaper, faster, safer, more efficient and quicker path to the cures we need,” he added.

On Thursday, a team of researchers led by Derrick J. Rossi of the Children's Hospital Boston revealed its development of a new technique that can quickly and more efficiently create safe alternatives to human embryonic stem cells.

The new method, which is featured in the October issue of Cell Stem Cell, uses synthetic RNA to drive the expression of stem cell-inducing proteins without irreversibly altering the cells' genetic material.

The resulting stem cells then are able to recapitulate the functional and molecular properties of human embryonic stem cells, and therefore can be transformed into specialized cells to treat disease.

Furthermore, unlike current methods that use viruses to deliver the genes that “reprogram” a cell into a stem cell, the new method poses little (if any) risk for cancer as RNA doesn’t become part of the cell’s genome. The resulting stem cells are also generated at much higher efficiencies than standard virus-based techniques and in half the time.

If that's not reason enough to celebrate, Rossi - whose team spent more than a year developing the synthetic, chemically-modified RNA - said the new technology also has potential reaching far beyond the stem-cell field.

“In terms of therapeutics, any genetic disease that involves a mutation of a gene that doesn’t make a certain protein, we can now approach that with this technology to reintroduce that protein into those cells and reestablish proper function to those cells,” he reported. “So we think that this is going to be really important for many therapeutic avenues in addition to basic questions of biology.”

After news spread of the latest development, CMA’s Stevens questioned how anyone could continue insisting that the government, “in a time of financial crisis, should continue to shovel hundreds of millions of tax dollars down the black hole of speculative embryo-destroying research.”

"These new iPS cells are safer; there is no evidence of a risk of causing cancer by using viruses to insert genes into cells. The new cells are produced more efficiently, taking just 17 days to create. The new iPS cells are cheaper to develop, can easily tissue match the patient that the therapy are given too and are morally acceptable to all,” Stevens noted. “The fact that these iPS cells strategy can then turn those cells into ones that could be used for transplants is a huge step forward as well."

Notably, despite the highly touted potential of embryonic stem cells, research on embryo-derived cells has yet to treat a single disease. Adult stem cell research, meanwhile, has produced treatments for heart muscle rehabilitation, muscle growth, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease, among others. Altogether, more than 80 diseases are already being treated with non-controversial adult stem cells and 1,970 clinical trials with adult stem cells are underway. With embryonic stem cells, there is only one human clinical trial.

“With patients desperately waiting for cures and ethical alternatives showing such great promise, it is increasingly ludicrous to spend and speculate our tax dollars instead on unethical, illegal and cancer-producing embryonic stem cell research,” Stevens remarked.

CMA, which claims a membership of around 16,000 physicians, medical students and allied health professionals, was an original party to a lawsuit that on Aug. 23 won a temporary halting of all federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research.

A federal appeals court in Washington has since made permanent a stay requested by the Obama administration on the district court judge's order to halt federal funding of the controversial research.

The U.S. government’s funding of embryonic stem cell research, therefore, is allowed to continue as the case against it makes way through the court system.

Supporters of the controversial research emphasize that embryonic stem cells can differentiate into almost any tissue and therefore have the potential to treat a wide range of diseases.
Now THAT is innovation!!   Where one technology poses several problems, someone comes up with a solution ... one that is better, cheaper, and faster to boot!