Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Grandpa Stories: Shipping Out

On Monday, March 10th, Robert E Patton went home to be with Jesus. I, and the rest of my, very large, extended family, is blessed that my grandfather put together a small book full of stories from his life. Some of them are absolutely incredible stories of God's saving mercy and I wanted to share a couple. 

The tide of the war was beginning to change. The build up of US forces in Europe was in full swing; convoys of Liberty ships were carrying men and supplies to the European Theatre in huge quantities and American planes were decimating European cities in Nazi hands. Battles in the Pacific were intense with immense casualties for both the Japanese and Americans. But the Navy was winning naval battles and the Marines were taking one island fortress after another; Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Pelilu, etc.

I wanted to do my part as a patriotic American. Thew result was far from a forgone conclusion. Our national survival was at stake. I enlisted as soon as Dad would allow. Now, boot camp at Parris Island was over and four months of infantry training at "Tent City" in Camp Lejune was coming to an end. There had been months of obstacle courses, jumping over things and crawling under others. There were many overnight bivouacs in the chilling cold. This place had been built in a hurry to handle the training of thousands of marines. Only the mess halls and churches were heated. We lived in six man tents and from January to April, were cold most of the time. One break from the cold came when we were loaded on to a troop ship, went to the Caribbean and practiced assault landings on the island of Vieques, near Cuba.

Every few weeks I would pull out of my "seabag" a letter that I had received prior to enlisting that said I would be sent to Radio School at Great Lakes Naval Training Center when my basic training was complete. It never happened, even though I showed that letter to each Personnel Officer as I was transferred from place to place.

Finally, time came for us to "ship out" We knew that we were to be assembled with a large group of Marines somewhere in the Pacific. It would soon be our chance to prove our manhood... or otherwise. We were to pack our seabags and carry our rifles and full marching packs. We were marched to the train platform and after the normal wait of several hours, loaded on to coaches for the trip to California or the Pacific.

The train pulled out and went for several miles and stopped. No one knew why but there were all kinds of rumors. Eventually, after hours more, the train reversed and we backed to the platform from which we left, unloaded and sent back to our tents. No reasons was given. "Ours not to question why; Ours but to do or die".

Several days later, it was the same "drill" all over again. Pack up as instructed, march to the train platform, wait, get on the train by the numbers, then wait. The train pulled out slowly, gathered speed, then slowed and stopped. More waiting. The train backed up almost to the platform; then stopped. Before long, it backed up the rest of the way and we were again sent back to our tents. It took all day. What a way to run an organization. But the unofficial "scuttlebutt" was that these actions were to confuse any enemy spies about troop movements.

Again, we got instructions over the loudspeaker to "fall in". (A Marine Corps term that means to get in a three row formation where you are supposed to be!) The Sergeant gave us "the word", but this time he called out some individual names: "Bronder, Patton, Smith, Williams". The four of us were told to stay in our tents and wait for further instructions. Then the order was given... "Right Face; Forward March" and off went the friends we had made during the last eight months. They boarded the same train again and left Camp Lejune. We never saw them again.

Our platoon from Parris Island and Camp Lejune were sent to California, then to Guam for more assault landing training from large LCI (Land Craft Infantry) ships. They were being prepared for a major attack "somewhere in the Pacific".

Bronder and I were shipped to the Marine Corps base at Quantico and assigned to the Field Arto;;dry Training Battalion, Smith was discharged for bad feet and Williams went to San Diego to bugler school. I had joined the Marine Corps to "fight Japs", not teach school. Why was I left behind?

Some time later, I heard through the grapevine that our platoon had been on an LCI ship headed for the attack on Okinawa when it was sunk by a Japanese suicide bomb. All of the platoon were lost. Maybe God has something for me to of in life! Make it count!


Many years, after my parents were killed together in an automobile accident, I found a copy of a letter which indicated that Dad had contacted someone with influence in the Marine Corps who had been responsible for my being assigned to the Marine Base in Quantico, Virginia.

When I get to heaven I'm going to have to thank Great Grandpa Patton for stepping in and saving Grandpa's life. When you think of the ripple effect that would've happen if he hadn't, it's pretty incredible. My dad wouldn't be here. I wouldn't be here. My baby wouldn't be here in September. Thank you Lord for using Great Grandpa!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Rain pelts the window like a thousand metronomes clicking out of time with each other. I roll over. The clock reads 4:23 AM. I'm wide awake. Sleep is my enemy tonight.

I leave the room, shutting the door softly so my wife can sleep. I fill up the tea pot and turn the stove top on high. I'm not ready for coffee but tea will keep me company at this early hour. I walk to the record player and put on Brian Eno's "Discreet Music." A light soundtrack that won't wake those still asleep. There's a bible on the coffee table and I open it up to my earliest memory verse.

"The Lord is my shepard. I shall not want...."

More like I shall not need. I have not contented myself in the Lord enough to not want. I have been taken care of and been without need, but want... I still want. My selfishness has not been purged and my heart is nowhere near as grateful as it should be.

I get to the kettle before it's whistle sets off an all too early alarm. I let the bag steep while holding the mug in my hands. The warmth feels good in the quiet hour. I pace slowly back and forth, ignoring the light background soundtrack I have chosen for myself.

I pray...

"God forgive my stubborn, ungrateful heart. Restore my faith. Restore my trust in you. Father purge this bitterness that's taken over. Let your grace wash over me in a fresh way. I'm sorry."

It's simple... But its enough.

The Struggle Is Real #FirstWorldPains

I wanted dessert last night. I mean, I want dessert most nights, but yesterday I had a hankering for something sweet. We have a giant bag of pancake mix that we bought at Costco. So I figured I'd google desserts that one could make with pancake mix.

The first link I clicked on was for pancake mix sugar cookies. Admittedly I'm not a huge sugar cookie fan. But it looked easy enough to make and sounded good enough.

Cooking is an art. Baking is a science. I've always been good at artistic things. Science... Yeah, not so much. I followed the recipe. I didn't deviate. I know better. The cookie dough didn't mix all that well... I checked the recipe. Double checked it. I had done everything right.

My first mistake was not getting out the kicthen-aid mixer. That would have helped the mixing process. But the kitchen-aid involves a lot of pieces that need to be hand washed and I wasn't interested in having to hand wash a bunch of stuff. So I just mixed it myself. And it was not well mixed. I almost just threw the mix out.

But I didn't. I put that dough onto a tray and into the oven. The cookies didn't look very attractive. A lot of odd shapes and sizes happening. I expected to be disgusted and throw out all the cookies and the rest of the dough.

But hey, it doesn't have to be pretty to taste good. The cookies weren't half bad. And smothering those bad boys in Nutella takes them to a whole new level!

So that was a little insight into making cookies with Bryan. Happy to have wasted a little bit of your time today!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Writing Exercise

Sometimes you're in the middle of meaningful conversation. The back and forth of engaged dialogue, where no one feels left out, but everyone is enjoying this moment to share and be a part of something special. Other times you're the facilitator, the moderator, keeping the conversation moving, but never engaged or adding to the discussion. At Kristen's, I was always the moderator.

Politics, art, religion, music... The brunch crowd was always saying something provocative, trying to one up the person who just spoke. They'd say things like, "If Jesus were a woman who fronted a rock band people would cry themselves back to salvation every Sunday." What the hell does that even mean? After one too many bloody mary's, I excuse myself and step outside.

I light a cigarette and walk past the line of boutiques. Jewelry, cloths, knick knacks, all over priced for their recently gentrified clientele. The politicians have kept their promise; no more crime in the city. It's been pushed one zip code over. It's someone else's problem now. Our city is beautiful, "cleaned" up.

I walk over to Omar's, a small cart that sells used vinyl and draws a minimal crowd, the hipsters all choosing to buy their records at the new shop across town. Omar's selection is varied, mostly jazz and soul, the good stuff. Billie Holiday, Al Green, Otis Redding, Dizzy Gillespie... I slowly leaf through this week's collection of "new" records. Somehow Carole King's Tapestry found a home at Omar's. I grab it and give Omar a five, even though the sticker says fifty cents. Omar doesn't make much and he's always been fair. He's the kind of guy who does what he does because he likes interacting with the people who share his interests. He's the kind of guy you want to see succeed.

I walk the couple blocks back home and put the record on. A couple of scratches that add more character than I care for, but as the music starts I forget all about the static coming from my speakers. This is the anniversary of my move across country and "Home Again" feels like the right song for the occasion.

I decide to find a church with a Saturday service. The bar scene has worn me out and there're no good bands playing tonight. I walk slowly, looking for a quiet reflective place to pray and put my mind at ease. I walk past an abandoned looking building where I can hear a woman singing "Come Thou Fount" while banging on a piano desperately in need of a tuning. I step in and witness what appears to be a makeshift church service. It's beautiful and I begin to cry. There's nothing flashy or special about what I see in front of me, but the off key passion and honesty reminds me that God still hears. That this sound could only be pleasing to him, and I'm sure it is.

This is what I've been waiting all day for. A moment of pure beauty and reflection. Something honest and innocent in this city of people trying to gain an advantage over their neighbor. This was God in the chaos.

Moscow Is In The Telephone

In October of 2012 I started the S section of my iTunes library. It's March 2014 and I'm listening to Rachel's Systems/Layers, the last album of the S section. Since I started the S's, I got engaged, got married, and am preparing to have a baby. You know... Lots of life changes. Lots of albums starting with the letter S. Did I learn anything? Eh... Mostly that I like High On Fire, but I'm not in love with the band.

So... On to the T's.

Next 5 albums up:

Tail Swallower and Dove by These Arms Are Snakes
Take A Spin by The Kreepdowns
Take Care Take Care Take by Explosions In The Sky
Take Me To Your Leader by Newsboys
Take Off Your Pants and Jacket by Blink 182