David J. Farley of Plympton, Plymouth, United Kingdom

David J. Farley of Plympton, Plymouth, United Kingdom

Friday, April 24, 2009

In Foreign Fields

I am currently reading a non-fiction book by Dan Collins entitled In Foreign Fields and it is a truly captivating read. It is the self-told accounts of 25 British heroes of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq who were awarded medals for acts of bravery and gallantry. Irrespective of whether you agree or disagree with British foreign policy in these countries I guarantee you will reinforce your respect and admiration for the total commitment and dedication of our brave servicemen and women. The rights or wrongs of the conflicts are not the subject of the book. It is merely a factual account of daily life in the theatres of conflict.

The 25 interviewees were nominated by their colleagues and superiors. They range in rank from Private to the highest levels and each one of them stressed that their awards were the result of excellent team work by their colleagues who would have performed their difficult tasks in exactly the same way as they had done.

As Dan Collins states modern Britain can seem a strange and superficial country at times. It's a country where people whose sole distinction is that they have appeared on reality TV shows can become overnight millionaires, where pop singers lecture us on politics while Prime Ministers proclaim their love of 'The Arctic Monkeys' and where a football 'hero' spends more on his highlighted haircuts than the daily pay of a young soldier.

Meanwhile, out in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan, far from the comforts we regard as essential, those young soldiers are risking their lives every day. For most of us, the greatest danger we face is of death from over-eating or drinking too much. For them, it's very different. They have no say in when and where they fight; to paraphrase Tennyson, theirs is not to reason why, theirs is but to do and, sometimes, die.

We owe them all a great debt of gratitude. One of the interviewees is Wing Commander (now Group Captain) Martin 'Sammy' Sampson, DSO, who is the son of a friend of mine. His account of flying a very fast Harrier jet at just 1500 feet in support of ground troops is both harrowing and inspirational at the same time.

A truly outstanding read, excellent....simply unputdownable. A gripping account of life on the frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan. Astonishing feats of bravery illustrated in laconic, first-person prose. Buy this book! A significant percentage of the profits will be donated to service charities.

My copy is paper back and cost £7.99. It is published by Monday Books and you can order a copy at www.mondaybooks.com

The ISBN reference is 978-1-906308-07-0

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Anti-American feeling is an attack on all of us

Chris Cole is the founder of Cross Rhythms Plymouth community radio station. Listen to his Cross Rhythms Experience programmes at 96.3FM or online at www.crossrhythms.co.uk/plymouth

He recently wrote the following article in a free local newspaper and I was so impressed with it that I felt I would like to share it with you;

Back in February, I commented in this column on President Barack Obama's inauguration ceremony, noting the almost religious zeal with which he had been welcomed by millions of Americans, and comparing his imperfect humanity with the only perfect Man who ever lived, Jesus Christ.

Whilst that piece was in no way detrimental to or critical of Americans or the American way of life, I have recently been pondering on the amount of anti-American feeling that seems to be in our culture, and especially in Europe.

This anti-American feeling occasionally borders on racism in my opinion, and in some extreme cases actual hatred expressed towards America, which would be strongly opposed by our media were it aimed at just about any other nation.

One of the most severe examples I have seen was a call for the killing of any Americans, anywhere. The source of that call does not really matter, but it provoked a response from Peter Ferrara, associate professor of law at the George Mason University School of Law in North Virginia. It was published by National Review on September 25th, 2001.

For me, his article recognizes that in fact, we are all children of God who created us, and to harm one of us is to harm all of us. Here is that article:

"An American is English, or French, or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish, Polish, Russian or Greek. An American may also be Canadian, Mexican, African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Australian, Iranian, Asian, or Arab, or Pakistani or Afghan.

"An American may also be a Comanche, Cherokee, Osage, Blackfoot, Navaho, Apache, Seminole or one of the many other tribes known as native Americans.

"An American is Christian, or he could be Jewish, or Buddhist, or Muslim. In fact, there are more Muslims in America than in Afghanistan. The only difference is that in America they are free to worship as each of them chooses.

"An American is also free to believe in no religion. For that he will answer only to God, not to the government, or to armed thugs claiming to speak for the government and for God.

"An American lives in the most prosperous land in the history of the world. The root of that prosperity can be found in the Declaration of Independence, which recognizes the God given right of each person to the pursuit of happiness...,

"An American is generous.....Americans have helped out just about every other nation in the world in their time of need, never asking a thing in return.

"When Afghanistan was overrun by the Soviet army 20 years ago, Americans came with arms and supplies to enable the people to win back their country!

"As of the morning of September 11, Americans had given more than any other nation to the poor in Afghanistan.

"The national symbol of America, The Statue of Liberty, welcomes your tired and your poor, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores, the homeless, tempest tossed. These in fact are the people who built America.

"Some of them were working in the Twin Towers the morning of September 11, 2001 earning a better life for their families. It's been told that the World Trade Center victims were from at least 30 different countries, cultures, and first languages, including those that aided and abetted the terrorists.

"So you can try to kill an American if you must. Hitler did. So did General Tojo, and Mao Tse-Tung, and other blood-thirsty tyrants in the world. But, in doing so you would just be killing yourself. Because Americans are not a particular people from a particular place. They are the embodiment of the human spirit of freedom. Everyone who holds to that spirit, everywhere, is an American"

Whilst we may not agree with everything Peter Ferrara wrote, I think we can all agree that in essence his words echo the words of Jesus Christ "Love your neighbour as yourself" - before we criticise any nation, Western, Middle-Eastern or otherwise, we need to go deeper than the shallow understanding we sometimes glean from our own culture, and think of them as people, like us, and try to imagine walking in their shoes.

Then we may be able to love them first, and then we may have the right and ability to offer a positive criticism and not a shallow cynicism that derides a whole 'people group' in one broad sweep of poorly informed opinion.

The above picture was taken in 1918 and shows 18,000 soldiers artistically recreating The Statue of Liberty on their parade ground. Scroll down through my earlier postings to read the full story of this phenominal feat, which I uploaded on 10th March 2009 under my "Pictures" Label, and you will be able to zoom in for a close up look. For some inexplicable reason the same facility does not appear to work on this latest upload.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Learn to be content. The Word For Today

'...I have learned the secret of being content...' Philippians 4:12

Michael Drosnin wrote a book about a man who wanted more wealth, so he built one of the biggest financial empires of his day. He wanted more pleasure, so he paid for the most glamorous women money could buy. He wanted more adventure, so he set air speed records, built and piloted the world's most unique aircraft. He wanted more power, so he acquired political clout that was the envy of senators. He wanted more glamour, so he owned film studios and courted stars.

Drosnin tells how this man's life ended: 'He was a figure of gothic power, ready for the grave. Emaciated, only 120 pounds stretched over his six-foot-four-inch frame...thin scraggly beard that reached its way onto his sunken chest, hideously long fingernails in grotesque yellow corkscrews ...Many of his teeth were black, rotting stumps. A tumour was beginning to emerge from the side of his head...innumerable needle marks...Howard Hughes was an addict. A billionaire junkie.'

So here's the question: If Hughes had pulled off one more deal, made one more million and tasted one more thrill, would it have been enough? The illusion of gratitude is that we will experience it more, if we get more! No, making sure a child gets everything they want destroys their initiative and dulls their sense of gratitude and contentment. Don't you find it interesting that the man who wrote, 'I have learned the secret of being content' also wrote, 'In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you' (1 Thessalonians 5:18)?

You cannot make yourself a more grateful or contented person, but you can pray for it and open your heart to it.


I would like to wish you all a very Happy Easter and a contented heart and mind

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Home Thoughts, From Abroad. By Robert Browning (1812-1889)

Photo circa: 1870

Oh, to be in England
Now that April's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England—now!

And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops—at the bent spray's edge—
That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children's dower
—Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

Robert Browning (1812-1889)