Sunday, December 2, 2018

Avalon Chronicles #94: "Soap: A Simile Both Secular and Spiritual"

Avalon Chronicles #94: "Soap: A Simile Both Secular and Spiritual"

by Allen B. Clark    

By the time one reaches a certain age plateau in life, two major approaches to expression of attitude and belief become evident. One, is that a person becomes somewhat of a curmudgeon, speaking one's mind with complete candor, sometimes in a manner that is offensive or abusive. Another, is to be spiritually aware, but reticent in expression, so as not to be "offending" or "promoting" of one's true opinion, especially in spiritual matters.

Several years ago in conversation with an individual that is on the religious speakers circuit, the topic of voicing one's Christian faith in a secular/public venue was discussed. At one time in past years it was my privilege to be the guest speaker for groups of our military returned from combat areas. I related that I was reserved about expression of my true Christian faith and how it was the means by which I healed from my own issues of Post Traumatic Stress after my severe Vietnam War wounds. It was my desire to avoid any issue of proselyting of my Christian faith. He said, "At your age, what do you have to lose?"

With the approval of my dear wife Linda, I relate to you a recent "message" she received on one of her daily walks. The thought came to her in her period of reflection and prayer as she walks, unfettered by the cares of everyday life. She contemplated the simple symbolism of a bar of soap as it relates to resentment, a sentiment in need of "cleansing." A bar of soap can only be utilized to cleanse oneself bodily, if mixed with water to release its cleansing properties.

So too only can one be cleansed of resentment, if covered by the living water of the Holy Spirit, smoothing over the venial sin of harboring a perceived insult or hurt, with confession to our God in the Name of Jesus and by the Holy Spirit with the receipt of forgiveness and restoration. The pain remains, but healing grace (unmerited favor) is provided with its softening elements.

A bar of soap now sits beside Linda adjacent to her recliner, a visible and demonstrable reminder of this holy truth placed within her spirit.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Avalon Chronicles #93: "From Cave Man to Man of God"

by Allen B. Clark

On October 13, 2018 Linda and I attended two extraordinary and unforgettable events. The first annual Tribute to Valor was held for the Congressional Medal of Honor Society Foundation, supporting youth character development, and Snowball Express, supporting activities for Gold Star children, the ones who have lost parents in combat since September 11, 2001. The lunch that day was a program of the America's Future Series, organized by our friend David Hamilton. Congressman Pete Sessions participated.

Entertainment was provided by Steve Ammerson, "America's Tenor," and Lee Greenwood, whose hallmark song was "God Bless the USA." Marine Vietnam veteran Dale Dye, well-known as an actor, author, and film consultant, was awarded the Medal of Honor Society Bob Hope Patriot Award for his fascinating life as a patriot of our country. My long-time friend, Jim Palmersheim, veteran, former Army helicopter pilot and American Airlines Captain, was an integral part of the gala and festivities.

Fourteen Congressional Medal of Honor Recipients attended, among whom were: Roger Donlon and wife Norma, Recipient for valor at Nam Dong Special Forces camp in 1964; my luncheon companion SEAL Tommy Norris and my friend SEAL Michael Thornton, Co-Chair of the event, both of whom were Recipients for their heroism in Vietnam; Gary Littrell, Co-Chair, Vietnam War veteran and former Society president, who especially captured Linda's heart, when, in a character video, spoke about students being "pushed up" rather than "pushed out"; Bruce Crandall, the colorful and courageous helicopter pilot of the movie We Were Soldiers, memorializing the First Cavalry Division's engagement in the Ia Drang Valley of Vietnam in 1965.

Amid all the glitz and glory of the celebrations one encounter stood out in amazing fashion. When Green Beret combat veteran Recipient Gary Beikirch was introduced at lunch, Tommy Norris had remarked that he had lived in a cave for two years after the war. That was immensely intriguing! My fellow West Pointer Marshall Miles had sat next to Gary and afterwards I asked him to introduce us. Linda and I met Gary and his wife Lolly and we engaged in a short conversation.

That evening we had a more extensive conversation with Gary, who was a Recipient for his actions in the spring of 1970 at Dak Seang Special Forces camp in Vietnam's Central Highlands, a camp near my own Green Beret Dak To camp in 1967. The layers of his life were laid out to Linda and me in what will become a long-remembered fashion. For him to have survived through an encirclement and assaults by three North Vietnamese Army regiments (10,000 men) was a God-given miracle.

Inside his camp were 12 Americans and 2300 Montagnard villagers, mostly women and children. The threat lasted 30 days. Gary wrote in his tract; "April 1, 1970...I can still hear the screams, the explosions, the gunfire." An artillery and rocket barrage began early followed by a "human wave" enemy attack. "Our jungle home had become a scene of horror, terror, and death." A fifteen year old Montagnard covered Gary from a round and sacrificed his own life to save Gary's. Despite his own eventual three wounds in his back and abdomen and inability to walk, he knew there were wounded that needed help. Two Montagnards carried him from soldier to soldier applying medical care until he was medevacked out by one of our helicopters that was able to land, after others were shot down. Gary was in an Army hospital for one year.

Then a deeper spiritual layer began to be laid in Gary's life. When a chaplain asked him if he wanted to pray with him, Gary told him he did not know how to pray. The chaplain said that was OK because, "God knows how to listen." Gary then recounts what transpired:

"My prayer was a simple one: 'God I don't know if you're real. I don't know if you're here, but I'm scared and I need you....Right then something happened flashes of light, no miraculous physical healing, no visions, but a very real Peace, a comfort, a 'knowing' that there was Someone outside of myself greater than my pain, greater than my fear, greater than Death...'"

With the gift of a New Testament and a study of the Gospels, on July 2, 1972 he knelt and accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. In September 1973 he enrolled in the White Mountains seminary in New Hampshire, but was not prepared for the other students to befriend and socialize with him, who saw himself as a troubled soul, consumed by his wartime experience. He attended classes, but took up residence in a cave nearby, to which he returned each day, after purchasing his "camping" gear. He rented a post office box in town and grew his hair below his shoulders. One day he was told to be near a phone to receive a call. He was summoned to the White House for an October 15, 1973 ceremony, where President Richard Nixon bestowed upon him the Congressional Medal of Honor, America's highest military decoration for valor in combat. Today there are only 74 living Recipients. He said he cut his hair for the White House ceremony!

One day he read a note in his post office box. It was from a local woman, who said she had noticed him in town. He finally located her in a laundromat after she left him a picture. They met and a whirlwind romance evolved, they fell in love and 45 years later Gary and Lolly are still married!

Gary Beikirch was presented the Medal of Honor and wears it fully aware that " was not about what I had done...BUT what He had done. What He had done in my life and wants to do in the lives of others. It was given to me not to honor me, but so that I could honor Him."

Gary honors Him with his service as the Chaplain of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society and he proclaims, "I wear the Medal of Honor...For His Honor." Another decided "divine encounter" was gifted Linda and me once again. 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Avalon Chronicles #92: "Divine Encounters"

Avalon Chronicles #92: "Divine Encounters"

by Allen B. Clark

Hopefully this that follows will be viewed as more than just "what I did on my summer vacation."

Before any trip that Linda and I commence we pray for "Divine Encounters." These do not necessarily relate only to spiritual situations, but also to personal situations in meeting individuals or unique circumstances. Our recent cruise to England and several days there was no exception to the answers by our Lord to our prayer. We signed up for this cruise because there would be World War II veterans on the cruise making presentations on their experiences in WWII. They were sponsored by the The Greatest Generations Foundation. All were 94-98 years young.

Last spring for my West Point reunion we utilized a private car service for the journey from the airport to our Manhattan hotel. Our driver had been a Vietnam veteran also, a soldier with the South Vietnamese Army, who had escaped after the war and eventually came to the U.S., where he married a Christian and is father to two college grad children. He is a Buddhist. We related very well. On this trip, of 100 or so drivers for the car company, he was again assigned to drive us. When he arrived to pick us up, there were warm embraces of him by Linda and me as we reconnected.

Before we even departed New York harbor from the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, we were on deck looking across the harbor to Governor's Island and the Statue of Liberty and observed an older couple being videotaped. I heard "seventieth wedding anniversary" and Linda and I commenced to introduce ourselves and we struck up a conversation. Our new fellow shipmate was a D-Day and Battle of the Bulge veteran with his wife, daughter, and son-in-law accompanying him. We visited several times during our Atlantic crossing and will remain in contact. It is not a surprise that I connected closely with an affinity and respect for him that was mutual.

On our Queen Mary cruise last year I had attended the Sunday worship service and met a Nicci Pugh from England, who asked me if I were an amputee, after she observed my challenge in rising up from an armless chair. We discovered she had been a British Naval Nursing Sister on the hospital ship Uganda in 1982 during the Falklands War. She cared for the amputees on the ship during the hostilities. We also discovered she has the same surname as Linda's maiden name. She came to visit us on our trip to England after this cruise and gifted me a copy of the book she wrote, White Ship-Red Crosses, an engrossing book about personal stories of the wounded in action from the Falklands War. If anyone is interested in obtaining the book, email me and I will put you in touch with her.

We visited Exeter Cathedral and were there only one day and were able to enjoy a stirring event wherein the Royal Coldstream Guards band presented a concert the sole evening we were there.
Would that any of us be memorialized in such a remarkable way as was this man at Exeter Cathedral.

A few days before the commencement of our cruise I was with my daughter in Austin and we met an Englishman at an Austin hotel. I told him I was traveling to the Exeter area in Cornwall after our upcoming cruise. He stayed in touch with my daughter and obtained my telephone number. He has been involved in the entertainment industry and has managed rock bands. We were in Dartmouth, England and returning to a certain town after a train ride. Before our departure, I received a call from him asking me about my trip and inquiring as to whether we had already come and gone. I told him in fact we were still in England and would be arriving in 30 minutes at a certain station. He said he lived in that town. As it turned out he was shopping 200 yards from our destination train station and greeted us when we arrived. He is working on a show in the U.S. for a band and asked us to attend, if it is scheduled.

For two days we stayed in Chepstow, a town on the eastern edge of Wales, in a hotel that for several hundred years was a private mansion and estate. Get this! There was an active parish church next to the entrance, steps from checkin, so it was the first place ever on a vacation that we were able to begin and end our touring days with prayer in a church that was hundreds of years old!

On of the major destinations planned for this tour was Moriah Chapel in Loughor, Swansea, Wales. This was the site in 1904-1905 of the Wales Revival. It was initiated by Evan Roberts, a man of very modest means, who worked in the coal mines. It was at this home church of his that the Wales Revival began and thousands and thousands of people through services at Moriah and other churches in Wales came to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. Weeks before our trip I contacted the church secretary and indicated we wished to worship at Moriah on Sunday August 5 and be their guest. My schedule changed and it looked as if we could not attend that day. The secretary messaged me a few days before the 5th to check on our visit. I told her there was a complication for my itinerary, but that I would contact her Aug. 3 to confirm our plans. I had by that time contracted a cold and told her we would not visit. We woke up in Cardiff on Sat. Aug 4 and Linda said, "Let us go to Moriah." I emailed my contact and had not heard back by the time we went there by train and were at the church with the taxi idling to take us back from the locked-up church. We were about to go back to the train in the taxi when a message was texted and she said she could come and open the church in an hour. We sent the driver away and awaited her arrival. A young man also showed up unannounced to the secretary, when she arrived to open the church for us.

As it developed he was a recent convert to Christianity from an Indian faith group and literally drove to Moriah from northern England to visit the church, but had no appt. as did we. (We have stayed in contact). He joined us and in the church we prayed for another revival and a return to the faith, which is lacking in their community as exemplified by very low church attendance. The secretary told us two special anecdotes: 1. That thousands of the converts in the Revival were Killed in Action during World War One and obviously were able to know of eternal life upon their demise and  2. The Revival changed the communities and whereas previously, the miners would get off work, and before going home, would congregate in the pubs and spend the money needed at home for food and clothes. With the changes manifested in the new converts, the pubs closed and the police had nothing to do in those communities!
This is the memorial to Evan Roberts outside Moriah Chapel.

A dear Dallas friend of ours, when we described our encounters recently, told us she had also prayed for us for 'Divine Encounters." Prayers were answered in incredible fashion!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Avalon Chronicles #91: "1776"

Avalon Chronicles #91: "1776"

by Allen B. Clark

1976 was the Bicentennial year and communities all across America held celebrations and events to commemorate the adoption of our Declaration of Independence. It was my privilege to serve on the city of Dallas, Texas committee. One of the most significant memories of the several months of planning the commemoration was hearing the words spoken by Temple Emmanuel Rabbi Levi Olan; "The Fourth of July is a celebration of freedom rooted in a religious sense of thanksgiving to God."

The founding of our colonies was embodied in the Mayflower Compact, which could be considered the Genesis of the American republic in Biblical terms. In my possession and well-marked up is a book titled Unto the Generations written in 1968, fifty years ago this year. The author was Daniel L. Marsh, the distinguished  Life Chancellor of Boston University. I am grateful to him for some of the following profound writings of the significance and symbolism of the history of the United States of America.

Henry VIII of England broke with the Roman Catholic Church and established the Church of England in the mid-1500s. Over time adherents and worshippers in that tradition believed that  the Church of England needed "democratizing" and "purifying" in its worship. They became the Puritans of our early history and and eventually began a movement to what became Massachusetts in the early 1600s. By 1606 they were required to worship secretly due to persecution by the King. Some moved to Holland and a small group from there became our Pilgrims, who sailed to Massachusetts in 1620. On the ship the Mayflower Compact was signed, a document described in 1802 by John Quincy Adams, our future sixth president. He said; "This is perhaps the only instance in human history of that positive original social compact which speculative philosophers have imagined as the only legitimate source of government." Here was a document that bound together that tiny group of Pilgrims and it became the Genesis of our nation.

The Declaration of Independence became our "Exodus from human bondage" of the British Empire, which upheld the European tradition of their royalty that colonies were only "to enrich the mother country." King George III viewed our thirteen colonies as a cash register to take money through onerous taxes to pay off England's war debts.

On June 30, 2018 Linda and I were invited to a private viewing of the 1972 movie 1776, adapted from a Broadway play production. (The video is available for purchase and is available for viewing on Amazon Prime). The highlights of the film were innumerable, but three stood out especially for me. 1. The extent of the original regional conflicts that had to be ironed out to come to a consensus for unanimous consent for an agreement to declare independence signed by all the colonies. 2. The magnificent verbiage incorporated in the document by the consummate wordsmith Thomas Jefferson. 3. There was a special segment when a soldier dispatched from George Washington's Continental Army with a message to the Congress, related a battle in which he fought, where in its aftermath two mothers came to the battlefield to retrieve the bodies of their sons killed in action. (The latter touched me tearfully as a wounded soldier from the Vietnam War).

Much has been written and depicted as to the significance of the document, but, its essence is that within every human heart there is a desire for freedom and a breaking of the chains of enslavement by tyrants, oppressive regimes, and various "isms." In the spiritual world there is an opportunity, as in my faith tradition of Christianity, to break the chains of enslavement to addictions, wrong thinking and sin. I sincerely believe that God recognized that the bonds of enslavement in the royal systems of "divine right rule" could only be broken through a totally new system and that became possible only through the founding of our nation. The men and women of our original colonies shed blood, tears, and comfort to bring forth our republic. Very few true republics have endured through history and some so-called republics today are not really republics.

Americans, as we enjoy our holiday, attend parades, watch fireworks, and barbecue in our yards, let us never forget the legacy we enjoy of those colonists and their courage, sacrifices, and spirit. Let us never lose our freedoms and become another political entity someday discarded in the trash heap of history. We are a nation forged in fires of faith as a gift on our shores from our Creator God. Let us maintain our Republic safe from those, who believe one of the "isms" is preferable.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Avalon Chronicles #90: "51st Alive Day and 'Triggers'"

Avalon Chronicles #90: "51st Alive Day and 'Triggers'"

by Allen Clark

Some veterans with post-war memories experience what are termed "triggers." For some Vietnam veterans it is loud noises that cause a startle response, the whirl of helicopter blades, or car backfires. For some recent veterans it can be as seemingly innocent as driving past street-side trash cans that in their war the enemy rigged with explosive devices.
Triggers for everyone may be past birthdays or anniversaries, good or sad, for deceased parents or loved ones, past loves, losses, or friendships. June 17 each year is my most poignant trigger.
June 17, 1967 became my ultimate emotional trigger and my "Alive Day." A North Vietnamese regular army unit the night before had set up mortar and rocket firing positions across the river from our Special Forces camp and began an intense heavy barrage at  5:30 AM. I was on duty as the camp's Special Forces man assigned to the last two hour alert shift for the night in our inner perimeter with my safe departure from the camp to have been four hours later. It will always be a mixed positive and negative torrent of memories for me. The positive, because I remained in the open, instead of seeking cover in a bunker, to call upon our own mortars to return fire and shoot flares into the dark sky. The negative, because that choice, placed me in the line of enemy fire with the devastating consequence of taking below my knees the full blast of shrapnel spread out from a mortar round landing to my left rear, causing both legs eventually to be amputated below the knee cap.
Often each year and especially on my "Alive Day" when I awaken, the vivid and horrifying memories of that turning point in my life invade my mind and emotions. In my church service today I teared during the hymns and prayers with sadness and recollections of the six of the other eight wounded in the attack (especially combat medic Jimmy Hill), some, who had attempted to help me or carried my litter. I had planned on going to the coffee hour, but in the exit line, Linda told the minister, who also was a Vietnam veteran, that it was the 51st anniversary of my wounds in Vietnam and I lost it. Linda and a high school sophomore, who at my suggestion is considering attending West Point with a career path to becoming an Army emergency care physician, walked me toward my car. I must admit some of my immediate emotion was due to what I knew she would face in her planned future career.
Thankfully, very few ever experience such a traumatic bodily "Alive Day," but,
later in life, by the grace and mercy of God and His Son Jesus, the Christ, I had and have my very positive and uplifting spiritual "Alive Day(s)" that really was and continues to be over many days, and now decades. It became and can be, the day(s) when we know without a doubt, that the only real essence of life is the spiritual, not the physical. In my Christian faith tradition I focus on the blessings that I know my final residence will be in Heaven, because I believe that Jesus died on that cross at Calvary in Old City Jerusalem and paid the price for the forgiveness of all my sins and ensured me the final gift of eternal life. Every day has become my "Alive Day" that I lived and will die as a child in the Family of God. (Photo above indicates how devastating was the damage of the enemy rounds. I was wounded to right of this spot.)

Friday, June 1, 2018

Avalon Chronicles #89: Daily Discipline I

Avalon Chronicles #89: Daily Discipline I

Reference: God's Generals the Revivalists by Roberts Liardon Whitaker House 2008

Liardon's book has a short biography of several men of God, one being John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church. He made faith in Jesus relevant to the common people. He "...pursue(d) a doctrine of complete consecration and holiness in every area of life,..." (35). This pursuit of holiness focused on a legalistic approach to "rules and moral guidelines," but had to get to the point that he understood "being made truly holy came only through the acceptance of what Christ had accomplished on the cross." (35). Early in his life he had to come to the understanding that it was not works, but by "receiving the gift of God's saving grace by faith." (36). The key breakthrough occurred when a Moravian minister convicted him of the understanding that Jesus Christ saved him specifically and individually. The Moravians gave to him and his brother Charles the understanding of the new birth, with the message of John 3:16 "...that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." For us all, that decision gets us into eternal life. (54). He went forward and at the writing of Liardon's book there were seventy million Methodists worldwide due to the conviction, service, and commitment of one man.

His lay preachers were to ask the following questions of class members they oversaw: (Presumably they were not to answer verbally!) It was an audit of personal behavior. Good works and behavior follows acceptance of faith in Jesus.

1) What known sins have you committed?
2) What temptations have you overcome?
3) How did God deliver you?
4) What have you thought, said, or done that might be sinful?

The above is a most worthy daily exercise for us all. The following scriptures are an example of a guideline for Daily Discipline so that they answers to the above could be mild and benign.

King James Version

Psalm 51: 10 "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me."

Romans 13:14: "But, put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof."

2 Corinthians 10:5: "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;"

If we stay cleansed, then we know the following can be achieved, especially each day in big and small needs, with which we need help. When something is troubling us, stop, and ask our Lord how to proceed. Try it, it works!

1 John 3:22: "And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight."

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Avalon Chronicles #88: "Old Soldiers, Young Stories"

by Allen B. Clark

After my 50th reunion at West Point, I pondered whether I would attend my 55th. This past weekend I did for a very emotional trip down memory lane. My 1963 class at West Point graduated 504 cadets, 134 have passed on, therefore we have 370 remaining. Approximately 100 attended this 55th celebration at our Alma Mater plus spouses, children, and even an adorable 5 year old grandchild, Cora. Our name tags had our cadet pictures. Nice touch and most helpful!

It was incredible! My class of 1963 can be defined as a "war class." The vast majority of us served in Vietnam as junior officers, lieutenants and captains, with 20 of us killed in Vietnam. At least one war widow attended plus several more of those married to classmates deceased in recent years. Our reunion included attendance by one very special person, a daughter, Christine, who came with her son, Ryan. She never knew her father, who was killed in action. This was her second to attend and throughout our days she was busily engaged, constantly visiting her father's friends and receiving many warm embraces. Our war deaths left about 20 children, who never knew their fathers. The twin sons of a company-mate of mine attended and both Linda and I spent some time with these two terrific guys, sons of proud parents. In a culture with high divorce rates it was heartening that the other four of my company-mates attending are married to the same women they dated as cadets!

Our final ranks as general officers, successful businessmen, or decorated combat warriors made no difference to any of us. We are all mellowed out. Some walked very haltingly, some were in wheelchairs, some talked about illnesses and injuries, some from our common war, but, we were all bound together in the commonality of our long ago cadet days and times at war, when we were young. Many of us produced sons and daughters and even grandchildren, who joined the "family business," our nation's military.

We have lost 30 since our 50th reunion. Our first event was the Memorial Service for our departed classmates, held in our magnificent Cadet Chapel, rising majestically high on the hillside above the cadet area. This was followed by many of us walking amongst the grave sites in the West Point Cemetery, where our classmates and friends are in their final places of eternal rest. Our last day at the Academy was, as always, very poignant and emotional. We stood in two ranks on the parade field, marched on by ourselves innumerable times as cadets, while our current Corps of Cadets passed in front of us, literally feet away. There were murmurings about how "young" they looked. One can but imagine in our graduation year of 1963, when the class of 1908 watched us at their 55th, and probably made the same observation about how "young" we looked.

The class of 1908 graduated 108 cadets. Their 55th would have been sparsely attended, but, just as our "young" stories were of the Delta, Cu Chi, Parrot's Beak, Dak To, Ashau Valley, and Tet '68, theirs would have been of the Punitive Expedition to Mexico under General Pershing chasing Pancho Villa, the Moro Expedition to the Philippines, the trenches of Europe in WWI with the Expeditionary Force, Meuse-Argonne, Soissons, China, and Siberia. Some of them served in World War II. Our training camp at West Point is Camp Buckner, named after one of their grads as well as Hickam Air Force Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, also a namesake of a class member of 1908.

When I boarded the bus after lunch in our massive dining hall, where we ate beneath the time-honored mural of past military history, I scanned across to Trophy Point and Battle Monument, dedicated to the 2,230 Regular Army officers and soldiers, who died for the Union in the Civil War. Amidst captured cannon from the Revolutionary War to the Spanish-American War, there are links of the original chain laid across the Hudson River to deny passage up the Hudson River to the British in our American Revolution, so they could not separate our colonies. Many memories flashed through my mind of when we were young, but I exulted in the current reflections of my fellow "old soldiers" and classmates and wondered, if I would be able to attend the 60th. My Lord willing, I will walk again the sacred grounds of this bastion of our nation, knowing that I was a proud soldier of the United States of America, bloodied in war, but, a soldier, who did my Duty as I was called to fulfill it for my personal Honor in service to my Country.