I am pleased to welcome you to my personal blog, which I started in March 2009. I first became interested in blogging about five years ago, using old "blogger.com", which was cumbersome to use and I never mastered. About a year ago I discovered that Google had bought "blogger.com" and had revised it considerably, making it fun to use, so much so that I have devised at least 15 blogs on various subjects and frequently add posts and Gadgets to them.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Is the Reformation Over?

[This post is from Albert Mohler's blog.] 

Posted: Friday, February 26, 2010 at 5:36 am ET
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The Rev. Eric Bergman thinks he has seen the future -- and it isn't Protestant. Known as Father Bergman now, Rev. Bergman became a Catholic priest after serving for years as an Episcopalian minister. His conversion to Roman Catholicism came, he relates, after he began to ponder the moral and theological issues related to contraception. Looking back, he dates the fall of the Anglican tradition to 1930, when the Church of England accepted birth control. "Out of that," he says, "came a confusion about the roles of men and women, a theology of androgyny."
We know all this thanks to an article by Charlotte Hays, whose writings are always thoughtful and perceptive. She serves as editor of a very interesting journal, In Character, but this article was published in Friday's edition of The Wall Street Journal. In "The Beginning of the Reformation's End?," she fires a salvo at mainline Protestantism.
She writes of a Washington gathering of "ex-Episcopalians, curious Catholics, and a smattering of earnest Episcopal priests in clerical collars" who were drawn to an Evensong and Benediction service sung according to the Book of Divine Worship, which Hays describes as "an Anglican use liturgical book still being prepared in Rome." In the main, it follows the order and language set down by Thomas Cranmer almost 500 years ago.

DoD Announces New Policy on Social Media

Finally, after months of waiting and anticipation, the Department of Defense has announced its policy on “Responsible and Effective Use of Internet-Based Capabilities.” Below is the official release posted around 1:00 EST today.
Today the Department of Defense released a policy memorandum regarding the safe and effective use of Internet-based capabilities, including social networking services (SNS) and other interactive Web 2.0 applications.
The memorandum makes it policy that the DoD non-classified network be configured to provide access to Internet-based capabilities across all DoD components. Commanders at all levels and heads of DoD components will continue to defend against malicious activity on military information networks, deny access to prohibited content sites (e.g., gambling, pornography, hate-crime related activities), and take immediate and commensurate actions, as required, to safeguard missions (e.g., temporarily limiting access to the Internet to preserve operations security or to address bandwidth constraints).
The directive is consistent with the increased security measures that the Department has taken to secure its networks and reinforces existing regulations related to ethics, operations security, and privacy.
“This directive recognizes the importance of balancing appropriate security measures while maximizing the capabilities afforded by 21st Century Internet tools,” said Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III.
Use of Internet-based capabilities, including SNS, have become integral tools for operating and collaborating across the DoD and with the general public. Establishing a DoD-wide policy ensures consistency and allows for full integration of these tools and capabilities.
The new policy memorandum is available at:  http://www.defense.gov/NEWS/DTM%2009-026.pdf .
What are your reactions to the new policy? Leave us your thoughts in the comments section. 
February 26th, 2010

Friday, February 19, 2010

“Riding Along”

February 19th, 2010

Happy Friday! It’s time again for the U.S. Army’s  Photo Caption Contest.  Show us your creative side by leaving your best photo caption. The winner’s caption will be posted on Monday. Good Luck!
blog post 02-19
February 19th, 2010

Hollywood Reporting-Army Style

In follow-up to yesterday’s guest post from the 302nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment in Bell, California, Staff Sgt. Carlos Lazo provides a more detailed and personal account of  his  “Day in the Life” of a Hollywood Reporter (Army Style, of course).
“I want your loving and I want your revenge.”
That’s what I woke up to on Feb. 15. Lady Gaga was singing at full volume, the result of my alarm radio going off and my poor choice in radio stations the night before.
It was 7 a.m. and I needed to get ready. After silencing Gaga, I immediately began my daily ritual of bathing, shaving, brushing (teeth – hair isn’t long enough for that), and dressing. This ritual typically takes anywhere from eight to 45 minutes. This day, a respectable 30 minutes was all I needed.
With my Army Combat Uniform on (and no visible strings hanging anywhere on them), I grabbed my ACU backpack (filled with my equipment) and jumped into my car. After a quick stop at the Army Reserve Center in Bell (to pick up the other 302nd Soldier, Sgt. Jennifer Sierra), I was on my way to Beverly Hills.
After 30 or so minutes of driving – with moderate traffic (a first for LA) – I found her.
The Beverly Hilton Hotel.
A must-hit locale for tourists hoping to see their favorite celebrities.
She was living up to those expectations today, because for the 29th year in a row, the hotel was hosting the Annual Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon. Not that the endless line of news vans gave it away or anything.
Parking was scarce, almost Jonas-Brothers-at-a-Junior-High scarce, but I was able to find a parking spot at the top level of the parking structure. From there, Sgt. Sierra and I took the elevator down to the main lobby. As soon as we arrived, we noticed the long line of media (cameras gave it away) and our military training immediately took effect – we moved to the end of the line and stood at parade rest.
An hour later – after the waiting, checking-in, ID checks, metal detectors and bag checks – we were shown our respectable areas. Sgt. Sierra was shown to the interview room and I was shown the technical / broadcast room.
The event was set up into three parts for media; the arrival area – where photographers and videographers would be able to capture the nominees’ arrival, the interview room – where the nominees would answer questions from reporters, and the tech room – where technicians could record all the interviews for their respectable news agencies. The plan was for every nominee to walk in, smile at the cameras, turn to the right, pass the tech room, and straight into the interview room. Once done with questions, the nominee would exit the room the same way they entered, andhead straight into the grand ballroom for the actual luncheon.
I was fortunate enough to find a spot at the first table (right next to the double doors leading to the interview room) and began to set up my equipment. After some assistance from the local video specialist (to ensure all my connections were set up correctly), I looked at the schedule provided at the check-in desk. The first thing I noticed was that not all the nominees were expected to arrive. Then the second thing I noticed was the first thing on the menu for the luncheon – gorgonzola salad. Both of these things made my stomach ache.
Fortunately for me, I was not going to eat at the actual luncheon.
I decided to look around for the Academy point of contact provided to my unit, a woman by the name of Danielle, to check in with her and ask what time the nominees where expected to arrive.
I foundDanielle, or better said she foundme, by the arrival area. She informed me that the nominees were expected around 11 a.m. or so. Feeling a bit better (still thinking about that gorgonzola made me nauseous); I made my way back to my seat at the first broadcast table.
Now for the best part of this event – the sightings.
I was sitting down, making small talk with techs from ABC and Canal+ (European television station), when, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted someone familiar. Very familiar.
She seemed to materialize out of nowhere, like an angel almost (cheesy, I know), and had a regal look as she made her way to the interview room. Now most celebrities I’ve seen through the years never look the same in person as they do on film. Sandra Bullock it seems is the exception.
She looked exactly like she does on film or on television, and stood much taller than I anticipated. She waved at everyone in the tech room, before making her way into the interview room.
Her interview was ongoing when, who do I see? Woody Harrelson. As in, nominee for Best Supporting Actor for “The Messenger” Woody Harrelson, a role in which he plays an Army officer who provides next of kin notifications for fallen soldiers.
Then came Kathryn Bigelow, nominated for Best Director and Best Picture for “The Hurt Locker.” O-M-G.
That’s what ran through my mind as I laid eyes on her. She was very tall, not too tall, but tall, and carried a very stately look as she made her way into the interview room. Not the type of woman one would imagine in the Jordanian desert shooting a film many consider one of the best military-themed films in recent years.
Just a couple of minutes after Bigelow, Jeremy Renner, nominated for Best Actor for “The Hurt Locker,” made his way into the interview room. But before entering, he came over to my area and shook my hand, thanking me for my service. I responded that it was a pleasure to meet him. In retrospect, I wish I was able to tell him how much I enjoyed his Oscar-nominated performance.
His performance was one of the main reasons my unit was covering this event. “The Hurt Locker” along with “The Messenger” are the latest in a string of military-themed movies made by Hollywood.
These films have provided the public very different perspectives on military life. From the day-to-day life of combat troops overseas to military members dealing with their responsibilities here in the U.S.  And although many will point out the obvious differences between the movie world and the real world, increased interaction between all branches of the military and Hollywood filmmakers will allow these two worlds to come closer together.
And covering events like these allows us, the military, to capture the recognition these films have received. Yes, this does mean I’m a bit biased in my reporting here at this event, but in all fairness, if we don’t cover the military aspect of these awards, who will?

Falling on Deaf Ears? — Why So Many Churches Hear So Little of the Bible

[This is from Albert Mohler's blog.]

Posted: Friday, February 19, 2010 at 8:32 am ET
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"It is well and good for the preacher to base his sermon on the Bible, but he better get to something relevant pretty quickly, or we start mentally to check out." That stunningly clear sentence reflects one of the most amazing, tragic, and lamentable characteristics of contemporary Christianity -- an impatience with the Word of God.
The sentence above comes from Mark Galli, senior managing editor of Christianity Today in an essay entitled "Yawning at the Word." In just a few hundred words, he captures the tragedy of a church increasingly impatient with and resistant to the reading and preaching of the Bible. We may wince when we read him relate his recent experiences, but we also recognize the ring of truth.
Galli was told to cut down on the biblical references in his sermon. "You'll lose people," the staff member warned. In a Bible study session on creation, the teacher was requested to come back the next Sunday prepared to take questions at the expense of reading the relevant scriptural texts on the doctrine. Cutting down on the number of Bible verses "would save time and, it was strongly implied, would better hold people's interest."
As Galli reflected, "Anyone who's been in the preaching and teaching business knows these are not isolated examples but represent the larger reality."
Indeed, in many churches there is very little reading of the Bible in worship, and sermons are marked by attention to the congregation's concerns - not by an adequate attention to the biblical text. The exposition of the Bible has given way to the concerns, real or perceived, of the listeners. The authority of the Bible is swallowed up in the imposed authority of congregational concerns.
As Mark Galli notes:

It has been said to the point of boredom that we live in a narcissistic age, where we are wont to fixate on our needs, our wants, our wishes, and our hopes—at the expense of others and certainly at the expense of God. We do not like it when a teacher uses up the whole class time presenting her material, even if it is material from the Word of God. We want to be able to ask our questions about our concerns, otherwise we feel talked down to, or we feel the class is not relevant to our lives.
It is well and good for the preacher to base his sermon on the Bible, but he better get to something relevant pretty quickly, or we start mentally to check out. Don't spend a lot of time in the Bible, we tell our preachers, but be sure to get to personal illustrations, examples from daily life, and most importantly, an application that we can use.

The fixation on our own sense of need and interest looms as the most significant factor in this marginalization and silencing of the Word. Individually, each human being in the room is an amalgam of wants, needs, intuitions, interests, and distractions. Corporately, the congregation is a mass of expectations, desperate hopes, consuming fears, and impatient urges. All of this adds up, unless countered by the authentic reading and preaching of the Word of God, to a form of group therapy, entertainment, and wasted time -- if not worse.
Galli has this situation clearly in his sights when he asserts that many congregations expect the preacher to start from some text in the Bible, but then quickly move on "to things that really interest us." Like . . . ourselves?
One of the earliest examples of what we would call the preaching of the Bible may well be found in Nehemiah 8:1-8:
And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand, and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading with their faces to the ground. [English Standard Version]
Ezra and his companions stood on a platform before the congregation. They read the scriptural text clearly, and then explained the meaning of the Scripture to the people. The congregation received the Word humbly, while standing. The pattern is profoundly easy to understand -- the Bible was read and explained and received.
As Hughes Oliphant Old comments, "This account of the reading of the Law indicates that already at the time of the writing of this text there was a considerable amount of ceremonial framing of the public reading of Scripture. This ceremonial framing is a witness to the authority of the Bible." The reading and exposition took place in a context of worship as the people listened to the Word of God. The point of the sermon was simple -- "to make clear the reading of the Scriptures."
In many churches, there is almost no public reading of the Word of God. Worship is filled with music, but congregations seem disinterested in listening to the reading of the Bible. We are called to sing in worship, but the congregation cannot live only on the portions of Scripture that are woven into songs and hymns. Christians need the ministry of the Word as the Bible is read before the congregation and God's people -- young and old, rich and poor, married and unmarried, sick and well -- hear it together. The sermon is to consist of the exposition of the Word of God, powerfully and faithfully read, explained, and applied. It is not enough that the sermon take a biblical text as its starting point.
How can so many of today's churches demonstrate what can only be described as an impatience with the Word of God? The biblical formula is clear -- the neglect of the Word can only lead to disaster, disobedience, and death. God rescues his church from error, preserves his church in truth, and propels his church in witness only by his Word -- not by congregational self-study.
In the end, an impatience with the Word of God can be explained only by an impatience with God. We -- both individually and congregationally -- neglect God's Word to our own ruin.
As Jesus himself declared, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
Mark Galli, "Yawning at the Word," Christianity Today [online edition], posted November 5, 2009. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/novemberweb-only/144-41.0.html
Hughes Oliphant Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church, vol. 1, "The Biblical Period" (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), pp. 98-99.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Guardsmen Give Afghans "Radio in a Box"

SHINWAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- In a perfect world, accurate information would be as close as a radio. For a country at war, accurate information is invaluable.

Georgia Army National Guardsmen of 1st Squadron, 108th Cavalry Regiment, are giving the Shinwari and Muhmandari Mountain border villagers of Afghanistan their own voice through the gift of radio.

The two stations, located in the Shinwar and Muhmand Dara provinces, will give outlying villages communication security and while countering Taliban propaganda.

Popularly known as the Radio in a Box, the new media program is one of the initiatives of the International Security Assistance Force counterinsurgency process, and will belong entirely to the Afghan people.

"It will not be a facilitator of military or security mandates," Afghan Border Police, 6th Kandak commander, Col. Niazy said. He punctuated the importance of the mission by stressing how the station's messaging will embrace the needs of the community. "It will be a powerful tool to give our people a voice - a resource. Our mullahs, district government leaders, or our local shop keepers and villagers will have full access and know that they can come to us in a crisis for honest information."

The Kandak headquarters is a temporary location for the Shinwar radio station. It was also once the site for Radio Spin Ghar, part of a 2005 independent media opportunity project called Support for Independent Radio Stations in Afghanistan, which was co-sponsored by U.S. Agency for International Development.

Both stations are fully funded by the coalition with Afghan National Security Force partners offering security, and employ full-time local Afghan station managers and on-air personalities.

"The Gate" (102.1 MHz FM) began airing full-time Jan. 17 at Forward Operation Base Torkham in Muhmand Dara province near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

The Shinwar station [95 MHz FM] celebrated its debut Jan. 21 during the anti-Taliban Shinwari Pact jirga. The gathering of about 170 tribal representatives, a first of its kind, was organized by the 6th Kandak ABP and prominent tribal leaders. It was held embracing the strictest traditions of the six district Shinwari tribal councils to denounce Taliban tyranny and passive governance. The radio station gave prominent Afghan leaders and security forces a new media platform to announce their solidarity during the station's first broadcast.

"It brings us together as one community," Malik Usman said of the opening and the reading of the council's decision to stand with their uniformed brothers in arms. "We can share information with the people immediately when a crisis is identified and ensure their safety."

Council elders received gifts of hand-held radios at the conclusion of the jirga. The same radios will also be distributed by ANSF and coalition forces during patrols to outlying villages.

Niazy welcomes the new media as an extension of service to the people and says programming will be created by local people with call-in segments and unique on-air radio talk shows that will engage government and village officials.

"The station will have a strict traditional format, from the reading of mourners' names, to jirga results and the distribution of public service information," Niazy said. "They will celebrate with music programs, but we can reinforce their personal security with information."