Monday, January 31, 2011

Curtis James Forbes- Man of in peace.

Curtis James Forbes

Born in Charleston, SC on Jun. 29, 1967
Departed on Jan. 29, 2011 and resided in Gastonia, NC

What's missing from those coldly straightforward and factual words are what really tell the story...

Curtis James Forbes
Man of God 

I never met my brother Curtis face-to-face. The blessing of coming to know him is courtesy of David Johndrow (Fire & Grace), another true friend God placed in my path via the internet. But the fact I never shook my friend's hand or gave him one of those 'man hugs' I often declare to find awkward is completely a moot point. Fact is...I wish I could hug him today, but God called him home last Saturday morning.

For the past half year or little more, I've been in regular contact with my friend Curtis via cell phone calls or text messages. We also often exchanged Facebook messages too. My friend Curtis died from cancer. It was one of the trials in his life that the Apostle Paul wrote about building our Christian character and leading us to the ultimate hope in God's promise. Curtis had tremendous character. He leaves behind a wife and four children all under the age of 18. He also leaves behind a solid testimony from a man who lived what he claimed to believe. I have no doubt his lasting influence will have an astounding effect not just on his family, but also his church family, his friends...and people like me who only got to see glimpses of God's love through him from a distance.

I prayed for Curtis daily. I will continue to pray for his family and ask humbly that you join me. This lost world is filled with pain and suffering, but if you are a Christian, you are not alone. God gave us one another to lift  up and encourage, to watch after each other, lend a helping hand when needed and join together in a single accord of worship and praise for His glory.

Today, we can communicate with one another in ways completely unimaginable five decades ago, and I believe that is a gift to us from God that we should use for His glory. Sure, there's plenty of opportunity for Christian fellowship right in the shadows of our home church steeples. No doubt. I thank God for that fact. But what a blessing it is to be able to reach literally around the world and find brothers and sisters in Christ that have far more in common with us than they do cultural, social and economic differences.

Thank you Curtis for being my friend and, more importantly, for being a Godly influence in my life...if but for a short while. I look forward to meeting you on the other side brother...and I promise not to hesitate or flinch when giving you a big bear hug when we do.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sure...there are far worse things that can happen in the bathroom.

I confessed back on my first (and only) vlog that a lot of the things I write about occur to me while in the shower each morning. I guess the mundane task of washing has become such a mindless chore that it gives my brain a break from minute-to-minute survival mode required outside and beyond the plastic curtain...

Then again, I'm not as agile and coordinate as I once was either and completely vulnerable in my 'nudified' state while standing on a slippery surface behind the plastic curtain.

Note to self: Might be time for a shower chair.

But where would I put an assistance device designed to promote safety for AARP qualified adults like myself? My bathroom has been overrun by an invasion of bath time toys belonging to the preschooler I affectionately  refer to as The Crazy Tomato. The kid has more toys in MY bathroom than she has in HER bedroom...well...okay...close.

What happened to the good old days of simplicity? When I was growing up, my one and favorite bath time toy was a baking soda powered submarine from a box of cereal. I could play for an hour with my sub, and when I ran out of baking soda (usually within the first 5 minutes), my imagination took over to create an underwater world of adventure.

Was the ability of my generation to conjure up make- believe story lines any greater than it is for kids today? Probably not. I guess it came from necessity...and the fact that toys were a special commodity back then and only received on special occasions.

I know...I have no one to blame but myself for The Crazy Tomato having so much to play with and litter my bathtub floor. But the kid's not lacking in the imagination department ...let me tell you.. She keeps Mrs. Tony C, the teenager and me in stitches with her stories. Just last week she came running into the living room to tell me:

Crazy Tomato (in her slow, sweet draw): Dad. It was cwaaazy.There was tape ev-we-where I tell you...ev-we-where!

Dad (knowing she had gotten in trouble with Mrs. Tony C): In the bedroom?

Crazy T: In mommy and daddy's bedwoom. Your bedwoom back there. That tape was over here and over there. Cwaaazy I tell you. It stuck to me, and I pulled it off, but it stuck to a thing over here and it kept coming off and coming off. Cwaaazy.

Dad: Tell me honey. How did it get everywhere?

Crazy T (bottom lip out): Weeeeeell...I pulled it off, but I pwomise I won't do that no more. No sir.

How do you get mad and stay mad with such jubilant innocents? Oh...that's right. Teenage years balances the equation back out. Sigh  If only they could stay between 3 and 8 years old.

Of course, there was the bath time incident last summer I'd be remiss not to share. It's a story every parent can share in too... the inevitable toddler bath time accident. You know the one...where the little one contributes their own little toy to the bath time party...aka 'floating one'.

That's right. Now we're on the same page. So the Crazy Tomato is just playing and splashing and having a whooptie-do good time when...woopty doo doo! I was lying on the bed watching one of the fourteen thousand different shows about the Nazi's on the History Channel when I heard the blood curling scream of terror. I leaned over to look into the bathroom to see a look of sheer horror on little one's face as she was standing up trying her best to walk on water. Mom was there trying to calm her down when the Crazy Tomato climbs over the side of the bathtub like a Marine dismounting over the side of a landing craft when hitting the beach. By now, I know what is happening. She comes running into the bedroom, still crying and screaming, and just in the nick of time I manage...

Tony C (hand up): STOP!

Crazy Tomato (jumping up and down still screaming in panic): Daaaaddddy! 

Tony C: Don't even think about jumping into this bed with poo water all over you!

Crazy Tomato (collapsing in the floor completely distraught): Daaaaaddddy! I poo'ed in the bathtub! Get it out! Get it out right now! Put it in the toilet!

Tony C: Calm down honey. Let's go back in here and rinse you off.

Crazy T: Noooooooo! I don't want to get back in there! Pleeeeezzze!

Dad (seeing mom has the situation handled in the bathroom): Go look and see. Mommy took care of it pumpkin.

Mom's always make things better... and preschoolers always make things a lot more interesting.  Come to think of it...I'll be pretty sad when the day comes again that all I have to complain about is the chemistry set of feminine hair products in my shower.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Just a heart felt thank you...

I could have seriously done without this past weekend...

I'm not going to use this post to gripe and moan about what my baby girl went through this past weekend and a few days before that. Things could have been a lot worse...much worse. She's doing okay now and on the way to recovery, and I'm very thankful.

She was a real trooper through it all too. Rarely crying out the numerous times she was stuck and poked...tugged and stretched. It was heartbreakingly painful to stand by and watch. But I'm not going to could have been worse.

What I am going to do is take this opportunity to express my love and appreciation for the numerous calls, text, Facebook messages, emails and visits. I'm also not forgetting the many prayers and warm sentiments from so many of you that were done so privately. My feelings in response are just...overwhelming.

Nothing excites me more than to see apathy die. To watch a rally call for someone or some cause go out and not go unanswered.  For others to acknowledge they know you have a need at that moment in life, and yes it's important enough for me to think more about you...if even for a few seconds. That is unbridled love...that is God.

Thank you Melissa, the nurse on station, who recognized the whole stinking ordeal was hard on everyone, especially the 3 year old sister who couldn't understand why mommy and daddy were away from home so much. She cherishes her teddy bear.

Thank you Dr. Bullman for treating my baby girl as if she were your own and not just another number on a chart. Her mother and I took note and pray a prayer of thanks for you.

Thank you Keith and Linda for your visits and support. Johnson City isn't just 'dropping by' and took effort on your part. You are special people that shine brightly for the God we love and serve.

Thank you David for your concern and prayers from so far away. Though we have never met face-to-face, I think of you as a brother and thank our Father for crossing our paths is such a unique manner.

Thank you Ralph for the sympathy heard in your voice each time I called to update you. Although our beliefs on faith are very different, our compassion for our children is equally shared. They are a precious gift that must be protected...and most importantly loved.

Just a few of the so many I could mention that made the past five days more bearable. Thank you each and every one. In the grand scheme of my baby girl's life, just a minor speed bump in what will hopefully be a long and  fruitful adventure. But it's hard to see that in the moment...while wallowing in the despair of the unknown. Thanks for being there for us...once again.

Friday I write about my favorite Bible verse over on Kingdom Bloggers...but here's the spoiler just for you. God is love...and I've seen a lot of Him over the past few days. That is hope that just can't be replaced.


Monday, January 10, 2011

It only feels really cold...

I posted last week about what a blessing it had been to reconnect with a few guys from my USMC days. You're looking at what was Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Station in the late 80's and is now known as just Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

Yes, it's as gorgeous there as the picture looks...

I remember the cold, snowy day I learned KMCAS would be my first Marine Corps home. My Basic School (TBS) class had just finished our last field exercise and was humping (aka marching) back in to finish up. All newly commissioned Marine Officers attend a six month school in Quantico, VA regardless of the occupational field they go into once in the Fleet Marine Force. As a matter of fact, how you finish in your class (everything is graded) determines which field choice you get unless you have a flight contract (pilots) or are JAG (lawyers). It's six months of competition with 180 of the most competitive natured guys on the face of the planet that, mind you, have already endured the rigorous requirements necessary for a commission to start. Unmatched in any other branch of the's just plain brutal.

In my TBS class of Fox Company '86, less than 10 points separated #1 from #178 after literally dozens of test covering subjects from Marine Corps' history to company-sized tactics to physical endurance. The Corps uses careful screening and then Officer Candidate School to weed out applicants who can't make the cut. Typical attrition at OCS is better than 50%, and you are encouraged to drop on request (DOR) at any point during the process. So, the freshly commissioned lieutenants at TBS are hungry to prove they are worthy and belong in the company they keep. I was absolutely no different.

I finished high enough in my class to get my first occupational choice and probably my choice of duty station too, but the duty station is based solely on Marine Corps need. There was only one slot for Hawaii...and I wanted it.

Northern Virginia is pretty darn cold in December, and we had been out in the elements for five days.The nine mile walk home was nothing but a punctuating badge of honor for Fox Company and our gung-ho Company Commander who believed trucks were for supply lines and helicopters were for jumping out of into a fight...not for riding out of one.  About half way into the hike, my Platoon Instructor pulled up along side me. Lost in my on world at the time, I didn't even notice the taller, lankier Captain walking next to me until he spoke...

CAPT R- Still pretty cold out here. What do figure? 10...maybe 12?

LT Tony C- Does it matter sir? I've not paid attention to it all week, so why start now?  

CAPT R- Very true. Of course, this is pretty warm compared to where you're going...

LT Tony C- (crap! Camp Fuji, second choice) It's about time we took the fight to the Russians. All this waiting around and bantering back and forth isn't my style of fight anyway. Glad we've got a Commander in Chief with some guts. If Ike had listen to Patton back in WWII...

CAPT R- (cutting me off) You watch too many movies. We're not going to least yet.

A few miles passed in silences as we kept pace, me in formation carrying a weeks worth of gear on my back and Captain R beside me with a wry grin on his face. As we came into the next 5 minute break for gear adjustments, he slapped me on the back and said just one word...

CAPT R- Aloha.

As he pressed to the front of the column laughing to himself, I suddenly felt a little warmer. Actually, I felt a lot warmer. The rest of the hump seemed to just fly by with my thoughts fixated on all things tropical...

Next post- a few funny stories from the island paradise.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Do you truly believe what you say you believe?

Today a new day dawned...and the 112th Congress came into session.

Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) took the Speaker of the House gavel in hand today to lead a newly elected Republican majority House. He pledges to cut spending, reduce the size of the federal government, and cut taxes.

Wait....haven't we been here before?

Promises come as easy and frequent as special interest campaign contributions in Washington. In little more than 2 years, the American public has been pumped up with vows of change from this side then promises of a new way from over there. I can't help but see a mental image of Newton's Cradle sitting on a desk somewhere with the end balls in the set of five swapping turns to swing out as the kinetic energy transfers from side to side. The whole matter is annoying, frustrating, tiresome yet vaguely entertaining all at the same time.

As Bob Dylan belted out Times They Are a-Changin'  in 1964, he couldn't have been more right. Again in 1980, American politics went through a transformation as Ronald Wilson Reagan was swept into the White House along with a Republican-led Senate, the first such party led chamber of Congress since 1953.

But since those Reagan glory days, the American public has heard a lot of rhetoric, and not seen very many results. What we have witnessed is the morphing of the federal government into a grotesquely obese entity that must be continuously fed with more and more substances stripped from the citizens it supposedly serves. Time, property, money and liberties all forcefully taken from citizens behind laws of Congress to sustain a house of cards so big that collapse in not only likely...but imminent. 

Then came the great revolution of change in 2008 which was quickly squelched by the reformation on the revolution in 2010.  Click, click, click, click, click....the balls swing out and back...side to side.

Americans know what needs to be done. The bigger issue or questions is do they have the stomach for seeing it through? Federal entitlements are simply out of control. Both political parties blame each other while continuing to grow their own projects with more and more borrowed money. Most people don't even realize when they personally benefit from a federal program, and there is where the problem starts.

A good friend of mine often uses the title phrase applied to Biblical principles when teaching a class at church or even a during a theological discussion among friends. The question, if taken seriously, should be one that every individual reflects upon before, during and follow conversation about any given topic. Do you actually believe the things you feel and say, and more importantly, are you ready to put words to action?

Back to today. Republicans in Congress, under pressure to reform from the Tea Party movement, have drawn a necessary, albeit dangerous, line in the sand. A smaller government, less spending, reduced deficits and taxes simultaneously. All happening while the world's largest economy putters along in a flat recovery. The question for them is do they have the intestinal fortitude to make it happen? Is the American public ready to sacrifice to get where most of us want to be without making the instrument of true change through tough decisions the scapegoat or whipping post?

Don't be fooled by the political double speak around cutting waste and abuse. That won't get it done. We need fundamental change and every single federal government program needs to be on the table for debate...including defense spending, Social Security and Medicare. That's right...nothing should be left exempt if this is going to get done. Most people don't realize the 2010 federal budget just addressed current expenditures to meet service needs. No bailout money is included in that budget because that money was an expenditure in the 2009 budget.

So what are you willing to sacrifice? If Congress does this right, you'll give up something  I assure you. I work for a DoD contractor and expect to see changes at work. If you are crying for changes in the categories being promised by our newly elected officials...then it's gut-check time people.

I have strong opinions, as I'm sure you do, that if brought to fruition would impact my own family. I'm in the last year of the baby boomer generation, and we're getting old. As a matter of fact, the front end of my demographic is turning 65 this very year! Tough decisions are ahead if Social Security and Medicare are going to survive the enormous payout coming over the next two decades. I want those necessary changes for the benefit of my children and their children.

Our tax code is beyond absurd and needs to be completely scuttled and rebuilt. Flat tax? I think we need one or a viable alternative. The nearly 4 million word tax code of this country begs people to find ways to get out of paying taxes. If I know going into a year exactly how much in taxes I'm paying (as opposed to guesses and wishes), household budgeting becomes a lot easier. Besides, I don't need the IRS to manage my vacation fund each least when I'm due a refund.

We've got to get back to being a country that manufactures. We are slowly sliding down from the top rung of the ladder as the Big Kahunas in the economic world. Why? Because we don't make great stuff like we once did in this country. Throw that quality over quantity garbage right out the proverbial window too. There was a time not so long ago we produced both quality and quantity in this country, and we need we better...get back there!

The balls in play as of today members of Congress. Let's see who has the true grit to do what must be done, and don't try to distract us with the Health Care Bill recant. There are much bigger, more important issues to tackle first. You've got two years Washington...and the clock started countdown today.