Tag Archives: Friend of God

Advent – Christmas Eve

th377WQ8QIOn Christmas Eve, the white center candle is traditionally lit. This candle is called the “Christ Candle” and represents the life of Christ that has come into the world. The color white represents purity. Christ is the sinless, spotless, pure Savior. Also, those who receive Christ as Savior are washed of their sins and made whiter than snow.

Let’s look at our scripture passages for Christmas Eve beginning with the letter to Titus, Titus 2:11-15 (NASB) . . .

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,
12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,
13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,
14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
15 These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

Our Second passage is from the gospel according to Luke . . . Luke 2:1-14(NASB) . . . .

1 Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.
2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.
3 And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.
4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David,
5 in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.
6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.
7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.
10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;
11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”Advent+-+First+Sunday-003[1]
13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

Tonight all candles are lit starting with the “Prophecy Candle” (purple), then the “Bethlehem Candle” (purple), Next is the “Shepherds’ Candle” (rose), then the “Angels’ Candle” (purple) and tonight the “Christ Candle” (white).

Let us pray . . . Father unto You be glory, honor and power, joy, peace, love and purity for only You have given us Christ the Lord Who is King and Shepherd, Savior and Lord. We thank You for Your graciousness and love, for the amazing sacrifice You make, in Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

The Third Sunday of Advent

th377WQ8QIOn the third Sunday of Advent we concentrate on joy. Lets look at our scripture passages. The first one in from the letter to the church at Philippi, Philippians 4:4-7 (NASB) . . .

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Our second scripture passage is from the gospel of John 1:19-28 (NASB)

19 This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”
20 And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”
21 They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he *said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”
22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?”
23 He said, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.”
24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.
They asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”
26 John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know.
It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”
These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.Advent wreath

On the third Sunday of Advent the pink, or rose-colored candle is lit. This pink candle is customarily called the “Shepherds Candle” and it represents joy. Today we light three candles, the “Prophecy Candle” (purple); the “Bethlehem Candle” (purple) and todays is the pink or rose candle know as the “Shepherd’s Candle.”

Let us Pray . . . Father thank You for giving us time to prepare for the coming of Your Son.  As we look forward to His birth, we also look forward to His coming again and thank You for our redemption through Christ our Lord, Amen.

The Second Sunday of Advent

th377WQ8QIOn the second Sunday of Advent, the second purple candle is lit. This candle typically represents love. Some traditions call this the “Bethlehem Candle,” symbolizing Christ’s manger. As we begin our Celebration of the Second Sunday of Advent, let’s join together and read from the letter to the Romans, chapter 15, verses 4-13 (NASB) . . .

4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus,
6 so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7 Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.
8 For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers,
9 and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written,

“Therefore I will give praise to You among the Gentiles,
And I will sing to Your name.”

10 Again he says,

“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people.”

11 And again,

“Praise the Lord all you Gentiles,
And let all the peoples praise Him.”

12 Again Isaiah says,

“There shall come the root of Jesse,
And He who arises to rule over the Gentiles,
In Him shall the Gentiles hope.”

13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Lets now read together from the gospel of Matthew. Matthew 11:2-10 (NASB)

Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples
and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”
Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see:
the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the gospel preached to them.
And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.”
As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?
Advent-wreath-wk2-m8 But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces!
But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet.
  This is the one about whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send My messenger Who will prepare Your way before You.’

Now let’s light the “Prophecy Candle” from week one and now the “Bethlehem Candle” for this week.Advent-wreath-wk2-m

Let’s pray, Father we thank You for Who You are and for all the ways You show us Your love. Through the Prophets of old You gave us a promise and we see You have fulfilled it. We can therefore learn from this that Your word is tried and true. You will always keep Your promises. Thank You for showing us Your love as we prepare for the birth of our Lord, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

The First Sunday of Advent

th377WQ8QIAs we begin our Celebration of Advent, let us begin with a reading from the Epistle (Letter) to the Roman (church) . . . Romans 13:11-14 (NASB)

11 Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 12The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.

Our second reading is from the book of the gospel of Luke, chapter 21:25-33 (NASB) . . .

25 “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

29 Then He told them a parable: Behold the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they put forth leaves, you see it and know for yourselves that summer is now near. 31 So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.Advent - First Sunday

Let us light the first candle of Advent. This candle is typically called the “Prophecy Candle” in remembrance of the prophets, primarily Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ. This candle represents hope or expectation in anticipation of the coming Messiah. (Light the first Purple Candle)

Father we thank You that You love us enough to send us Your son for our redemption and new life. Prepare us for the day of Your coming again. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Advent – What It Is, When It Is, and How It Is Celebrated

th377WQ8QICelebrating Advent involves spending time in spiritual preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas. In Western Christianity, the season of Advent begins on the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas Day, or the Sunday which falls closest to November 30, and lasts through Christmas Eve, or December 24. In 2014 it begins on Sunday 30 November and is celebrated each Sunday after that until it climaxes on 24 December.

What is Advent?

Advent is a period of spiritual preparation in which many Christians make themselves ready for the coming, or birth of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Celebrating Advent typically involves a season of prayer, fasting and repentance, followed by anticipation, hope and joy.

Many Christians celebrate Advent not only by thanking God for Christ’s first coming to Earth as a baby, but also for his presence among us today through the Holy Spirit, and in preparation and anticipation of his final coming at the end of time.

Definition of Advent

The word “advent” comes from the Latin “adventus” meaning “arrival” or “coming,” particularly of something having great importance.

The Time of Advent

For denominations that celebrate Advent, it marks the beginning of the church year.

In Western Christianity, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas Day, or the Sunday which falls closest to November 30, and lasts through Christmas Eve, or December 24. When Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday, it is the last or fourth Sunday of Advent.

For Eastern Orthodox churches which use the Julian calendar, Advent begins earlier, on November 15, and lasts 40 days rather than four weeks. Advent is also known as the Nativity Fast in Orthodox Christianity.

What Denominations Celebrate Advent?

Advent is primarily observed in Christian churches that follow an ecclesiastical calendar of liturgical seasons to determine feasts, memorials, fasts and holy days:

Catholic
Orthodox
Anglican / Episcopalian
Lutheran
Methodist
Presbyterian

Today, however, more and more Protestant and Evangelical Christians are recognizing the spiritual significance of Advent, and have begun to revive the spirit of the season through serious reflection, joyful expectation, and even through the observance of some of the traditional Advent customs.

Origins of Advent

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Advent began sometime after the 4th century as a time of preparation for Epiphany, and not in anticipation of Christmas. Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of Christ by remembering the visit of the wise men and, in some traditions, the Baptism of Jesus. At this time new Christians were baptized and received into the faith, and so the early church instituted a 40-day period of fasting and repentance.

Later, in the 6th century, St. Gregory the Great was the first to associate this season of Advent with the coming of Christ. Originally it was not the coming of the Christ-child that was anticipated, but rather, the Second Coming of Christ.

By the Middle Ages, the church had extended the celebration of Advent to include the coming of Christ through His birth in Bethlehem, his future coming at the end of time, and his presence among us through the promised Holy Spirit. Modern-day Advent services include symbolic customs related to all three of these “advents” of Christ.

Advent Symbols and Customs

Many different variations and interpretations of Advent customs exist today, depending upon the denomination and the type of service being observed. The following symbols and customs provide a general overview only, and do not represent an exhaustive resource for all Christian traditions.

Some Christians choose to incorporate Advent activities into their family holiday traditions, even when their church does not formally recognize a season of Advent. They do this as a way of keeping Christ at the center of their Christmas celebrations.

What Are the Colors of Advent?

Advent Colors and What They Symbolize

Purple has traditionally been the primary color of Advent, symbolizing repentance and fasting. Purple is also the color of royalty, demonstrating the anticipation and reception of the coming King celebrated during Advent. Today, however, many churches have begun to use blue instead of purple, as a means of distinguishing Advent from Lent.

Pink (or rose) is also one of the colors of Advent used during the third Sunday. It represents joy or rejoicing and reveals a shift in the season away from repentance and toward celebration.

White is the color of the center Advent candle, representing purity. Christ is the sinless, spotless, pure Savior. Also, those who receive Christ as Savior are washed of their sins and made whiter than snow.

What is the Advent Wreath?thF5OUV8GM

Symbols and Customs of the Advent Wreath

The Advent wreath is a circular garland of evergreen branches representing eternity. On that wreath, five candles are typically arranged. During the season of Advent one candle on the wreath is lit each Sunday as a part of the Advent services. Each candle represents an aspect of the spiritual preparation for the coming of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

On the first Sunday of Advent, the first purple candle is lit. This candle is typically called the “Prophecy Candle” in remembrance of the prophets, primarily Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ. This candle represents hope or expectation in anticipation of the coming Messiah.

Each week on Sunday, an additional candle is lit. On the second Sunday of Advent, the second purple candle is lit. This candle typically represents love. Some traditions call this the Bethlehem Candle,” symbolizing Christ’s manger.

On the third Sunday of Advent the pink, or rose-colored candle is lit. This pink candle is customarily called the “Shepherds Candle” and it represents joy.

The fourth and last purple candle, oftentimes called the “Angels Candle,” represents peace and is lit on the fourth Sunday of Advent.

On Christmas Eve, the white center candle is traditionally lit. This candle is called the “Christ Candle” and represents the life of Christ that has come into the world. The color white represents purity. Christ is the sinless, spotless, pure Savior. Also, those who receive Christ as Savior are washed of their sins and made whiter than snow.

Celebrating with an Advent wreath during the weeks prior to Christmas is a great way for Christian families to keep Christ at the center of Christmas, and for parents to teach their children the true meaning of Christmas.

Have We Forgotten Our Heroes? Chapter 21

090430-F-JZ031-268James Robinson Risner
Nickname(s): Robbie
Born: January 16, 1925; Mammoth Spring, Arkansas
Died: October 22, 2013 (aged 88); Bridgewater, Virginia
Place of burial: Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance: United States of America
Service/branch: United States Army Air Forces; United States Air Force
Years of service: 1943–1946 1951-1976
Rank: Brigadier General
Commands held: 832d Air Division; 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron; 34th Fighter-Day Squadron; 81st Fighter-Bomber Squadron
Battles/wars: Korean War; Vietnam War
Awards: Air Force Cross (2); Silver Star (2); Distinguished Flying Cross (3); Bronze Star with “V” (2); Air Medal (8); Joint Service Commendation Medal; Purple Heart (4)

James Robinson “Robbie” Risner (January 16, 1925 – October 22, 2013) was a general officer and professional fighter pilot in the United States Air Force.

Risner was a double recipient of the Air Force Cross, the second highest military decoration for valor that can be awarded to a member of the United States Air Force. He was the first living recipient of the medal, awarded the first for valor in aerial combat during the Vietnam War, and the second for gallantry as a prisoner of war of the North Vietnamese for more than seven years.

Commands held: 832d Air Division; 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron; 34th Fighter-Day Squadron; 81st Fighter-Bomber Squadron
Battles/wars: Korean War; Vietnam War
Awards: Air Force Cross (2); Silver Star (2); Distinguished Flying Cross (3); Bronze Star with “V” (2); Air Medal (8); Joint Service Commendation Medal; Purple Heart (4)

Risner became an ace in the Korean War, and commanded a squadron of F-105 Thunderchiefs in the first missions of Operation Rolling Thunder in 1965. He flew a combined 163 combat missions, was shot down twice, and was credited with destroying eight MiG-15s. Risner retired as a brigadier general in 1976.

At his passing, Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark A. Welsh III observed:

“Brig. Gen. James Robinson “Robbie” Risner was part of that legendary group who served in three wars, built an Air Force, and gave us an enduring example of courage and mission success…Today’s Airmen know we stand on the shoulders of giants. One of ‘em is 9 feet tall…and headed west in full afterburner.”

Risner was born in Mammoth Spring, Arkansas on 16 January 1925, but moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1931. His father was originally a sharecropper, then during the Great Depression became a day laborer for the Works Progress Administration. By the time Risner entered high school, his father was self-employed, selling used cars. Risner worked numerous part-time jobs in his youth to help the family, including newspaper delivery, errand boy and soda jerk for a drug store, for the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce at age 16, as a welder, and for his father polishing cars.

Risner had a religious upbringing as a member of the 1st Assembly of God Church. He wrestled for Tulsa Central High School, where he graduated in 1942. In addition to a love of sports, Risner’s interests were primarily in riding horses and motorcycles.

Risner enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces as an aviation cadet in April, 1943, and attended flight training at Williams Field, Arizona, where he was awarded his pilot wings and a commission as 2nd Lieutenant in May 1944. He completed transition training in P-40 Warhawk and P-39 Airacobra fighters before being assigned to the 30th Fighter Squadron in Panama.

The 30th FS was based on a primitive airstrip without permanent facilities at Aguadulce, on the Gulf of Panama. Risner noted to a biographer that his tour under these conditions amounted to as much flying as he desired but a distinct lack of discipline on the ground. When the squadron was relocated to Howard Field in the Panama Canal Zone in January 1945 to transition to P-38 Lightning fighters, its pilots were soon banned from the Officers Club for rowdiness and vandalism.

In 1946, Risner was involved in an off-duty motorcycle accident. While undergoing hospital treatment in the Army, he met his first wife Kathleen Shaw, a nurse from Ware Shoals, South Carolina. Risner and Shaw became engaged on a ship and were discharged and married the next month.

In civilian life, Risner tried a succession of jobs, training as an auto mechanic, operating a gas station, and managing a service garage. He also joined the Oklahoma Air National Guard, becoming an F-51 Mustang pilot. He flew nearly every weekend, and on one occasion, became lost in the fringes of a hurricane on a flight to Brownsville, Texas. Forced to land on a dry lakebed, he found that he was in Mexico and encountered bandits, but successfully flew his Mustang to Brownsville after the storm had passed. He received an unofficial rebuke from the American embassy for flying an armed fighter into the sovereign territory of a foreign nation, but for diplomatic reasons the flight was officially ignored.

Risner was recalled to active duty in February 1951 while assigned to the 185th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the OKANG at Will Rogers Field in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He subsequently received training in the F-80 Shooting Star at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.

Risner’s determination to be assigned to a combat unit was nearly ended when on his last day before going overseas he broke his hand and wrist falling from a horse. Robinson deliberately concealed the injury, which would have grounded him, until able to convince a flight surgeon that the injury had healed. He actually had his cast removed to fly his first mission.

Risner arrived in Korea on May 10, 1952, assigned to the 15th Reconnaissance Squadron at Kimpo Air Base. In June, when the 336th Fighter-Interceptor Brigadier General Robinson RisnerSquadron, also at Kimpo, sought experienced pilots, he arranged a transfer to 4th Fighter Wing through the intervention of a former OKANG associate. Risner was often assigned to fly F-86E-10, AF serial no. 51-2824, nicknamed Ohio Mike and bearing a large cartoon rendition of Bugs Bunny as nose art, in which he achieved most of his aerial victories.

His first two months of combat saw little contact with MiGs, and although a flight leader, he took a three-day leave to Japan in early August. The day after his arrival he returned to Korea when he learned that MiGs were operational. Arriving at Kimpo in the middle of the night, he joined his flight which was on alert status. The flight of four F-86 Sabres launched and encountered 14 MiG-15s. In a brief dogfight Risner shot down one to score his first aerial victory on August 5, 1952.

On September 15, Risner’s flight escorted F-84 Thunderjet fighter-bombers attacking a chemical plant on the Yalu River near the East China Sea. During their defense of the bombers, Risner’s flight overflew the MiG base at Antung Airfield, China. Fighting one MiG at nearly supersonic speeds at ground level, Risner pursued it down a dry riverbed and across low hills to an airfield 35 miles inside China. Scoring numerous hits on the MiG, shooting off its canopy, and setting it on fire, Risner chased it between hangars of the Communist airbase, where he shot it down into parked fighters.

On the return flight, Risner’s wingman, 1st Lt. Joseph Logan, was struck in his fuel tanks by anti-aircraft fire over Antung. In an effort to help him reach Kimpo, Risner attempted to push Logan’s aircraft by having him shut down his engine and inserting the nose of his own jet into the tailpipe of Logan’s, an unprecedented and untried maneuver. The object of the maneuver was to push Logan’s aircraft to the island of off the North Korean coast, where the Air Force maintained a helicopter rescue detachment. Jet fuel and hydraulic fluid spewed out from the damaged Sabre onto Risner’s canopy, obscuring his vision, and turbulence kept separating the two jets. Risner was able to re-establish contact and guide the powerless plane out over the sea until fluids threatened to stall his own engine. Near Cho Do, Logan bailed out after calling to Risner, “I’ll see you at the base tonight.” Although Logan came down close to shore and was a strong swimmer, he became entangled in his parachute shrouds and drowned. Risner shut down his own engine in an attempt to save fuel, but eventually his engine flamed out and he glided to a deadstick landing at Kimpo.

On September 21 he shot down his fifth MiG, becoming the 20th jet ace. In October 1952 Risner was promoted to major and named operations officer of the 336th FIS. Risner flew 108 missions in Korea and was credited with the destruction of eight MiG-15s, his final victory occurring January 21, 1953.

Risner was commissioned into the Regular Air Force and assigned to the 50th Fighter-Bomber Wing at Clovis Air Force Base, New Mexico, in March 1953, where he became operations officer of the 81st Fighter Bomber Squadron. He flew F-86s with the 50th Wing to activate Hahn Air Base, West Germany, where he became commander of the 81st FBS in November 1954.

In July 1956, he was transferred to George Air Force Base, California as operations officer of the 413th Fighter Wing. Subsequently he served as commander of the 34th Fighter-Day Squadron, also at George Air Force Base.

During his tour of duty at George Air Force Base, Risner was selected to fly the Charles A. Lindbergh Commemoration Flight from New York to Paris. Ferrying a two-seat F-100F Super Sabre nicknamed Spirit of St. Louis II to Europe on the same route as Lindbergh, he set a transatlantic speed record, covering the distance in 6 hours and 37 minutes.

From August 1960 to July 1961, he attended the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. He next served on the joint staff of Commander-in-Chief, Pacific (CINCPAC) in Hawaii.

In August 1964, Lieutenant Colonel Risner took command of the 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron, an F-105D Thunderchief fighter-bomber unit based at Kadena AB, Okinawa, and part of the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing. The following January he led a detachment of seven aircraft to Da Nang Air Base to fly combat strikes that included a mission in Laos on January 13 in which he and his pilots were decorated for destroying a bridge, but Risner was also verbally reprimanded for losing an aircraft while bombing a second bridge not authorized by his orders. On February 18, 1965, as part of an escalation in air attacks directed by President Lyndon B. Johnson that resulted in the commencement of Operation Rolling Thunder, the 67th TFS began a tour of temporary duty at Korat RTAFB, Thailand, under the control of the 2d Air Division.

Risner’s squadron led the first Rolling Thunder strike on March 2, bombing an ammunition dump at Xom Biang approximately ten miles north of the Demilitarized Zone. The strike force consisted of more than 100 F-105, F-100, and B-57 aircraft, and in the congested airspace, heavy anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire seriously disrupted its coordination and radio communications. Risner’s squadron was tasked with flak suppression, dropping CBU-2 “cluster bombs” from extremely low altitude. His wingman Capt. Robert V. “Boris” Baird was shot down on the opening pass, and the mission was in danger of collapsing when Risner took charge. After the last strike had been delivered, Risner and the two surviving members of his flight remained in the area, directing the search and rescue mission for Baird until their fuel ran low. Risner, in a battle damaged aircraft, diverted to Da Nang air base for landing.

On March 22, 1965, while leading two flights of F-105s attacking a radar site near Vinh Son, North Vietnam, Risner was hit by ground fire when he circled back over the target. He maneuvered his aircraft over the Gulf of Tonkin, ejected a mile offshore, and was rescued after fifteen minutes in the water.

On April 3 and 4, 1965, Risner led two large missions against the Thanh Hóa Bridge in North Vietnam. On the afternoon of April 3, the strike package of Rolling Thunder Mission 9 Alpha consisted of 79 aircraft, including 46 F-105s. 16 of those carried AGM-12 Bullpup missiles, while another 30 carried eight 750-pound bombs each, half of which were designated for the railroad and highway bridge. The force had clear conditions but encountered a severe glare in the target area that made the bridge difficult to acquire for attacks with the Bullpups. Only one Bullpup could be guided at a time, and on his second pass, Risner’s aircraft took a hit just as the missile struck the bridge. Fighting a serious fuel leak and a smoke-filled cockpit in addition to anti-aircraft fire from the ground, he again nursed his crippled aircraft to DaNang. The use of Bullpups against the bridge had been completely ineffectual, resulting in the scheduling of a second mission the next day with 48 F-105s attacking the bridge without destroying it. The missions saw the first interception of U.S. aircraft by North Vietnamese MiG-17 fighters, resulting in the loss of two F-105s and pilots of the last flight, struck by a hit-and-run attack while waiting for their run at the target.

Risner’s exploits earned him an awarding of the Air Force Cross and resulted in his being featured as the cover portrait of the April 23, 1965 issue of Time magazine. The 67th TFS ended its first deployment to Korat on April 26 but returned from Okinawa on August 16 for a second tour of combat duty over North Vietnam.

On August 12, 1965, U.S. Air Force and Navy air units received authorization to attack surface-to-air missile sites supplied to the North Vietnamese by the Soviet Union. Initial attempts to locate and destroy the SA-2 Guideline sites, known as Iron Hand missions, were both unsuccessful and costly. Tactics were revised in which “Hunter-Killer Teams” were created. Employed at low altitudes, the “hunters” located the missiles and attacked their radar control vans with canisters of napalm, both to knock out the SAM’s missile guidance and to mark the target for the “killers”, which followed up the initial attack using 750-pound bombs to destroy the site.

On 16 September 1965 Risner was flying this aircraft when he was shot down by anti-aircraft artillery.

0On the morning of September 16, 1965, on an Iron Hand sortie, Risner scheduled himself for the mission as the “hunter” element of a Hunter-Killer Team searching for a SAM site in the vicinity of Tuong Loc, 80 miles south of Hanoi and 10 miles northeast of the Thanh Hoa Bridge. Risner’s aircraft was at very low altitude flying at approximately 600 mph, approaching a site that was likely a decoy luring aircraft into a concentration of AAA. Heavy ground fire struck Risner’s F-105 in its air intakes when he popped up over a hill to make his attack. Again he attempted to fly to the Gulf of Tonkin, but ejected when the aircraft, on fire, pitched up out of control. He was captured by North Vietnamese while still trying to extricate himself from his parachute. He was on his 55th combat mission at the time.

“We were lucky to have Risner. With (Captain James) Stockdale we had wisdom. With Risner we had spirituality.”Commander Everett Alvarez, Jr. – 1st U.S. pilot held as a Prisoner of War in Southeast Asia

After several days of travel on foot and by truck, Risner was imprisoned in Hỏa Lò Prison, known as the Hanoi Hilton to American POWs. However after two weeks he was moved to Cu Loc Prison, known as “The Zoo”, where he was confronted during interrogations with his Time magazine cover and told that his capture had been highly coveted by the North Vietnamese. Returned to Hỏa Lò Prison as punishment for disseminating behavior guidelines to the POWs under his nominal command, Risner was severely tortured for 32 days, culminating in his coerced signing of an apologetic confession for war crimes.

Risner spent more than three years in solitary confinement. Even so, as the officer of rank with the responsibility of maintaining order, from 1965 to 1973 he helped lead American resistance in the North Vietnamese prison complex through the use of improvised messaging techniques (“tap code”), endearing himself to fellow prisoners with his faith and optimism. It was largely thanks to the leadership of Risner and his Navy counterpart, Commander (later Vice Admiral) James Stockdale, that the POWs organized themselves to present maximum resistance. While held prisoner in Hỏa Lò, Risner served first as Senior Ranking Officer and later as Vice Commander of the provisional 4th Allied Prisoner of War Wing. He was a POW for seven years, four months, and 27 days. His five sons had been aged 16 to 3 when he last saw them.

His story of being imprisoned drew wide acclaim after that war’s end. His autobiography, The Passing of the Night: My Seven Years as a Prisoner of the North Vietnamese, describes seven years of torture and mistreatment by the North Vietnamese. In his book, Risner attributes faith in God and prayer as being instrumental to his surviving the Hanoi prison experience. In his words he describes how he survived a torture session in July 1967, handcuffed and in stocks after destroying two pictures of his family to prevent them from being used as propaganda by an East German film crew:

“To make it, I prayed by the hour. It was automatic, almost subconscious. I did not ask God to take me out of it. I prayed he would give me strength to endure it. When it would get so bad that I did not think I could stand it, I would ask God to ease it and somehow I would make it. He kept me.”

Publication of Risner’s book led to a flap with American author and Vietnam war critic Mary McCarthy in 1974. The two had met, apparently at McCarthy’s request, when McCarthy visited Hanoi in April 1968. The meeting, described as “stilted”, resulted in an unflattering portrait of McCarthy in Risner’s book, primarily because she failed to note scars and other evidence of torture he had made plain to her. After publication of the book, McCarthy strenuously attacked both Risner (deeming him “unlikeable” and alleging that he had “become a Vietnamese toady”) and Risner’s credibility in a review. Risner made no rebuttal at the time, but when interviewed by Frances Kiernan decades later, Risner described the review as “character assassination”, a criticism of McCarthy’s treatment supported by several of her liberal peers including Kiernan.”

Risner was promoted to colonel after his capture, with a date of rank of November 11, 1965. He was part of the first group of prisoners released in Operation Homecoming on 12 February 1973 and returned to the United States. In July 1973 USAF assigned him to the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, where he became combat ready in the F-4 Phantom II. Risner was later transferred to Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico in February 1974 to command the 832d Air Division, in which he flew the F-111 Aardvark fighter-bomber. He was promoted to brigadier general in May 1974. On 1 August 1975, he became Vice Commander of the USAF Tactical Fighter Weapons Center at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada and retired from the Air Force on 1 August 1976.

Risner’s family life during and following his imprisonment was marked by several personal tragedies. His mother and brother died while he was still a P.O.W. and his oldest son Robbie Jr. died two years after his return of a congenital heart defect. In June 1975 Risner was divorced from his wife Kathleen after 29 years of marriage. In 1976 he met his second wife Dorothy Marie (“Dot”) Williams, widow of a fighter pilot missing-in-action in 1967 and subsequently married her after her missing husband was declared dead. They remained married until the end of his life, with the two younger of his four surviving sons choosing to live with him and Risner adopting her three youngest children. After retirement he lived in Austin, Texas, where he worked with the D.A.R.E. program and raised quarter horses, and later in San Antonio. He later moved to Bridgewater, Virginia.

Risner is one of only four airmen with multiple awards of the Air Force Cross, a combat decoration second only to the Medal of Honor.

The USAF Weapons School Robbie Risner Award, created September 24, 1976, was donated by H. Ross Perot as a tribute to Risner and all Vietnam era Prisoners of War, and is administered by the Tactical Air Command (now by Air Combat Command). The award is presented annually to the outstanding graduate of the USAF Weapons School. The Risner Award is a six and one-half foot trophy consisting of a sculpture of Risner in flight suit and helmet on a marble base, weighing approximately four tons. The trophy is permanently displayed at the United States Air Force Academy, with each winner’s name inscribed. A miniature replica, also donated by Perot, is presented to each year’s recipient as a personal memento. An identical casting, measuring four feet and weighing 300 pounds, was installed in the foyer of the USAF Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base in October 1984.

A nine foot bronze statue of Risner, sculpted by Lawrence M. Ludtke and mounted on a five foot pedestal of black granite, was commissioned by Perot and dedicated in the Air Gardens at the Air Force Academy on November 16, 2001. In addition to replicating the Risner Award, the statue commemorates Risner and other POWs who were punished for holding religious services in their room at the Hanoi Hilton on February 7, 1971, in defiance of North Vietnamese authorities. The statue was made nine feet tall in memory of Risner’s statement, commenting on his comrades singing The Star Spangled Banner and God Bless America, that “I felt like I was nine feet tall and could go bear hunting with a switch.”

Perot helped Risner later become the Executive Director of the Texans’ War on Drugs, and Risner was subsequently appointed by President Ronald Reagan as a United States Delegate to the fortieth session of the United Nations General Assembly. He was also inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in November 1974 in recognition of his military service, and announced as an inductee into the Arkansas Military Veterans Hall of Fame on November 1, 2013.

On October 19, 2012, ground was broken at the Air Force Academy for its new Center for Character and Leadership Development. In February 2012 the Academy received a $3.5 million gift from The Perot Foundation to endow the General James R. Risner Senior Military Scholar at the center, who “will conduct research to advance the understanding, study and practice of the profession of arms, advise senior Academy leadership on the subject, and lead seminars, curriculum development, and classroom activities at the Academy.”

The chapter squadron of the Arnold Air Society for Southern California, based on the AFROTC detachment of California State University, San Bernardino, is named for Risner.

Risner died in his sleep October 22, 2013, at his home in Bridgewater, Virginia three days after suffering a severe stroke. Risner was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on January 23, 2014. He was eulogized by Perot and General Welsh with fellow former POWs and current members of the 336th Fighter Squadron among those in attendance.

Flames of Love

0-flame-of-love-30875_10150164818525389_695920388_12371881_4683989_n(3) He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters; He makes the clouds His chariot; He walks upon the wings of the wind; (4) ]He makes the winds His messengers, Flaming fire His ministers. ——— Psalm 104:3-4  (NASB)

When we talk about our God and fire, we often get the picture of a mean, angry God coming to earth to kill and destroy His enemies. Scripture says that our God is a “consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24 KJV). So when God tells us to be “fire-starters” and that He makes His ministers flames of fire, what does that mean? Do we need to run around with matches, exacting vengeance for God? Not even close.

When Moses stood before the burning bush in Exodus 3, the bush was completely engulfed in the flame of God, but it did not burn up. When he encountered God in that manner, he was changed forever! His entire outlook, his entire future suddenly became consumed by the God He had met. In the years after, Moses spent many hours in the tent of meeting because he was a friend of God.

In metalsmithing, the hottest part of the flame is very near the tip of the torch. It is there that the flame is hot and the impurities low. The closer we are to God when we touch the lives of others, the less of our own garbage we deposit on them. The more we are consumed by His love, His fire, the better we will be able to bring them in touch with Him. The picture in all of Scripture is about the closeness of God bringing about transformation.

As servants of the Most High God, we should give out of the pure love of God to be an agent of change to those around us. His powerful gifts, His unconditional love, His Presence, all come as an outgrowth of our love for Him. The miracles, those “burning bushes,” those moments that change the lives around us flow from us simply because He is here. Let Him light the flame today!

(This information is used with permission from “Whispers of Heaven” by Rosalie Storment and Faye Higbee, copyrighted 2011)

No Worries

Dead Snowy Tree(34) “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  ——- Matthew 6:34 (NASB)

There’s a television advertisement here in America that shows a dog worrying about his bone. He’s so worried that he can’t sleep. He tries burying it in the backyard, but still worries. Then he takes it to the bank to a safety deposit box and still can’t sleep. He takes it home and gets insurance, then he can stop worrying. Its a picture of what we do!

The most difficult thing in the world is to not worry. Even well known Christians, in their desire to “teach” us what is to come, tend to cause the vast majority to worry. They go over and over again on the negative things until our faith is shaken rather than helped. We watch the evening news and for many, it causes anxiety. Some people have literally stopped watching the news or praying for others because the needs overwhelm them. Here is your word for the day: Let Jesus carry things–don’t worry! He is your insurance policy!

Having a light heart in the midst of whatever happens can only happen when we pray out of trust and faith instead of fear and worry. Here is the point:: does God hear us when we pray? Does He answer? If He hears us, then He answers, because it is who He is–He lives in us! He can’t ignore us because He loves us. He lives here–we’re His house! Of course He wants us to be a place of peace and safety.

If we truly believe in and have a relationship with Jesus, then we know that He listens even when we can’t speak. He knows that our future is good, even when the world is smothered in deep darkness (Isaiah 60). Even when circumstances surround us that seem hopeless, there is no greater Helper than God. All things work together for good for us (Romans 8:28).

If we know that God is listening, if we believe that He hears, then we have no reason to worry. We can move forward with joy because we know the Kind of kings personally, and He’s made the way for us. Even crucifixion, which looked like a disaster, was a triumph for us all. We are destined for victory, no matter what it looks like in the natural.

The Brightness of His Love

The-Missal--1902-large21)The lips of the righteous feed many, But fools die for lack of understanding. (22)It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich, And He adds no sorrow to it. ——– Proverbs 10:21-22 (NASB)

You can certainly tell a person who loves the Lord by their countenance, and by their love of worship. Blessings seem to follow them wherever they go. You can tell someone who loves the Lord by their willingness to laugh–to show forth the joy of the Lord. You can see in them all the attributes of 1 Corinthians 13 (patience, kindness, not envious, not boastful, not conceited, do not act improperly, not selfish, not easily provoked, keep no record of wrongs, do not find joy in unrighteousness, rejoice in truth, do not worry about people’s faults but believe them no matter what the circumstance).

While we may fail in one or two of these area on occasion, the majority of these things “ooze” from the Believer who loves and stays in worship to the Lord.

A friend’s smile, that “rainbow of joy” oozed God’s love. It leaked out of her in spite of her circumstances. Ultimately, that how I came to know Christ personally. It was the Sonshine that radiated from someone who loves Him. That love brought me the greatest blessing of all –friendship with God and with the people of His Kingdom!

All of us should love the Lord so much that the windows of our hearts show His love. We can only do that through relationship — worship and praise and trust. May the Lord reveal to you today how powerful His Presence is in worship. May His blessings overtake you and be poured out over you. May He turn your morning into joy and your sorrow into dancing. And may every trial show forth the deliverance of your loving Father!

The Family of God

Breakfast time(7) If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (8) My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. (9) Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. — John 15:7-9  (NASB)

If you love Jesus, and have accepted Him as Lord and Savior, then you are “family.” When the people of Israel were told to gather in family groups at the Passover, even those who had no lamb for sacrifice were to be welcomed as their neighbor’s table under the covering of blood. If you love Jesus, then you are part of His family, covered by His blood from death. So regardless of your background, if you have accepted Jesus as Lord, you are “family.”

As part of that family, you are deserving of respect, honor, and love. Only in that way can we really lift one another up and encourage each other toward God‘s plan. Only with that kind of honor and love can we encourage one another when we are struggling in a trial. God is the giver of victory: Jesus’ name means “Savior.”

This morning we received a phone call about someone who was suffering from a terminal illness who had been asked by several people “when was she going to die.” My heart shuddered in grief. Such lack of respect and compassion should not pass the lips of family members. Those words left an echo in the woman’s heart–an echo of hopelessness.

Sometimes it is hard to know what to say to someone who is suffering, or who has had a terrible tragedy in their lives. But life and death are in the power of our tongues. God does ALL things well–sometimes we forget. The words we speak to others will echo in their minds, so compassion should be the focus we given them rather than judgment or fear or harshness. God gives the gift of life to us to operate through us. Let me repeat that: God gives the gift of life to us to operate through us!

Like the grapes that ripen to make new wine, anointing gives the power to break chains. Victory belongs to God’s family, no matter what the circumstance! We should always send forth that life-giving victory to anyone who is struggling. God loves us, and His tender touch is understanding, kind, patient, and gentle. If you are part of His Family you are guaranteed the victory, you are promised great and mighty help no matter what problem may come. Rejoice! Share that rejoicing with others! Show everyone that our God is Love!