Sunday, June 15, 2014

"Just Over in the Gloryland"-Crimson River & Cross Road Quartets





Now this is "traveling music" for the Pilgrim on their way to the Eternal Home that is Heaven.  Heavenly, uplifting, joyous music performed a number of years ago - circa 2005 - by the Crimson River Quartet (CRQ) and the Cross Road Quartet. 



Cross Road nowadays is a defunct group, but the CRQ is still going strong in an age where there is less and less of live traveling Southern Gospel musical groups singing this kind of music in churches. I've got several of their CDs which were purchased after hearing them live at a church in Bakersfield a few years ago.  Great investment versus the programming on subscription radio, which, like cable television, offers lots of programming but less and less quality in that programming. 



I've been listening a lot lately to CRQ's "Live at Lake Hills" CD, where this musical number may be found.  Recommended, and I'd go so far to say that the Crimson River Quartet is one of the official musical groups for this weblog.  Rick Moore (no relation - I asked) and group love to "fun" each other by telling jokes in between songs, and their love of the Lord and his people are evident in their music ministry.  OK, so some of the jokes are literally corny. . . but the "Oak Street" joke hits home to me a couple of different ways.  An acquired taste, and one you'll not be ashamed to have.  Just a great time listening to these folks.



Anyways, this tune is infectious.  Clap your hands and sing the tenor part if you dare - and I can and do - and enjoy!  I love the piano accompaniment in this piece. . . listen for it towards the end. 

Funeral honors hero of NASA's Apollo fire

The following front page article from the Antelope Valley Press (Palmdale, California) of June 2, 2014 gives a description of the funeral my wife and I missed due to us not getting word of it in the process of returning Stateside from Ecuador.  The Celebration of Life honored the life of one Don Babbitt, whom we got to know from our time here at Grace Chapel in Lancaster.  The story is by Dennis Anderson, Valley Press Editor. 

               ###            ###          ###

LANCASTER - One of the men in the space shuttle program who knew Donald Oliver Babbitt as a mentor also knew that the seasoned space program engineer loved to tell tall stories, but there was one great story that he never told, and it was about himself.

Phil Burkhardt, who was one of the last of the last in the space shuttle program before it was shut down, remembers coming out to Dryden, the NASA center at Edwards Air Force Base, "and I felt like I had died and gone to heaven." 

Burkhardt arrived in the glory days of the space shuttle program to work on ground operations and recovery, the part that involved the team that went out and retrieved the orbiter after it landed and carried the astronaut crew back for de-briefing. 

His boss was Babbitt, a Navy veteran electronics man who had worked in the space program from its earliest days, the Mercury program profiled in Tom Wolfe's "The Right Stuff," the Gemini and Apollo programs, and finally the space shuttle operations team. 

"It would get cold out at Dryden, down into single degrees," Burkhardt recalled, "and as the sun came up, the temperature would actually drop, and Don liked to tell stories, and as long as he was telling a story, we would stay in where it was warm." 

Finally, they would get out onto the lakebed at Rogers Dry Lake to commence the day's operations.  That was in the mid-1980's, when Babbitt was the lead engineer in ground operations, and he acted as a teacher, mentor, and friend to Burkhardt, who was in his mid-20's at the time. 

Babbitt, who was 85, died May 21, and his memorial service, with military honors, was conducted Saturday at Grace Chapel with Assistant Pastor Pat Tanner officiating. 

"Today is both bitter and sweet, in that we will honor the life of Donald Babbitt," Tanner said.  "I read his obituary, and I find I always learn something else about someone I believed that I knew, and knew well."

Babbitt's record of exemplary service, humility and courage was underscored by his strong faith and belief in Jesus Christ as his way, his truth, and his life, Tanner said. 

The story Babbitt never shared about himself was one that was resurrected for the obituary. 

"If you knew our Dad, you may not have known that he was a 'hero.'  Not just to us, but to the United States.  He hardly ever talked about his accomplishments, but they were many," the obituary started. 

Babbitt's is a story that was told in the book, "Lost Moon," and it was the story of the tragic and devastating fire that took the lives of three Apollo astronauts trapped in the capsule, atop the gantry at Cape Kennedy, Florida. 

Babbitt, the "pad leader," meaning launch pad, was with the team closest to the burning capsule  that was intended to carry the first-ever team of Apollo astronauts aloft. 

This is from the official NASA history of what Babbitt and his team did.  Instead of running away from the fire consuming the capsule and its astronauts, they ran toward the fire to attempt rescue. 

NASA history stated, "Nestled beside an umbilical tower, surrounded by a service structure, and encased in a clean room at Cape Kennedy's Launch Complex 34, spacecraft 012 sat atop a Saturn 1B on Friday morning, 27 January 1967. 

Everything was ready for a launch simulation, a vital step in determining whether the spacecraft would be ready to fly the following month."

It is hard for anyone born, say, after 1969, to make sense of what the Apollo 1 fire meant.  The Apollo program was the late President John F. Kennedy's vision, "to send a man to the moon and return him safely to Earth within the decade." 

Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs were NASA's steps on the way to realizing Kennedy's vision, and the United States national mission.  Apollo 1 was commanded by Ivan "Gus" Grissom, one of the original Mercury astronauts.  The venture was heroic and symbolic of the scale of the nation's ambition as it tilted lances with the Soviet space program in a Cold War race to the moon. 

The loss of Apollo 1 was a national tragedy that pre-dated the loss of shuttles Challenger and Columbia, and the first warning shot that space shots with humans aboard involved mortal risk every minute of every day. 

By 8 a.m. Jan. 27, 1967, there was an army of a thousand men to support three spacesuited astronauts - Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee - who were checking systems to make sure that everything was in order before pulling the plugs. 

A variety of tests took the crew and support team through the day into evening. 

'All of these men and several others in the vicinity at 6:31 heard a cry over the radio circuit from inside the capsule: 'There is a fire in here.'

'Stunned, pad leader Babbitt looked up from his desk and shouted to Gleaves: 'Get them out of there!'

'As Babbitt spun to reach a squawk box to notify the blockhouse, a sheet of flame flashed from the spacecraft.  Then he was hurled to the door by a concussion.  In an instant of terror, Babbitt, Gleaves, Reece, and Clemmons fled.  In seconds they rushed back, and Gleaves and Clemmons searched the area for gas masks and for fire extinguishers to fight little patches of flame.  All four men, choking and gasping in dense smoke, ran in and out of the enclosure, attempting to remove the spacecraft's hatches. 

'Approximately 90 seconds after the first report of fire, pad leader Donald Babbitt reported over a headset from the swing arm that his men had begun attempts to open the hatch.  Thus the panel that investigated the fire concluded that only one minute elapsed between the first warning of the fire and the rescue attempt. 

'For more than five minutes, Babbitt and his North America Aviation crew of James D. Gleaves, Jerry W. Hawkins, Steven B. Clemmons, and L. D. Reece, and NASA's Henry H. Rodgers, Jr., struggled to open the hatch. 

'The intense heat and dense smoke drove one after another back, but finally they succeeded.  Unfortunately, it was too late.  The astronauts were dead.  Firemen arrived within three minutes of the hatch opening, doctors soon thereafter. 

'A medical board was to determine that the astronauts died of carbon monoxide asphyxia, with thermal burns as contributing causes. . . Fire had destroyed 70% of Grissom's spacesuit, 25% of White's, and 15% of Chaffee's.  Doctors treated 27 men for smoke inhalation.  Two were hospitalized.'

Babbitt was awarded the National Medal for Exceptional Bravery, one of the nation's highest awards for civilians, after he suffered severe burns on January 27, 1967, while attempting to rescue the astronauts during the Apollo 1 fire.  

On Saturday, friends and family remembered what a kind man Babbitt was.  They remembered how, after retirement, he and his wife of 62 years, Jeanne, were consistent volunteers for the Friends of the Lancaster Library.  They remembered the stories of the Babbitts watching over children growing up in the neighborhood.  

Burkhardt, who worked with the Lockheed space shuttle operations team, remembered the day he began work out at Edwards, April 22, 1988.  

Diane Lindquist, formerly Cox, who worked with the Lockheed shuttle team, said: "It was the best job I ever had, with the best people.  We were one big family."

Of Babbitt, he said, "He was our engineer.  He was kind, very intelligent, and up through the ranks of the technicians.  He would listen to you, and he made you want to come up with ideas."

"It was his humility," Tanner said, remarking that the Apollo 1 story was never widely known.  "He did not have a doctorate.  He just knew what to do."

Burkhardt said the Apollo 1 fire is studied to this day as a case history of response to emergencies.  

"You can look it up, and you will see Don Babbitt, and it's something.  That was an awesome guy."

          ###          ###          ###

I, along with my wife, was Don Babbitt's regular visitor while he was in his assisted living home in Lancaster.  We visited him for over one year there.  

       

     


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

I Must be Making Progress. . . the Gossips and Slanderers are Out and About!

One of my pastimes in my spare moments is to contribute discussion comments to a Facebook group on local current events.  I've also been made an administrator of the group due to my reasonable nature and willingness to thoughtfully contribute. 

Not everyone out there reading my comments on the 'Net cares for what I say, of course.  Not everyone agrees with everybody else. . . me included.  Some times it's hard to find out what position to take.  Many times it's best to take a position of "I don't know for sure without a lot more research" which is more true of the situation than most.  Cool heads prevail, hot heads just get steamed. 

There's a culture amongst some here in the United States of making partisan politics *THE* only thing that is worth discussing, and having your candidates and/or your party and/or your ballot issues win. . . or else.  It literally is a blood sport with these people, to the point of becoming an actual religion in my humble opinion.  When it goes that far, I'd call that making a false idol of politics and political speech, forgetting the Lord and his rightful position in one's life. 

Anyways, with the help of our small group of administrators/moderators, we found - in the normal course of comments made yesterday - one such person.  And they have it in for me personally in the world's worst way for reasons I don't even begin to understand. . . so sad.  I've never even met the person as far as I know.  Why make such drama on Facebook?  I dunno.  The person's arrogance and insistence that they were right, and everyone else opposing them was wrong, combined with some extremely bad advice concerning the primary election just concluded, gave all of us pause.  I put two and two together and realized that this person commenting must be a sockpuppet. . . someone having the cowardice to wear a mask on Facebook and say they were a non real name person.  We checked, and it was agreed this person was a fake person. . . not allowed under the group's rules, by the way. . . and POOF!  They were gone.  They'll no doubt try to get back in under yet another nom de plume sockpuppet personality. . . but their way of speaking, their vocabulary, their passions, and their arrogance always identify them once again.  Go ahead. . . make my day!

Anyways, in the course of the day, I was notified that this person was gossiping and libeling me in some other forum somewhere.  So what?  What is that to me?  I love many of the quotes of Sir Winston Churchill, a leader who took his responsibilities in leading Great Britain in World War II seriously.  One of them is this apt statement: "You have enemies?  Good.  That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life." 

Indeed I have.  I have enemies.  Jesus had enemies, too.  The Pharisees, for one, were constantly trying to trip him up and get him killed.  Serious business, being in that position he was in.  As His follower and disciple, I am told I will get the same treatment Jesus got.  Goes with the territory. 

Here's some applicable Bible verses on gossip and slander - and wise speech - I've found. 

  • My enemies speak evil against me.  "When will he die, and his name perish?"  And when he comes to see me, he speaks falsehood; His heart gathers wickedness to itself; When he goes outside, he tells it.  All who hate me whisper together against me; Against me they devise my hurt, saying, "A wicked thing is poured out upon him.  That when he lies down, he will not rise up again."  Psalm 41:5-8
  • When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable.  But he who restrains his lips is wise.  Proverbs 10: 19
  • A fool's lips bring strife.  And his mouth calls for blows.  A fool's mouth is his ruin, and his lips are the snare of the soul.  Proverbs 18:6-7
  • He who guards his mouth and his tongue, Guards his soul from troubles.  Proverbs 21:23
  • A fool always loses his temper, But a wise man holds it back.  Proverbs 29:11
  • But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.  "For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."  Jesus in Matthew 12:36-37
  • At the same time they learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house: and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention.  1 Timothy 5:13
  • Argue your case with your neighbor, And do not reveal the secret of another, or he who hears it will reproach you, And the evil report about you will not pass away.  Proverbs 25:9-10
  • For the lack of wood a fire goes out, And where there is no whisperer, contention dies down.  Proverbs 26:20
  • You shall not bear a false report; do not join your hand with a wicked man to be a malicious witness.  Exodus 23:1
  • Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy; No one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure.  Psalms 101:5
  • He who conceals hatred has lying lips, And he who spreads slander is a fool.  Proverbs 10:18
  • . . . being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents. . . Romans 1:29-30
  • Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.  Psalms 141:3
  • He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets,  Therefore do not associate with a gossip.  Proverbs 20:19

***                    ***                    ***

Do not associate with a gossip.  Great advice from God's word today!  And for those gossipers, slanderers (verbal malice), and libelers (printed malice). . . I'll be doing everything I can in the spare moments I may have to either help you to see the error of your ways. . . or be gone from a particular Facebook group.  Don't have time for foolish strife. . . there's better things to be doing for God's Kingdom, and I'll be about them versus such small minded things like backbiting and gossip. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Announcing a New Weblog. . . and a Redirection

As you've seen by now, the last two months have been spent on the topic of retirement, and where to live in that retirement at the overseas location of Ecuador, specifically Cuenca.  Whole blogs have been devoted to the subject by US expats (from which I've learned quite a bit from, thank you), and I have come to the realization it's time to spin off that whole process from my main narrative journaling here and let it have its own dedicated spot on the 'Net.  So I created a place for writings on that very subject here: http://outofpalmdale.blogspot.com/

Meanwhile, it's important for me to keep on with regular life and reflections centered on my Christian faith. . . what I am learning, and where I am struggling and making progress in life.  So a redirection is in order for this blog.  Consider it done.  Cuenca and associated goings on with the move may well be mentioned here, but not as the centerpiece of what I will be writing about.  There's still much more to write about, and not near as much time as I'd like to have to write about it. 

So here we go, once again. . . down that Pilgrim road, going the Pilgrim way. . . holding the hand of the Master, and enjoying His presence and His smile as we journey together forward to His wonderful land.  Please come join us as we do so! 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Marcos Brunet - Al que está sentado en el trono (To Him who sits on the throne)




Even if you don't know any Spanish, this worship song which was sung at Iglesia Verbo Cristiana in Cuenca is one that readily lifts up the name and power of Jesus Christ. 

Several contemporary worship songs were sung in the worship services at Iglesia Verbo - some translations of English language praise and worship songs, many not - but this one has stuck in my head for some reason.  Perhaps the quality of the artistic musical score and the heartening words from the Book of Revelation are part of that. 

Anyways, it's here for you to listen to and view.  Enjoy!

Translation into English

Song Title: To Him who sits on the throne


I want to know
Everyday more of you
Being in your Presence and Worship
Reveal your Glory
We want to go much more in You
We want your Presence. . . Jesus

Chorus:

To Him who sits on the throne
That lives forever and ever
Is the Glory
Is the Honor and Power
Is the Glory
Is the Honor and Power

To Him who sits on the throne
That lives forever and ever
Is the Glory
Is the Honor and Power
Is the Glory
Is the Honor and Power

*     *     *

(Some) thanks to Google Translate for the translation. . . with assist from my common sense.  Language is a funny thing sometimes, and you have to have a sense of what the original author in the original language is trying to get across, rather than being too literal with the wording.  Thank God I'm not doing Hebrew or Greek translations of the Bible just yet!  (smile)

Friday, May 23, 2014

Cuenca and its US Expats on an ABC News Segment (2013)

Now that we're back home in California once again, I can once again use a desktop computer to much more efficiently make posts and edit them, too!  Hard to do that kind of thing on a smaller laptop like the one we have. 

Here's a video put out by ABC News on Cuenca and US expats.  The information you see is true, though the two minutes clip hardly gives any depth to what we have found out and experienced.  For more depth, please read the story text below the video.  The story is well written, factual, and a very good piece that represents what Cuenca and Ecuador is to the American expat or potential expat. 

Please pay attention, too, to the remarks in the comments section of that story by Edd Staton.  He's giving the accurate take in his comments. . . and his interview in the video is also on the mark.  No, we haven't met as yet, but I find his perspective very useful, especially on integrating and making friends with the native Cuencanos versus learning no Spanish, living in the expat "bubble," and trying to make Cuenca into another version of the United States. 

Hat tip to GoGoGringo http://www.gogogringo.com/ for the sourcing of this video.  Much good information on Cuenca and Ecuador via their site as well.  Here's the link I first saw, and the very in depth discussion of a lot more issues of international cooperation than first meets the eye: http://www.gogo-gringo.com/blog/cuenca-retirees-featured-on-abc-world-news

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Some Observations on the Ecuadorian People

Partly because one of Grace Chapel's missionaries - Stateside for the moment - asked me to, and partly for my - and your benefit, here's a rundown on what I've observed about the Ecuadorian people.

Mexicans are well known for their machismo - macho ways - and have an intense amount of pride.  Ecuadorians too have their pride. . . they just don't make as big a show of it.  My friend Oscar put it this way: "The Ecuadorians usually say that they're pretty good.  They're respectful and humble, and don't say crazy things like 'oh, that was fantastic!' like people in the United States might say.  They're content with 'pretty good.'"  

Ecuadorians are generally honest to a fault. . . we've witnessed that enough to know and appreciate that quality.  That said, behind your back, if they can get away with it, they will steal from you. . . petty theft.  We lost a large thick tan bath towel from the clothesline - a feature of life seen all through Ecuador - at the Hotel Pichincha that way.  I told Carolyn Anne it's a lesson learned. . . better lose a bath towel than some electronic gear we have, like our laptop or camera.  By the way, the new camera we got from Fry's Electronics in Burbank is all set up and working well.  We're taking photos now, and hope to load them into the blog when we get home to California. 

94 per cent of the people are (nominally) Roman Catholic.  When I discuss with a chofer in my taxi or a stroller in Parque Calderon what church they attend, they often shrug it off with "I have God in my heart."  My Spanish is not yet that practiced to discuss further this kind of sensitive and very important issue.  I'll have to get better at it in the very near future.  However, I can give from memory John 14:6 - translated into Spanish, of course!  Here in the El Centro district of Cuenca, there's literally a Roman Catholic Church on every block or two.  We hear the bells ring in the morning at 5:40, 6:00, 6:45, and 7:30 for their prayer times.  Every morning without fail.  Attendance is not great, but they are faithful in the bell ringing sin embargo. . .  nevertheless.

Time is not a big thing with the Ecuadorians.  They are generally on time for meetings and business matters, but when it comes to almuerzo - lunch - all bets are off.  No signs to let you know of closed business generally, and when an employee wants to take a popsicle break, you just have to have patience and wait for them to be done with their break.  This happened with the autobus compania - bus company - representative at Terminal Terrestial - the bus terminal yesterday.  We waited about 20 minutes while she had her break, then got our questions answered.  The Manana syndrome is alive and well in Latin America.  

Latin Americans can be a noisy bunch, and Ecuadorians are no exception.  We're finishing up our longest stay at one address in the very nice custom vacation studio loft condo, and moving on to the very heart of El Centro and Parque Calderon by moving to the Hotel Milan later on today after worship services at Iglesia Verbo.  Here on Calle Honorato Vasquez in the heart of the Antigua district of El Centro, there's restaurants and some bars aplenty just on our street alone, with much more surrounding us.  We often get the sound of either a car alarm or a burglar alarm - same sounds you hear in the USA - going off in the middle of the night.  You can hear the rowdier kind of crowds here at the condo in the street, and the noise continues 'til about 2:00 AM, when the bars thankfully close.  We had someone throw either a bottle or a rock at the entrance door, which is framed in a soothing varnished wood with a one way see through glass which is opaque to outsiders with wrought iron bars to reinforce the glass, and part of it was broken the previous night, about 2:00 AM according to one of us staying here at the condos.  First time we ever witnessed that sort of thing, but not totally unexpected, based on what we already knew of Latin American culture while living in California.     

Ecuadorians don't typically challenge the status quo.  If they have something to say socially, politically, or spiritually, they will graffiti the side of a building to express themselves.  On the side of the New Cathedral by Parque Calderon, atheists scrawled in black paint, "Dios no existen" - God does not exist.  No one covers it up or does graffiti abatement here in Ecuador. . . really different than in the States.  Their real feelings are thus said anonymously. . . without fear of retribution.  Newspapers here don't have writer's bylines except for editorials, which are signed. . . the exact opposite of US practice.  That said, when you as a North American challenge an Ecuadorian on a matter of contention, they back off, say nothing, and offer no defense or resistance to you. . . you have the upper hand. . . but don't rub it in.  I was talking to a pastor at Iglesia Verbo about the dirty little secret that is the orphan crisis in Ecuador, and he visibly cringed at my remark.  We will by the way be visiting one of Verbo's orphanages Tuesday afternoon to see for ourselves these forgotten, forlorn children who evidently need much time with loving adults for camaraderie, affection, and guidance.  Stay tuned for more on this in a future post.  

Carolyn Anne has been complimented by the owners of our favorite Mexican restaurant across the street, Mexico Lindo Querido, as "everybody's mother."  What a compliment on today, Mother's Day!  Her love for their children is evident, and the second youngest, Juliana Violeta, just age 2, will come to our table while we are waiting for the food and play games and visit us.  ?Preciosa, no?  (wide grin)