Week 5 started off great.  Immediately after returning from our Andrews mission our Commander pulled us aside and informed us that he was reassigning our OIC to another crew.  It is not that he was a bad leader, he just wasn’t a good one.  Numerous poor decisions and a few other incidents eventually lead to his removal and not one of us was sorry to see him go.  In turn we got back the Captain whom we flew with when we first got here and a newly assigned Lieutenant from Wyoming.  As if we weren’t already feeling lucky enough, two other crewmembers with similar altered team dynamics were scheduled to leave within 24 hours of us returning to Germany.  On a crew that was weighed down with 3 who never seemed to pull their own weight the change was welcome.  If those who left were new flyers I could perhaps understand however these 3 had almost 2500 flying hours combined.  Some things I will never get.
     With the new crew ready we were eager for our first mission which came a few days later.  We call it the Triangle, a stop at Ali Al Salem, Balad AB and then return to Germany.  The previous time we ran the mission was the day that almost lasted 24 hours.  This time we were back in 17 and 2 hours ahead of schedule.  We always knew our previous crew had weak links however we made excuses for them and pulled their weight, we had to.  To compare the two crews is night and day and will make the next 3 months a little easier to say the least. 
     Sunday morning bright and early the phone rang.  “Operation Ash Tray II” was in effect.  Evidently the volcano had sent another ash cloud toward Europe and had Ramstein in its sights.  As you can see by the photos, it was a mad dash to get everyone and all of our equipment out of Ramstein and off to an alternate location.  First we were heading downrange (dessert) which quickly changed to Rota Spain, a Navy base which means it is near water.  I liked that idea.  Unfortunately after we had rushed to get out of Dodge nobody told the ash cloud and it was too late.  We never took off.  After sitting on a C-17 for the better part of 6 hours we unloaded and waited for further instructions.  Those instructions didn’t take long, we were going to bus to a location 5 hours away and meet another C-17 there however before the buses arrived that plan was scrubbed too.  Finally at 10pm, 14 hours after I first left my room, I opened my door, showered and went to bed to try again the following day. 
     Monday morning we all met at 8 am for plan 3 and by 9 am everything was cancelled all together.  The ash cloud was expected to clear within 24 hours and the decision was made to keep us in place.  Once again, nobody informed the ash cloud and it wouldn’t be until Wednesday that a few flights finally took off.  For the second time in 6 short weeks we were grounded and out of play, I wasn’t very happy at the thoughts of sitting around once again but there was little I could do about it. 
     We used some of our downtime to take out our frustration at a local go-kart track 20 minutes from base.  I had never been there before but had heard numerous stories about the place.  It didn’t disappoint.  After being strapped in and fitted for a helmet we hit the track.  These karts go about 45 mph and after 30 minutes of driving my arms were shaking we I climbed out.  After sending Joe, Kevin and a few other into the wall I felt a whole lot better and we were back in the following Friday night. 

That’s it for this installment.  Hope all well and I will talk to you soon.  Chris.

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President Obama:

Today I read of your administrations’ plan to re-define September 11 as a National Service Day.  Sir, it’s time we had a talk.

During your campaign, Americans watched as you  made mockery of our tradition of standing and crossing your heart when the Pledge of Allegiance was spoken. You, out of four people on the stage, were the only one not honoring our tradition.

YES, “We noticed.”

During one of your many speeches, Americans heard you say that you intended to visit all 57 states. Islam, not America, has 57 states.

YES, “We noticed.”

When President Bush leaned over at Ground Zero and gently placed a flower on the memorial,  you nonchalantly  tossed your flower onto the pile without leaning over.

YES, “We noticed.”

Every time you apologized to other countries for America ‘s position on an issue we have wondered why you don’t share our pride in this great country.  When you have heard foreign leaders  berate our country and our beliefs, you have not defended us. In  fact, you insulted the British Crown beyond belief.

YES, “We noticed.”

When your pastor of 20 years, “God-damned” America and said  that 9/11 was ” America ‘s chickens coming home to roost,” and you denied having heard recriminations of that nature, we  wondered how that could be. You later disassociated yourself  from that church and Pastor Wright because it was politically expedient to do so.

YES, “We noticed.”

When you announced that you would transform America, we wondered why. With all her faults, America is the  greatest country on earth.

Sir, KEEP THIS IN MIND, “if not for  America and the people who built her, you wouldn’t be sitting in  the White House now.” Prior to your election to the highest office in this Country, you were a senator from Illinois and  from what we can glean from the records available, not a very remarkable one.

YES, “We noticed.”

All through your campaign and even now, you have surrounded yourself with individuals who are basically unqualified for the positions for which you appointed them. Worse than that, the  majority of them are people who, like you, bear no special allegiance, respect, or affection for this country and her traditions.

YES, “We noticed.”

You are 14 months into your term and every morning millions of Americans wake up to a new horror heaped on us by you. You seek to saddle working Americans with a health care/insurance  reform package that, along with cap and trade, will bankrupt this nation.

YES, “We noticed.”

We seek, by protesting, to let our representatives know that we are not in favor of these crippling expenditures and we are labeled “un-American”, “racist”, “mob”.  We wonder how we are supposed  to let you know how frustrated we are. You have attempted to make our protests seem isolated and insignificant. Until your appointment, Americans had the right to speak out.

YES, “We noticed.”

On September 11, 2001 there were no Republicans or Democrats, only Americans. And we all grieved together and  helped each other in whatever way we could. The attack on 9/11 was carried out because we are Americans.

And YES, “We noticed.”

There were many of us who prayed that as a black president you could help unite this nation. In six months you have done  more to destroy this nation than the attack on 9/11. You have failed us.

YES, “We noticed.”

September 11 is a day of remembrance for all  Americans. You propose to make 9/11 a “National Service Day”.  While we know that you don’t share our reverence for 9/11, we  pray that history will report your proposal as what it is, a disgrace.

YES, “We noticed.”

You have made a mockery of  our Constitution and the office that you hold. You have  embarrassed and slighted us in foreign visits and policy.

 
YES, “We noticed.”

We have noticed all these things. We will deal with you. When Americans come together again, it will be to remove you from office. Take notice.

Faye Parrish
Bunnell, Florida
August 2009

Heavenly Father, You are the real foundation of nations, raising them up to serve and care for the people dwelling in their boundaries. I thank You for making me a citizen of this land of freedom
and unlimited opportunity—which are the result of its Christian base. Send forth your Spirit to this country and make it a source of wisdom and strength, order and integrity throughout the world.

Lord Jesus Christ, King of the universe, look with mercy on those who rule over us. Grant to our President and his administration the grace to know and do your will. Let them serve all their subjects in truth and righteousness. Inspire our Congressmen with the courage to make laws for the good of all rather than the few. Give our Judges your Spirit of wisdom and understanding that they may discern the truth and impartially administer the law. And let all the people pitch in to make our way of government  continue to work.  Amen.

It is hard to believe that we are already ¼ through our deployment.  I took last week’s letter off if you will since there was absolutely nothing to write about during “Operation Ash Tray.”  The decision to keep us on the ground that early morning essentially took us out of play for 8 days so needless to say we were eager to get back in the air. 

You would think with more than 7 years of experience at this I would know that you should always watch what ask for.  We were teed up for a Balad – Ali Al Salem – Ramstein run on a C-17.  Since I would end up with calluses on my fingertips if I thoroughly described all of the events of that mission let’s just say that if there was a theoretical possibility of something going wrong it did. 

What was scheduled to be a 17 hour day took almost 25 and by the time we reached our rooms at 4 pm in the afternoon most of us opted to just stay up.  It was one of the longest and most aggravating days I can remember.

Kevin and I were finally moved into the same building area as the rest of our crew.  Since I feel compelled to only say nice things in these letters I am afraid I will have nothing to say about Ramstein Lodging.   That’s kind of humorous; I didn’t have anything to say about them during my last trip here as well. 

The rooms are not much bigger if any however they are much more functional.  Before we were forced to put our food items such as snacks and cereals on our television stand or tucked away in a night stand.  We now have a little cupboard space along with a counter, a full desk and television and microwave that do not look to be from the 1980’s. 

Best of all, we now have our own bathroom!  How I will miss the early morning wake-ups of my neighbor taking a shower.  Of course it is hard is to complain too much when there are a lot of people who have it much worse that I do. 

The highlight of the past week was finally a trip to Andrews and the opportunity to see Amanda and Cam while in D.C.  Of course with my luck it couldn’t go off without a hitch.  We were originally slated for the mission early in the week and Amanda, Cam and Robin, Kevin’s girlfriend made their travel arrangements. 

Late Thursday evening we were notified that the mission had been extended and that we were scheduled to fly onto San Antonio after dropping our patients off in Andrews.  Once again, hours before leaving I had to make the dreaded phone call to Amanda to tell her that we would not be coming once again.  Like a true champion, she took the news well and went along with her day at work.

Friday morning we were alerted for the mission on time, did our normal pre-mission routine and ended up at the Detachment 15 minutes early.  Three of took the time to take our personal luggage out and an undisclosed amount of German beverages out to the plane. 

As the loading of the above mentioned items was occurring I mentioned that I planned on escorting the medical equipment back from San Antonio as the remainder of crew would normally fly back to Germany on a commercial carrier.  One of the individuals on the plane informed us that SA leg had been dropped and we were only flying to Andrews.  It was a mad dash back to the Detachment.  This time as the phone rang at 4 am back in the States with the good news.

After an hour and a half delay that seemed like forever we were finally on our way and shortly before 8 pm EST we made it to the hotel.  Amanda had found a small flag for Cameron to carry and he was easy to make as we drove across the parking lot. 

Kevin was first out of the truck and immediately caught Cameron’s attention.  The look on his face was that of utter disappointment, I know you have the same green suit but you are not who I thought you were.  Then after a few seconds he looked around Kevin, said “Da-Da” and ran over.  After demanding “Up” and a quick kiss it was on to assaulting the Velcro patches as he always does.  It was truly awesome to see him and Amanda.

The downside of the trip was that we only had 24 hours off before we had to fly back to Germany.  After a mid-morning breakfast it was off to Arlington.  I can’t count the number of times I have been there but there is always something special about taking someone there for the first time.  Perhaps it is the sheer magnitude of the size, the precisely laid out grave markers or the peaceful quiet. 

We made it just in time for a changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown.  Amanda had never seen it before so as Cam got a little restless he and I went for a short walk.  From there we made our way Section 60.  Called by many the “Saddest acre in America,” it is the final resting place for many of those killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

Walking there with Amanda and Cam I realized that you can never rationalize with an almost two year old why his Dad has to leave, but you are reminded why do it.

 We enjoyed the remainder of our time that afternoon and evening however despite all of the prayers of the aircraft breaking or the mission being cancelled, we made our way back to Germany.  We have a few flights this week that will keep us busy and before too long we will be talking about the ½ mark.

 That is it for this letter.  I hope you are all well and Happy Mother’s Day if happens to apply.  Talk to you soon.  Chris.

Week 2,

     Well “Operation Ash Tray” has brought everything here to a screeching halt.  In my 7 years of flying AE I have never seen anything like this.  We were the alert crew Thursday night when the phone rang around 10pm, first we were going to a base in the desert, next we were going to Andrews, then back to the desert and finally told to just pack tan and green flight suits.  It was rather comical looking back on it.  At the time however, with all of 25 minutes to get packed, repack, repack again and then be ready to be picked up I didn’t find it was all that humorous at the time.  Finally a few hours later we were mere minutes away from flying to Andrews Friday morning and even got as far a closing up the ramp on the C-17 before the mission was scrubbed.  No comment. 

For Kevin and me it was a huge disappointment since Amanda and his girlfriend Robin had already made plans to drive down to D.C. later that morning to stay with us for the anticipated 4 to 6 days we would be there.  I know it has only been two weeks but I will take any opportunity I can to see Amanda and Cam that I can get and I returned to my room 12 hours after I originally left with no flight hours logged and a heavy heart.  Mission first I always say and when you compare with some of those I have the privilege to help on their journey home my temporary disappointment is trivial when you see what they are going through. 

     Day two of “Operation Ash Tray” we found ourselves off for the entire day.  The day started with a quick morning swim and then came an urgent mission to assault two vineyards located the Phalz region near the Rhine river.  Our two targets, Dr. Burklen-Wolf and Rudy Ruttger were successfully visited without incident and numerous prisoners were taken into custody.   Anything I can do to maintain international relations.   As for today I did find some humor when last night we were put into crew rest so we could sit in Bravo “Stand-by” today.  Here is my disclaimer.  To avoid any potential “Operational Security” issues I won’t discuss our current situation.  However if you Google “Stars Stripes Ramstein,” Stars and Stripes will and you will find the following article: http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=69398 .  Not much has changed but I am sure once we can start flying again I think it will get pretty busy.  Until then I will enjoy the down knowing there is a price for everything. 

     Down time has continued to be filled with running, swimming and biking.  Running here is fantastic and I try to set 2 days a week.  I am already back up to 12 miles and if I can keep up this pace might even entertain running the entire Hartford Marathon this coming October.  I am still split on what to run for.  Honor Flight is a great charity and the debt we owe WWII Veterans will never be repaid.  However my first flight we flew back some CT Guard members, two of whom were seriously injured.  It would be nice to do something for them as well.  Luckily I have a few more months to make up my mind. 

     In my previous update I totally forgot to mention and thank the support staff from our home unit in Westover.  Our full-time staff, recently thinned by staff reductions did a superb job in getting Kevin and I out the door.  While it may not have always been pretty we arrived to our deployed location with all equipment (maybe a little more than we needed), our paperwork was in line and we were ready to go.  It speaks volumes that 36 hours after our arrival we were mission ready and flying our first mission down-range the other night we were prepared to redeploy anywhere in the World.   Thanks to Lt Cols Z & D, Wayne, Rich and Vikki for all of their help.

That is it for this installment.  Hopefully this quagmire ends soon and we can resume our mission.  Talk to you soon, Chris.

Chris, the flight nurse that we came to appreciate so much while Lea was hospitalized in Hartford, is currently deployed to Germany, where his team is making flights into Afganistan and Iraq to treat and transport injured military personnel. Below is the first note from this deployment.

     Well I guess you can say here we go again, beginning my final tour, 120 days at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.   Kevin (from my Westover unit) and I were placed on the same crew which we appreciated.  It is hard to believe we are already through Day 7; time at least for me is flying.  Our first week was fairly hectic.  We flew from Dulles in Washington D.C. to Frankfurt on United.  I would like to personally thank that wonderful airline for charging me $250 in excessive baggage fees.  They somehow thought I could pack 4 months of supplies, 8 uniforms with boots and some other military gear in 3 bags.  I had to laugh at first since I thought he was joking, but he wasn’t.  While I will be reimbursed when I file my first travel voucher, it is the point of it all.  Didn’t the government bailout United not too terribly long ago?

     Our schedule is much different than it was two years ago.  We are in Bravo (Stand-by) for 24 hours, off for a day and then assigned a mission after 12 hours of pre-departure crew rest.  Our first two missions have both been to Afghanistan.  If everything goes to plan it makes for a 22 hour day, if something goes wrong it only gets longer.  So far, so good and I would like to keep it that way.   One of our missions had a few fellow Nutmegers aboard which made for a very sad beginning of this deployment.  Ironic that I traveled ½ way around the world and was blessed with the opportunity help some of my neighbor’s home on their long journeys.  So far in the first week we have racked up over 27 flight hours.  If you add in our trip from the States last Friday we have been in the air over 35 hours this past week.  I can’t wait to cash in my frequent flyer miles on this one. 

     Tomorrow is our first true down day since we got here and in true German fashion I feel obligated to uphold international relations and visit some of the local retailers especially those specializing in wine production.  While I have two vineyards I really like and have visited for years some of those on our crew suggested another vineyard that overlooks the Rhine river.  The owner is American and loves service members so it should be interesting.  Any request?  Kevin and I hope visit Rudy Ruttgar and my personal favorite MD, Dr. Burklen-wolf in the next few weeks. 

     My quarters are much like they were two years ago, just a little nicer (no mold and carpet).  The room is humble, has a fridge and microwave and while be it painfully slow, we finally have internet in our rooms. Welcome 2010 AF lodging! All in all I can’t complain too much, it could always be worse.   As for the food here…um….uh… No comment.  A salad alone the other day cost me $2.75 and that was with a discount from the lunch lady.  We are currently working on our Per Diem issue. 

     With our time in between missions Kevin and I have been keeping busy running (not Kevin), biking and swimming.  I found a very nice 6 mile long running path not too far from my room.  Some of the Westover folks deployed to Andrews were nice enough to take my bike with them and placed it on a mission over here to Germany.  They were also nice enough to decorate it with a bright pink Easter basket, tassels, a horn and completed it off with a personalized California license plate with my name on it and playing cards in front and rear spokes.  At least they were nice enough to fill the Easter basket with Girl Scout cookies to help with the humility.  Kevin purchased a bike later that same day and we have pretty much rode everywhere since.  It is nice to not have to rely on a vehicle shared by 7 people if you want to go somewhere and with hundreds of kilometers of trails around the base we will put them to good use. 

     Many people have asked if they can send me a package.  The simple answer is no.  I am blessed with living on one of the largest U.S. bases in Europe.  I have access to a grocery store, a mall, a movie theater, a gym and a pool.  While we pay for these amenities in very long flights down range many people have it much worse than I.  With that said, they would love packages and support from home.  While I am touched by all of the kind thoughts there are many more deserving service members than I.  I will however be more than happy to deliver any packages anyone may want to send and I will ensure they get out to those who need it most.  Coffee, canned fruits, non-perishable sweets and of course baby-wipes are always fan favorites. 

      That is all for this weekly installment.  Please tune in next week for another thrilling episode.  I hope everyone is well and I will talk to you soon.  Chris.

Full Scale Working Replica of Noah’s  Ark  Opened In SCHAGEN,  Netherlands

Dutch creationist Johan Huibers built a biblically correct replica of  Noah’s  Ark  constructed to accurate measurements given in scripture. Genesis states that Noah kept seven pairs of most domesticated animals and one breeding pair of all other creatures, plus his wife, three sons and three daughters-in-law together on the boat for almost a year while the world was deluged.

 Johan’s Ark is designed to be able to pass narrowly under every bridge on his planned sailing route through Netherlands’ interior waters to the country’s big cities. The massive central door in the side of Noah’s Ark was thrown open, you could say, for the first time in 4,000 years, drawing a crowd of curious pilgrims and townsfolk to behold the wonder and reality of what Noah crafted. 

The replica, started in May 2005, is 150 cubits long, 30 cubits high and 20 cubits wide. That’s two-thirds the length of a football field and as high as a three-story house. Still, Noah’s Ark as described in the Bible was five times larger than Johan’s Ark!   Huibers did the work mostly with his own hands, using modern tools and with occasional help from his son Roy.

  Huibers built the replica as a testament to his faith in the literal truth of the Bible. A contractor by trade, he chose to build the ark of American cedar and Norwegian pine rather than the “Gopher” wood described in scripture. Scholars still debate what Gopher wood would have been.

 Life-size models of giraffes, elephants, lions, crocodiles, zebras, bison and other animals greet visitors as they arrive in the main hold. 

Exhibits on the third level show ancient tools and old-fashioned barrels, exotic stuffed animals, and a wax model of an exhausted Noah reclining on a bed in the forecastle.

A 50-seat film theater in the keel allows kids to watch the segment of the Disney film “Fantasia” that tells the story of Noah.

 Exhibit designs are by Bianca, Huibers wife. Visitors are often amazed by the replica saying it’s beyond comprehension. The size of the replica is driven home when you see the life size statues of animals displayed, and the biblical arc was five times larger than this!” Huibers’ vision is to stock his ark with horses, lambs, chickens and rabbits – mostly baby animals to save space.

 On the uncovered top deck , which was not quite ready in time for the opening, will come a petting zoo, with baby lambs and chickens, and goats, and one camel. Huibers says of the arc that he hopes it will renew interest in Christianity in the  Netherlands , where church membership has fallen dramatically in the past 50 years.

The total cost of the project is estimated to be just under $1.2 million. For more information on Johan Huibers and the Ark project, see www.arkvannoach.com (site is in Dutch, with some videos in English).

Now that I am old and gray…give me the time to tell this new generation about all your mighty miracles.  Psalm 71:18

Are you looking forward to going to heaven?

Randy Alcorn relates in his book Heaven that a pastor once confessed to him, ”Whenever I think about Heaven, it makes me depressed. I’d rather just cease to exist when I die. I can’t stand the thought of that endless tedium. To float around in the clouds with nothing to do but strum a harp … it’s all so terribly boring. Heaven doesn’t sound much better than Hell. I’d rather be annihilated than spend eternity in a place like that.”

How did a Bible-believing, seminary-educated pastor get such a depressing view of Heaven? Certainly not from Scripture, where Paul said in Philippians 1:23 “to depart and be with Christ was far better than staying on a sin-cursed Earth.”

John Eldridge, in his book The Journey of Desire, says “Nearly every Christian I have spoken with has some idea that eternity is an un-ending church service . . .  a never-ending sing-along in the sky, one great hymn after another, forever.” How boring!

An overwhelming majority of Americans continue to believe that there is life after death and heaven and hell exist, but usually have confused perceptions of what heaven is like.

Three people die every second; 180 every minute, and nearly 11,000 every hour. That means that more than 250,000 every day go to their final reward. What do the saved think heaven is like?

First, I think they believe it is the paradise that Jesus spoke of with the pearly gates, streets of gold, walls covered with precious stones, a mansion for each of us, continuous worship of God, our Father. But, what else? What will we do? What will our lives be like? 

Isaiah and the prophets make clear the destiny of God’s people. They will live in peace and prosperity, as free people in their promised land. The “country of their own” spoken of in Hebrews 11 is a real country, with a real capital city, the New Jerusalem. It is an actual place where these “aliens and strangers on earth” will ultimately live in actual bodies.

It’s commonly taught that the Old Testament concept of Heaven is limited. Though it’s certainly true that very  little is said about the intermediate Heaven, where believers go when they die, the Old Testament actually says a great deal about the eternal, or New, Heaven.

“But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy …. The earth will give birth to her dead” (Isaiah 26:19).

Just as Adam was made from the dust of the earth, we will be remade from the dust to which we return at death. God’s people are not looking for deliverance from Earth, but deliverance on Earth. That’s exactly what we will find after our bodily resurrection.

When our Lord returns and the old Earth ends, the New Earth will begin. The Bible is clear that God’s ultimate Kingdom and our final home will not be on the old Earth but on the New Earth, where at last God’s original design will be fulfilled and enjoyed forever.

God promises to make not only a New Earth but also “new heavens” (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13). The Greek and Hebrew words translated “heavens” include the stars and planets and what we call outer space.

Will the New Earth Be a new Eden?

If we take literally the earthly depictions of life on the New Earth, it allows us to make a direct connection with our current lives.  Whenever we see beauty in water, wind, flower, deer, man, woman, or child, we catch a glimpse of Heaven. Just like the Garden of Eden, the New Earth will be a place of sensory delight, breathtaking beauty, satisfying relationships, and personal joy.

God himself prepared mankind’s first home on Earth. “Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground – trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food” (Genesis 2:8-9).

In the same way that God paid attention to the details of the home he prepared for Adam and Eve in Eden, Christ is paying attention to the details as he prepares for us an eternal home in Heaven.

In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:2-3).
  .
What Is the New Jerusalem?  

Scripture describes Heaven as both a country (Luke 19:12; Hebrews 11:14- 16) and a city (Hebrews 12:22; 13:14; Revelation 21:2). Fifteen times in Revelation 21 and 22 the place in which God and his people will live together is called a city. The repetition of the word and the detailed description of the architecture, walls, streets, and other features of the city suggest that the term city isn’t merely a figure of speech but a literal geographical location.

The city at the center of the future Heaven is called the New Jerusalem. The city is portrayed as a walled city; its security beyond question. It is perched on the peak of a hill that no invading army could ascend. The city’s walls are so thick that they couldn’t be breached by any siege engine and so high that no human could hope to scale them. (Of course, the city won’t ever be under attack, but its structure will remind us of God’s might and commitment to protect his people.)
  .
What Will the Great City Be Like?

It will be the largest city that has ever existed-the capital city of the New Earth. The New Jerusalem will be a place of extravagant beauty and natural wonders. It will be a vast Eden, integrated with the best of human culture, under the reign of Christ. More wealth than has been accumulated in all human history will be spread freely across this immense city.

Presumably many other cities will be on the New Earth, such as those Jesus mentioned in the stewardship parables.

‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’  “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’ “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’ (Luke 19:17-19).

The kings of nations who bring their treasures into the New Jerusalem must come from and return to somewhere, presumably countryside and cities lying beyond the New Jerusalem. But no city will be like this one, for it will be called home by the King of kings.

Heaven’s capital city will be filled with visual magnificence. “It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal” (Revelation 21:11).

John goes onto describe the opulence: “The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone.” (Revelation 21:18-19)

John describes a natural wonder in the center of the New Jerusalem: “the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city” (Revelation 22:1- 2).

Ghosts don’t need water, but human bodies do. The original readers, who lived in a bone-dry climate, readily grasped the wonder of constantly available fresh water, pure and uncontaminated, able to satisfy the deepest thirst.

Will we be ourselves  in Heaven?

Jesus called people in Heaven by name, including Lazarus in the intermediate Heaven and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the New Heaven:

I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 8:11).

A name denotes a distinct identity, an individual. The fact that people in Heaven can be called by the same name they had on Earth demonstrates they remain the same people.

When Moses and Elijah appeared out of Heaven to stand with Christ at his transfiguration, the disciples with Christ recognized Moses and Elijah as the distinct individuals they were, the same men they were on Earth, infused with holiness.

When we’re told we’ll sit at a banquet and eat with Abraham and Isaac and others, we will be sitting, eating beside, talking with, and laughing with not a general assembly, but particular individuals .

What will our bodies be like?

Our resurrected bodies will be real physical bodies, just as Christ’s was and is. Our resurrection bodies will be free of the curse of sin, redeemed, and restored to their original beauty and purpose that goes back to Eden. Heaven’s delights will stretch our glorified senses to their limits.

To be restored to the sensory abilities of Adam and Eve would be thrilling enough, but it seems likely our resurrected bodies will surpass theirs. What God remakes, he improves. He could add new senses to our old ones. He always surpasses our expectations. It won’t be a lot different in the New Jerusalem.

Will we eat and drink in Heaven?

Words describing eating, meals, and food appear over a thousand times in Scripture, with the English translation “feast” occurring another 187 times. Jesus said to his disciples, “I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom” (Luke 22:29-30).

When angels, and God himself, took on human form, they ate human food: The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.” “Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”

So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread.”

Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree. (Genesis 18:1-2, 5-8).

What will we know and learn?

It’s common to hear people say, “We don’t understand now, but in Heaven we’ll know everything.” God alone is omniscient. When we die, we’ll see things far more clearly, and we’ll know much more than we do now, but we’ll never know everything.

The apostle Paul wrote: “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

In Heaven we’ll be flawless, but not knowing everything isn’t a flaw. It’s part of being finite. Righteous angels don’t know everything, and they long to know more.

It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. (1 Peter 1:12).

Angels, too, are flawless . . . but finite. We should expect to long for greater knowledge, as angels do. And we’ll spend eternity gaining the greater knowledge we’ll seek.

What Will Our Daily Lives Be Like? Will we work?

The idea of working in Heaven is foreign to many people. Yet Scripture clearly teaches it. Work was part of the original Eden. It was part of a perfect human life on Earth. When God created Adam, he “took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it ” (Genesis 2:15).

Work wasn’t part of the Curse. On the New Earth work will be redeemed and transformed into what God intended: “No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him” (Revelation 22:3).

Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working” (John 5:17).

Jesus found great satisfaction in his work. “‘My food,’ Jesus said, ‘is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work'” (John 4:34).
 
Will We Have Our Own Homes?

The intended meaning seems to be that we’ll have separate dwelling places on a single estate or even separate rooms within the same house. The New International Version rendering of John 14:2 is this: “In my Father’s house are many rooms …. I am going there to prepare a place for you.”

The New Earth’s citizens will build, plant, and eat, as human beings on Earth always have. Like Adam and Eve in Eden, we’ll inherit a place that God has prepared for us. But we’ll be free to build on it and develop it as we see fit, to God’s glory.

Will there be marriage, families and relationships?

One group of religious leaders, the Sadducees, tried to trick Jesus with a question about marriage in Heaven. They didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead. Attempting to make him look foolish, they told Jesus of a woman who had seven husbands who all died.

They asked him, “Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?” (Matthew 22:28). Christ replied, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30).

There’s every reason to believe we’ll pick right up in Heaven with relationships from Earth. We’ll gain many new ones but will continue to deepen the old ones. The notion that relationships with family and friends will be lost in Heaven, though common, is not biblical. It denies the clear doctrine of continuity between this life and the next and suggests our earthly lives and relationships have no eternal consequence. It completely contradicts Paul’s intense anticipation of being with the Thessalonians and his encouraging them to look forward to rejoining their loved ones in Heaven.

The famous book, 90 Minutes in Heaven, is the account of a fatal automobile accident that took the life of a Baptist pastor, Don Piper. He was pronounced dead only to be prayed back to life by another Baptist pastor ninety minutes later. In those ninety minutes, Piper went to heaven, and much of what he reported he saw is described and promised in Scripture.

The pastor states that he saw the pearly gates and the golden streets; heard heavenly music and the swoosh of angel wings; and literally felt the glory of God.

He said, “I was home; I was where I belonged.” “I wanted to be there more than I had ever wanted to be anywhere on earth. Time had slipped away, and I was simply present in heaven. All worries, anxieties and concerns vanished. I had no needs, and I felt perfect.”

Piper’s account reminds us that heaven is more than a hope and a dream. It’s a real place. As Christians, we believe by faith what the Bible says about heaven, but Piper believes because of what his faith has shown him.

I thought it might be interesting to compare some of Piper’s account against what scripture says.

1. “We are confident, yes, well pleased, rather, to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8)

Piper says, “Simultaneous with my last recollection of seeing the bridge and the rain, a light enveloped me…In my next moment, I was standing in heaven.”

2. “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

Piper says, “I wasn’t conscious of anything I’d left behind and felt no regrets about leaving family or possessions. It was as if God had removed anything negative or worrisome from my consciousness, and I could only rejoice.”

3. “No one has seen God at any time.” (John 1:18)

Piper says, “I did not see God. Although I knew God was there, I never saw any kind of image or luminous glow to indicate his divine presence.”

4. “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem…The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.” (Revelation 21:10, 21)

Piper says, “The gate…was pearlescent…To me, it looked like someone had spread pearl icing on a cake…I paused just outside the gate, and I could see inside, it was like a city with paved streets. To my amazement, they had been constructed of literal gold.”

5. “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne.” (Revelation 5:11)

Piper says, “My most vivid memory of heaven is what I heard. I can only describe it as a holy swoosh of angel wings…It was the most beautiful and pleasant sound I’ve ever heard and it didn’t’ stop. It was like a song that goes on forever.”

6. “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

Piper says, “I became aware of a large crowd of people…As the crowd rushed toward me, I didn’t see Jesus, but I did see people I had known…More and more people reached for me and called me by name.”

7. “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

Piper recounted his last experience just before he came back to life: “The only way I’ve made sense out of this experience is to think that if I had actually seen God, I would never have wanted to return. My feeling has been that once we’re actually in God’s presence, we will never return to earth again, because it will be empty and meaningless by comparison.”

We need to believe Jesus, not just believe in Jesus. He told us that heaven was a real place. “If it were not so,” he said, “I would have told you.” (John 14:2).  Jesus told us the truth. Heaven is a real place and what the Bible says about heaven – how we get there, what we will see, here and feel – is also true. And, its going to be a better place than we can imagine.

Self-employment continues to be of great interest as a career alternative for individuals from all walks of life, fueled, perhaps, by the lingering recession. The businesses operated by entrepreneurs are viewed as critically important to our society, since small businesses represent the majority of businesses. Yet, entrepreneurship is often difficult and tricky, filled with opportunities to misstep.

In my 20+ years of small business consulting, I have personally engaged in a variety of businesses, often having multiple businesses at the same time. I pray daily for heavenly guidance, that I might be granted wisdom to make sound decisions. I have lost some battles, won a few, and learned many lessons along the way. One skill I acquired is unrelentingly thorough business research, and market trends. I greatly enjoy sharing these insights and research results with clients during my weekly entrepreneurial webinars, a line of business now in its 10th year.

WHAT’S INVOLVED?
One of the most common stumbling blocks to getting started is understanding what industries are growing and what is involved in getting started. When you start your own business, you have to wear many hats, of course, and perform tasks unfamiliar to you. You may also have some great ideas, but not the administrative skills self-employment requires. You need to know your strengths and weaknesses, and get help overcoming your shortcomings.

Lack of management experience and failure to plan strategically accounts for a large portion of  small business failures. Entrepreneurs often think that they can do it all and may not ask for help when they need it. Don’t be hesitant to use the advice of experts, networking with other entrepreneurs and hiring or outsourcing to manage the tasks in which you have little skill. 

Networking in your business community is available where business people gather. Chambers of Commerce are excellent resources, as are Retail Merchants groups, and service clubs, such as Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Jaycees, and others. The membership of service clubs are largely business people who are working together to improve the community through charitable programs.

Seek out professional advisors, such as an attorney and accountant, etc., to provide you guidance. Ask other business people who they use for these services, and then strive to meet these professionals. Carefully determine who is going to be a good fit for you and your business, because there are going to be hard choices to make along the way, and you will have to be able to trust and accept their counsel. 
 
KNOW YOUR MARKET
Desire and persistence alone will not make you successful. You need to be sure that there is a market for what you plan to offer and that the competition isn’t already too strong. Market research is essential, and must begin with identifying who your potential customers are, and what features and benefits are important to them.

Using the results of interviews, surveys, focus groups, and other resources, you can develop a good marketing and business plan that takes into account customer needs, competition, pricing and promotional strategies. Make sure you are offering a product that is unique and competitive or at a lower cost than that of your competitors. Make sure you have the training, expertise and talent to run your business.

Twenty percent, or more, of all small businesses are started in the home. Home based businesses can be very successful, and statistics indicate that about 70% of these businesses survive the all-important first two years. If you are undecided about whether this is the right time for you to seriously consider self-employment, we recommend that you take the free on line  entrepreneurial self-assessment (Canada: http://www.canadabusiness.ca/eng/125/) or,
(United States: http://web.sba.gov/sbtn/sbat/index.cfm?Tool=4).

The Small Business Administration provides extensive free services to those in the U.S., while the Canada Business Centers assist startups in their service area. The SBA provides free computer-based-training modules in a wide variety of topics that you can take from the comfort of your home office. The courses, located at http://sba.gov/training/index.html, include topics such as Business Planning, Finance, Marketing and Advertising, Franchising, Strategic Planning, and Business Management.

Canada’s resource, Canada Business, http://www.canadabusiness.ca/eng/, provides an extensive listing of resources for the entrepreneur, including an Entrepreneurial Assessment and “Starting a Business” as a main topic. Articles, recommended links and checklists are provided to help with planning.

HOME BASED BUSINESS
Over half of all the small businesses in North America are home based. The IRS specifies that a home-based business must have its own location (away from the family living space) that is devoted exclusively to the business. The business must be in regular operation, profits must exceed expenses in order to claim deductions, the business must be conducted almost exclusively in the home and the motive must be profit.

The maturation of the baby boomer generation, born 1946-1964, is going to have a huge affect on business. As baby boomers begin to retire the demand for leisure travel is increasing. As of January 2010 boomers were retiring at the rate of one every eight seconds in the U.S. , and that rate is going to escalate and continue growing for the next several years.

WHAT BUSINESS SECTORS ARE GROWING?
An economic collapse means disaster for some businesses while others tend to grow. For every retailer in trouble, there’s a movie-theater experiencing an all-time high in attendance. For every industry that got gob-smacked by the recession there is a college bursting at the seams with adults seeking degrees for new careers. For those on the job hunt or considering self-employment, focus on the industries that are growing. Here is a listing of ten business segments that are poised to experience high demand in the years ahead.

MOVIES
Box-office grosses for January were up 20% since last year, for a whopping $1.028 billion intake. Attendance is up 16.78%. Watching movies at home is also popular.  Movie Gallery’s reported plan to shutter 1,000 underperforming stores, including Hollywood Video locations, could make $200 million in annual rental revenue available to competitors including local mom and pop rental shops. (http://boxoffice.com/)

PHARMACY AND RELATED SERVICES
Not only are pharmaceuticals necessary, but the companies that produce them are growing as the baby boomers age. These companies have matured to the point they can do deals with their own cash and their own stock without having to go to the capital markets and ask for money. (http://www.csustan.edu/manage/harris/industry1.html)

HOME CARE AIDE AND MANAGED CARE
Health care services of all types will continue to grow for the next several years in response to the maturation of the baby boomer generation. Home healthcare services of all types, including fitness programs, transportation, in-home care and home delivery services are likely to be in high demand. (http://www.nahc.org/HCA/home.html)

BOTTLED WATER
Bottled water is huge. It’s the fastest growing segment in the beverage industry and shows no signs of slowing. At this growth rate, it will be the #1 beverage worldwide by 2013.  Bottled water companies offer a wide array of bottled waters at prices that can provide healthy margins. http://www.bottledwater.org/

VIDEO GAMES
Sales of U.S. video games experienced a 22% rise in over the previous year, jumping 11% in 2008, to 409.9 million units, and rose 13% again the following January, presenting more evidence that even in the middle of a brutal economic downturn, U.S. consumers are willing to spend on video games. There will also be increasing demand for video game testers as the industry continues to grow. (http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/video-game-tester.htm)

INTERNET SERVICES AND RETAILING
Internet Service Providers continue to improve services available to their customers, and ultimately to the final consumer, as technology costs drop and competition matures. Retailing via the Internet is now a huge business as more and more people turn to this easy to use resource for everything from soups to nuts. Even in the recession eBay posted revenues of over $2 billion. (http://www.internetnews.com/bus-news/article.php/3816826/Revenues+Fall+but+eBay+Still+Tops+Expectations.htm)

PERSONAL CHEF
Just as the need for childcare grew significantly as baby boomers entered the work place, other personal services have experienced similar growth. Today, personal chef services are also in great demand. According to Entrepreneur.com, the personal chef business is among the fastest-growing in the country and one of the best home-businesses to start this year. Personal chefs typically earn $35-$50 an hour. Annual revenue from personal chef businesses is expected to hit $1.2 billion in 2010. (http://www.entrepreneur.com/businessideas/674.html)

LEISURE TRAVEL
According to some sources, the only industry that actually grew globally during the current recession was travel. Work from home opportunities in the online travel industry are already beginning to replace the mom and pop travel agencies of days gone by. One innovative company taking the lead in leisure travel consulting is World Ventures, a four-year old multi-level marketing company based in Plano Texas that will treat you like a preferred customer and waive airline booking fees.(http://www.leavontime.worldventures.biz).

PERSONAL CONCIERGE
A personal concierge service is based on the most basic of premises. People want things done but don’t have the time to do them, and are willing to pay someone to take care of it for them.  Although personal concierge services are a fairly recent development, the number of companies that serve time-starved clients is mushrooming, right along with customer demand for such businesses. Membership in the National Concierge Association, provides networking and educational opportunities to help you get started. (http://www.nationalconciergeassociation.com/)

BIG-BOX RETAILERS
Where do you shop for all those discounted home staples? If you’re like most Americans the answer is Costco or Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart. These large volume retailers are positioned to under price other stores and can pick up all the demand that’s lost at higher-end stores which are suffering the results of high unemployment. They’re going to need staff to respond to increased demand. (http://www.wikinvest.com/stock/Costco_Wholesale_%28COST%29)

If you feel that the proper conditions are in place for you to go forward with starting your own business, here is a checklist of the basic areas you need to cover before opening:

Decide on the Legal Form for the Business (partnership, corporation, etc)
Choose & Register a Business Name  
Choose & Purchase your Internet Domain Name 
Research & Write a Business Plan, Operations Plan  and a Marketing Plan 
Set Up a Relationship with professional advisors, i.e., banker, attorney and accountant 
Set Up Other Professional Relationships, consultants, suppliers, etc 
Get Licenses and Permits, and meet other Legal Requirements for Operating a Business 
Set the Price for Your Product or Service  
Determine the Financing You Will Need and How You Will Get It  
Obtain Office Space, Equipment and Suppliers  
Plan for Risk Protection, Intellectual Capital Protection, Business Insurance  
Set up a Financial Management System  

Ready to set sail toward a new life as an entrepreneur? Be sure to do your research to determine whether the business opportunity you’re considering is real . . . there are plenty of scams out there . . . and then make decisions about how to go forward. Check information sites like Inc .com, Entrepreneur.com, allbusiness.com, and similar information silos to get as well informed as you can. Remember, the more widely you read, the better the decisions you’ll be enabled to make.

“Tragedy at Ft Hood”  By Allen West | 11/08/09 | 08:57 AM EDT |

This past Thursday (5 November 2009) 13 American Soldiers were killed and another 30 wounded at a horrific mass shooting at US Army installation, Ft Hood Texas. As I watched in horror and then anger I recalled my two years of final service in the Army as a Battalion Commander at Ft Hood, 2002-2004.

My wife and two daughters were stunned at the incident having lived on the post in family housing.
A military installation, whether it is Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, or Coast Guard, is supposed to be a safe sanctuary for our Warriors and their families. It is intended to provide a home whereby our “Band of Brothers and Sisters” can find solace and bond beyond just the foxhole but as family units.

A military installation is supposed to be a place where our Warriors train for war, to serve and protect our Nation.
On Thursday, 5 November 2009 Ft Hood became a part of the battlefield in the war against Islamic totalitarianism and state sponsored terrorism.

There may be those who feel threatened by my words and would even recommend they not be uttered. To those individuals I say step aside because now is not the time for cowardice. Our Country has become so paralyzed by political correctness that we have allowed a vile and determined enemy to breach what should be the safest place in America, an Army post.

We have become so politically correct that our media is more concerned about the stress of the shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hasan. The misplaced benevolence intending to portray him as a victim is despicable. The fact that there are some who have now created an entire new classification called; “pre-virtual vicarious Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)” is unconscionable.

This is not a “man caused disaster”. It is what it is, an Islamic jihadist attack.

We have seen this before in 2003 when a SGT Hasan of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) threw hand grenades and opened fire into his Commanding Officer’s tent in Kuwait. We have seen the foiled attempt of Albanian Muslims who sought to attack Ft Dix, NJ. Recently we saw a young convert to Islam named Carlos Bledsoe travel to Yemen, receive terrorist training, and return to gun down two US Soldiers at a Little Rock, Arkansas Army recruiting station. We thwarted another Islamic terrorist plot in North Carolina which had US Marine Corps Base, Quantico as a target.

What have we done with all these prevalent trends? Nothing.
What we see are recalcitrant leaders who are refusing to confront the issue, Islamic terrorist infiltration into America, and possibly further into our Armed Services. Instead we have a multiculturalism and diversity syndrome on steroids.

Major Hasan should have never been transferred to Ft Hood, matter of fact he should have been Chaptered from the Army. His previous statements, poor evaluation reports, and the fact that the FBI had him under investigation for jihadist website posting should have been proof positive.

However, what we have is a typical liberal approach to find a victim, not the 13 and 30 Soldiers and Civilian, but rather the poor shooter. A shooter who we are told was a great American, who loved the Army and serving his Nation and the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) stating that his actions had nothing to do with religious belief.

We know that Major Hasan deliberately planned this episode; he did give away his possessions. He stood atop a table in the confined space of the Soldier Readiness Center shouting “Allahu Akhbar”, same chant as the 9-11 terrorists and those we fight against overseas in the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters of operation.

No one in leadership seems willing to sound the alarm for the American people; they are therefore complicit in any future attacks. Our Congress should suspend the insidious action to vote on a preposterous and unconstitutional healthcare bill and resolve the issue of “protecting the American people”.

The recent incidents in Dearborn Michigan, Boston Massachusetts, Dallas Texas, and Chicago Illinois should bear witness to the fact that we have an Islamic terrorism issue in America. And don’t have CAIR call me and try to issue a vanilla press statement; they are an illegitimate terrorist associated organization which should be disbanded.

We have Saudi Arabia funding close to 80% of the mosques in the United States, one right here in South Florida, Pompano Beach. Are we building churches and synagogues in Saudi Arabia? Are “Kaffirs” and “Infidels” allowed travel to Mecca?

So much for peaceful coexistence.

Saudi Arabia is sponsoring radical Imams who enter into our prisons and convert young men into a virulent Wahabbist ideology….one resulting in four individuals wanting to destroy synagogues in New York with plastic explosives. Thank God the explosives were dummy. They are sponsoring textbooks which present Islamic centric revisionist history in our schools.

We must recognize that there is an urgent need to separate the theo-political radical Islamic ideology out of our American society. We must begin to demand surveillance of suspected Imams and mosques that are spreading hate and preaching the overthrow of our Constitutional Republic……that speech is not protected under First Amendment, it is sedition and if done by an American treason.

There should not be some 30 Islamic terrorist training camps in America that has nothing to do with First Amendment, Freedom of Religion. The Saudis are not our friends and any American political figure who believes such is delusional.

When tolerance becomes a one way street it certainly leads to cultural suicide. We are on that street. Liberals cannot be trusted to defend our Republic, because their sympathies obviously lie with their perceived victim, Major Nidal Malik Hasan.

I make no apologies for these words, and anyone angered by them, please, go to Ft Hood and look into the eyes of the real victims. The tragedy at Ft Hood Texas did not have to happen. Consider now the feelings of those there and on every military installation in the world. Consider the feelings of the Warriors deployed into combat zones who now are concerned that their loved ones at home are in a combat zone.
Ft Hood suffered an Islamic jihadist attack, stop the denial, and realize a simple point.

The reality of your enemy must become your own.

This topic is one you may not have expected to find here, but so many of our Christian friends and acquaintences are seeking their next career position, I thought this article, which I recently wrote for my professional weblog, may be of help to our extended church family. In my professional walk I counsel dozens of people each week who are desperately seeking jobs to obtain security for themselves and their families. I hear the pain, and I get great satisfaction out of helping others. Please feel free to share the following article. 

Job hunting during difficult economic times is challenging, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Here are a few important steps to incorporate into your search methodology to help you conduct a more orderly and structured search.

Define your personal brand

Your personal brand is what differentiates you and makes you stand out from your competitors. It’s the unique edge that you’ll need to compete for jobs in today’s marketplace. Ask two or three trusted professionals you know to write a paragraph describing you, so you don’t overlook traits important to a potential employer. You could also use recommendations others have written for you and posted on networking sites. 

Compose a detailed list of the skills and knowledge you possess. Don’t limit your skills to what you have learned in your career. Think about what you have learned in other venues as well. Skills are often acquired through participation in community activities where you may have worked in capacities outside your career path. These skills are also important in defining who you are.

Consider online assessments that may help you get a broader understanding of what makes you who you are. Your personality traits help define you as a person and an employee. Gaining clarity about these can help you do a much better job of marketing yourself in a time when it is important to find that perfect job opportunity.

The granddaddy of all personality assessment tools, the Myers-Briggs Temperament Sorter is now available online at www.keirsey.com. Upon completion of the assessment you will have immediate access to your results, and a trained counselor to help you interpret the results. Over 40 million people have used the assessment to gain insight into what makes them tick and what hampers their career advancement.

CareerFit is another excellent resource to help you uncover what would be a best fit for you and what wouldn’t. An online assessment tool located at www.careerfit-test.com, it helps test-takers identify their career interests and career personalities.

Assessments can be an excellent investment of time and money. They can help you discover your strengths and weaknesses and recognize where and how you add value and what makes you stand out from others. When you have completed this step, begin developing your unique brand with all of your networking contacts.

Define Your Job Ideals

Start by identifying what is important to you in a job. Think about jobs you’ve held, and what you liked and disliked about each of them. List those characteristics or environments that helped you grow and feel productive, and also list those that didn’t. Review your completed lists and analyze why you liked or disliked each item. This step will help you identify the internalized values and beliefs that cause you to react in certain ways to situations you encounter.

Then list your needs. What do you need for compensation? You can research what a typical salary range for your occupation is in you community at www.salary.com (www.salaryexpert.com in Canada). Are you willing to relocate? How much vacation do you require? Are you willing to commute? Do you need day care? What about flextime or telecommuting?

Naturally you want to understand the health benefits that are provided, but you may also have other needs, such as relocation or travel reimbursement, maternity/family leave, personal days and sick days, bonus and profit sharing, signing bonuses, and any other items that are important to you. These are necessary for you to consider, rate in importance, and then use as a way to measure whether an occupation or position you are considering will be a good fit.

Consider Shifting Your Career Path

Let’s face it. This is a tough job market. Perhaps the toughest we’ve seen in decades. Many folks are finding few opportunities in their chosen fields, and the interviewing process may include dozens of qualified candidates. If you are struggling to find openings in your chosen field, perhaps its time to consider other occupations that might be a good fit for your interests and skills.

It is often surprising how many different occupations use the same skill sets while offering the quality of life and job satisfaction that are so important in making a career rewarding and fulfilling. Career counselors routinely test their clients for occupational fit and then help them make informed decisions about which paths to pursue.

A reliable Internet resource to help you do this research on your own is the Self Directed Search assessment located at www.self-directed-search.com. The SDS can help you make informed career decisions, and has been used by more than 29 million people worldwide. SDS results have been supported by more than 500 research studies.

The results provide an extensive list of the occupations and fields of study that most closely match your interests. You can then explore the careers you are most likely to find satisfying based upon your interests and skills. Research occupations that interest you in the Occupational Outlook Handbook at www.bls.gov/OCO/. This site will help you discover what it is like to work in that occupation, including details on work environment, what training is required, how promotion occurs, and many other details to help you visualize whether that kind of job is a good fit for you.

Next, you need to determine whether you are a good fit for the occupations you wish to consider. Go to www.online.onetcenter.org to get an understanding of the skills required for the occupations you are researching, to determine whether you have the required career assets to be successful in that field. If there are gaps, you may want to consider how you can acquire the needed skills. Explore every industry or job function that initially appeals to you. The broader your search, the better your chances of locating the perfect fit.

Research Potential Employers

One of the biggest shortcoming of job candidates is that they don’t know enough about the companies to which they’re applying, and, consequently don’t know how they can contribute to the company’s success. To stand out from your competition, it’s crucial to be extremely knowledgeable about any company for which you would like to work. Learn what is happening in the industry. You want to know what challenges they are facing in today’s market and new initiatives are being undertaken to develop emerging demand for new services or products.

Set up news alerts at http://alerts.google.com for companies
on your target list. Search for blogs by industry leaders and read or watch the national and business news to keep up on challenges and new initiatives in the industry. Consider professional societies or associations in your area that might provide networking opportunities that can lead to learning more about what is happening at that local employer in which you are interested.

Network, Network, Network

Networking taps into the “hidden job market,” where openings exist long before they are advertised. Most of these slots are filled by someone identifying a need and asking their contacts if they know someone who would fit. The Internet is a great research resource, but it still accounts for a very small minority of job filled. We constantly hear that 70 to 80 percent of all jobs are found through networking referrals, not through newspaper listings or Internet job boards.

The best place to start networking is one-on-one with the people who already know you: your family, friends and other close contacts. Social scientists tell us that everyone has well over 100 people in their immediate circle of influence. Think about those folks who know you best, and start networking with them. Make a list of these contacts, and then prioritize it, putting who you want to talk to first at the top.

Then plan your networking strategy. Call or email these contacts and set up informal chats to discuss the occupations you have investigated and to seek their advice on how to improve your search strategy. Never ask if they know of a job opening. That puts your friends in a defensive position and makes them uncomfortable. Instead, ask if they know anyone else you should talk to for more insight and guidance. People want to help, and asking for contacts is something almost everyone can easily do to help you out.

Prepare a list of companies you are researching and share that with your networking contacts as you are explaining the steps you are taking to research opportunities for career advancement. Ask if they know anyone who works at any of those companies who might be able to provide some advice. Try to get three or more names from every contact you make. Then, set up networking meetings with those to whom you have been referred, and continue your research.

Be Prepared for the Interview

Very frequently when you are in a networking meeting with someone to whom you’ve been referred, and that person is looking over your resume, they may recall that as associate mentioned a while back that they need someone to fill a particular need. Sometimes they pick up the phone and call that person to see if they are still looking, and might take you down the hall to meet. Suddenly your networking meeting turned into an interview. You need to be prepared.

Develop a marketing plan for yourself, including your portfolio materials, examples of your work, your statement of objectives, and any other materials that help you demonstrate what you have to offer a potential employer. You must also directly tie yourself to your accomplishments in a public, linkable format for all the world to see if a professional image is important in your field.

The Future Buzz (http://thefuturebuzz.com/2009/02/18/personal-marketing-plan/) states that there is no power in remaining silent. In today’s world a professional is all but invisible unless they are blogging, talking shop with peers, and taking charge of their own personal PR. 

I have discussed in my online webinars that you may need to have more than one resume with you, so you can present the one that is appropriate for the person you have been taken to meet. You may need to create two or three functional style resumes that reflect your various skills as they relate to a variety of fields. The functional resume reflects your skills rather than a chronological listing of your previous employers, and helps the viewer quickly view a list of your transferrable skills. For more information on this style resume visit www.quintcareers.com/functional_resume.html.

Be Visible to the right people

Networking is not just about who you know, but also about who knows
you. So, it is important to get out in the community and meet new people. Expand you network. Attend industry association conferences, seminars, community networking sessions, workshops and any event where professionals are gathering. Use www.LinkedIn.com to join industry group discussions and increase your list of contacts.

Consider a membership in the Chamber of Commerce in your area. The Chamber is made up of business professionals in your community who are working together to promote the economic health of the area. Service clubs such as Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Jaycees, etc., are made up mostly of business people who are volunteering their time to provide grants and activities to help those in need. They are a great place to meet business people in a social setting.

There are many nonprofit, community and religious organizations that constantly need volunteers, and this may be a good time to learn new skills. Giving back is rewarding, plus your service has many tangible benefits: you’ll meet new people who may be able to refer you; you’ll build skills and experience that can enhance your resume; and you may come across paid openings at an organization where you’re donating your time.

Often those job goes to the person who is in the right place at the right time, and are never advertised. Stay in touch with everyone you know and everyone you meet. Keep notes about their interests and associations. Send an article he or she might enjoy when you run across it, and comment on a person’s status update on Facebook or Twitter when appropriate. Just be careful to remain polite and professional. You want to nurture a positive impression, not pester and irritate!

Keep Your Chin Up

It’s easy to become frustrated while job hunting any time, but in a tough economy it can be much worse. Stay active. This is not a time to sit around and hope something comes your way. Pay attention to personal hygiene. This is not the time to let yourself go. Don’t spend all your time on the Internet looking at job postings. Get out of the home office and mix it up with friends, family, and new interests.

Look for inexpensive ways to have fun and stay relaxed. Put together a neighborhood pot luck dinner party, or get yourself to the library, museums, join a gym or just start taking regular walks. Spend quality time with the people you love and take care of yourself. This can be a time to learn new disciplines as you follow up contacts on a regular basis, acquire new interests and skills, and may even help you to counsel someone else you know who will someday need help getting through what you are experiencing today.

Larry E Vaughn is a certified eLearning career counselor for Drake Beam Morin (www.dbm.com), has operated a private consulting practice for over twenty years, and appears daily on proprietary counseling webinars.

ABOUT HARTFORD LETTERS

Experience the Miraculous Healing and Recovery of Lea Vaughn, and the incredible spiritual journey of her husband during 180 days in Hartford Hospital. Read his original daily emails in "Hartford Letters" above. ____________________________

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