Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gustav - Not Looking Good

Tropical Storm (formerly Hurricane) Gustav is meadering through the Carribean Sea as we speak. This Category 1 hurricane made landfall over Hispanola, weaking to a Tropical Storm, but still packing sustained winds in excess of 60 miles per hour. Current forecasts indicate Gustav is heading for the Gulf of Mexico; more specifically, the Louisiana and Mississippi coastlines.

I am currently working preparedness and response in Baton Rouge. As early as noon today, I may be a Planning liaison to the State. This is not looking good.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Foreclosure Arson

Every week, there is news on the mortgage crisis. You can't escape the headlines about foreclosures. The USA Today paper is usually plastered with a mortgage-crisis headline. This past week, the headline reads that mortgage borrowers are simply walking away from their home, succumbing to foreclosure instead of losing more money. Also, borrowers are dipping into their 401K's to stay afloat.

In a video today on, I was shocked (but not too terribly surprised) at the latest foreclosure news: Homeowners committing arson as their homes face foreclosure. As a former firefighter, I consider arson to be a deadly sin. While arson might seem, in a moment of hopelessness, a way to successfully get insurance is a deadly game of premeditated crime.

"Sheryl Christman was sentenced last month for setting fire to her Michigan home. She thought insurance money could help her catch up on her past due house payments."

"...and after a conviction, homeowners still owe the bank hundreds of thousands of dollars."

correspondent Chris Lawrence

Unfortunately, most of these convicted arsonists only receive probation. A slap on the wrist for a premeditated criminal act, costing taxpayers and insurance holders money, and risking lives of all involved.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ash Wednesday

As a Protestant, I always viewed Ash Wednesday as an odd day. It wasn't until my post-college years that I really came to understand the meaning behind it, and who exactly celebrates it. In the past year, I have fervently studied Catholicism. There are many unique practices, and the Lenton season is certainly one of them.

For those of us non-Catholics, the Lenton Season (more commonly referred to as Lent) begins with Ash Wednesday. Lent is the forty days prior to Easter, in which the faithful make personal sacrifices in order to glorify Christ - in remembrance of Christ's forty-day desert fasting. Those who observe Ash Wednesday go to Mass and receive a blessing of ashes on their forehead. A small amount of ash is placed on the priest's finger, who in turn makes a tiny "sign of the cross" on the recipient's forehead. Sometimes the mark looks like a cross, but more-often it looks like a dash or a blob. The ash signifies forgiveness of sin, which without Christ, invokes death. The priest will say "Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return."

For the remainder of the day, the faithful walk around with ash on their forehead. For them, they are making a personl commitment as a way of glorifying Christ. My only qualms about the practice of Lent is with some of those who observe it. You see, most of the faithful receive their ashes and begin their Lenton journey toward Easter. They make personal sacrifices, giving up a food they obsess about or an activity that tempts sinfullness. As they should, they properly observe the private practices of Lent. However, there are those who make it social hour, asking their friends, buddies, online chatmates, and anyone else within earshot "What are you giving up for Lent?"

I laugh a little inside every time I hear that...every year. I sigh a little, too. I understand their fervor and passion for what they believe in. Being blessed is always a joyful feeling. And fellowship with other believers is like a taste of Heaven. However, Christ didn't mince words when he spoke of how we should practice out faith:

Matthew 6:1-8
1Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 5"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

The whole 6th chapter of Matthew is one of my all-time favorites. It helps greatly with humility, and verse 9 begins the Our Father prayer. Christ saw the "religious" around him and how they lived out there faith, as if it was a spectator sport! The problem with acts of righteousness is that we tend to desire recognition and validation from other believers. We're all makes us feel good when someone acknowledges that we are going above and beyond for Christ. If we are not careful, however, it in itself becomes sinful. Our Father does not reward boastfullness. He rewards secret adoration. So the next time you do something AWESOME for our God and you feel that urge to shout it from the rooftops...stop, take a moment, and let His be the only ear you bend.

Faithful (noun) - church members in full communion and good standing.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Well, it has almost been a year since my first real deployment on disaster recovery. That was Oklahoma City 2007. The new year has found me once again in the good state of Oklahoma (note that I put "good", not "great"...I think Texas only deserves that status). I put in 3 1/2 months last year, and I am hoping for the same this year.

I have already visited a few similar places, driving by the Fair Grounds and visiting a local religious gift store. The GREAT thing is that I am staying in the same GREAT hotel as last year and working in the same building. Anybody who knows me knows that I am a creature of habit. Change is BAAAAAD. There are many familiar faces at the Joint Field Office (JFO), which made me smile when I first arrived. And this go-around is for the same circumstance: winter ice storms.