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Connecting the Dots
“. . . we are a composite of our ‘touches’ . . .”

A bout three months ago, I was approached by Pastor Langston to write the “Foreword”
for his latest book, Connecting the Dots.
Although I had never done this, when God presents you an opportunity to do something new,
He has a reason for it.
Pastor Langston and I have been friends on Facebook for a while, but I knew little about him.
I knew he loved Jesus, works as a missionary, is well traveled, and has his own ministry, but
not much more after that.
So when I read his request on Messenger, admittedly I was a little skeptical.
He said, “I’m writing another book.
Now this may sound amazing, but I’ve been asking the Lord for someone to write the books
A few nights ago, I saw your name in a dream.
So when I awoke, I felt you were the one I should ask to write the Foreword”.
After hearing this incredible story, I agreed to first read the book and then make my decision.
A couple of days ago, he finally sent me the book.
During the last few months, I’ve had an experience in life that has left me questioning God’s
intentions with my life.
At times, it has felt as if God was playing a practical joke on me.
I kept holding on, regardless of how distant God has felt from me, because I know that there
is a reason for everything in life; that God has a plan; and that ultimately, everything is going to
turn out in my best interest according to God’s will.
But, I am human, and I have felt as if God was sitting back and avoiding my questions.
Then I read the first chapter of the book, “86,400 Seconds”.
It’s as if God was saying, “I know what you are thinking. I know what is in your heart.
I understand why you are questioning Me, so, let Me clarify ... oh, and by the way, I love you.
Just sit back, relax and wait”.

I was born in an era when a handshake was looked at as a binding contract.

We openly prayed and talked about God in school.
In fact, each school day was begun with prayer.
Afterwards we recited the pledge of allegiance together.
We valued our military, our families, our friends, our job, our church and our God.
One of the greatest influencers on my life outside of the Bible was the Preamble to the

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union,
establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence,
promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our
Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America”

When Gouverneur Morris, a founding father of our nation penned the preamble, little could he
envision that in the next 243 years, some one million Americans would give their lives in defence
of this nation.
When you consider the gravity of those words, it leaves you breathless.
For several years I had toyed with the idea of capturing my ‘life’s’ story [autobiography] in
printed form.
Initially I wanted a record that my kids, grandkids and great-grandkids could have for
generations to come.
Yet, at the time it never seemed like something that was worthwhile.
However, as you grow older, you become more and more sensitive to your finiteness in
proportion to time.
Although word of mouth is still an effective means of communication, it has limitations.
If there were no historical records of our nation’s struggles for future generations, how could
they rightly define our heritage as a people?
This absence could in essence reshape our nation.

W hat three adjectives best define me?

Thankful, grateful and appreciative—inherent values I learned as a youngster.
Thankful my mama placed character development at the forefront of my life.
Grateful she taught me not to stay focused on the reflection in the mirror, but set my sights on
the man that I want to be in 15 or 20 years.
Appreciative for the realism she taught me. “Don’t just be ‘church goers’”, she would say,
“but make serving Jesus your life”.
The one question that challenged me as I wrote the acknowledgements was, “Where do I
After 61 years of life, my thanks are as lengthy as a book.
So to shorten my remarks, I will use general terms which are applicable to a broader audience.
While I mention only two names, life has connected me to thousands over the years.
Now let’s begin:
Thank you mama for being there for me when I needed you and even for the times when I
thought I didn’t. I love you.
Thank you grandmama for teaching me that love is more than a feeling or an emotion, but an
extension of your life.
You gave me the tools to live this Christian life, but it was up to me how I would use them.
To my siblings, thank you for the many sunrises and sunsets that we shared, you rock!
To my cousins, nephews and aunts and uncles, you always reminded me how precious family
Thank you for being that type of example each time we met.
To my many friends, classmates, military buddies, Leading Petty Officers, Leading Chief
Petty Officers, Division Officers, Department Heads, Executive Officers, Commanding Officers,
business persons, managers, admirals, generals, teachers and administrators, you taught me more
than you realize.

W hat makes a book good?

Can a book be considered good if it has a great story but average writing?
Does a book have to be good to leave a lasting impression on your mind?
I believe you will find answers to these and other pressing questions throughout this book.
By the way, if a book stirs anxiousness, excitement or a sense of duty or expectancy, I
generally give it thumbs up.
I rarely frequent a movie theater.
However, the recent movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood brought back some real
and sweet childhood memories.
I had not thought for years how my siblings and I would sit for hours watching Mister Rogers
on TV.
Admittedly, this was a refreshing and nostalgic walk through time.
In his famous Stanford graduation speech Steve Jobs told the class:

“You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.

Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the
confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well worn path; and
that will make all the difference”.

Had I known in my 30s, 40s, 50s or even the beginning of my 60s what I know today, my life
would be 180 degrees different.
I know that sounds impossible, but think about it.
Wouldn’t you jump at the chance to go back in time and do a little ‘tweaking’ on your life?
That’s another reason I tried to keep my life as real as I could for you the reader.
I did not want this book to simply reflect me, but I also wanted you to see fragments of
yourself in the pages.
Anytime we do a historical examination of our life, three questions should come to mind:
—Is my life better or worse because of what I did?

“I wish I could travel back in time to places I have lived.

I would erase all the bad things that happened to me and fix the mistakes I made.
I would stop all the hurts I did or were done to me.
I would change the times I should have or could have done this or that.
I would not waste a single moment—no stone unturned.
When everything was ‘perfect’, I would come back.
However, when I returned, things were different than the way I remember.
Where are my uniforms? Where are the kids?
Where are the photo albums, the broken clock on the wall and my comfortable chair?
What happened to our house, our car and all the other gadgets?
I thought I made things better, but now they are worse.
I must go back and change my changes.
But this time I will make things right.
I know what I did wrong and I know how to fix it.
I’ll do it!
I swear I will”!

T rapped in the nature of man is a drive to be #1.

That’s why exorbitant amounts are spent each year in hopes of creating a better
version of one self.
Writers are equally fickle.
Give them a small space, make it quiet or noisy depending on their preference, throw in food
and beverages every now and then, and they are a happy bunch.
A computer and a note pad are always useful as they need something to jot ideas down
on…and to write on.
Writers really have two lives.
The real one and the imaginary one, and sometimes that line can get real blurry.
If you’re still confused as to why a prologue is needed, it is simple.

“86,400 Seconds”

W e are allotted 86,400 seconds each day.

They are ours to spend as we see fit with no restrictions.
Where we go, what we buy, what we eat, who we see or don’t see is all up to us.
Or you can do absolutely nothing for the next 24 hours—it’s your choice.
However, there are consequences that come with our choices—good and bad.
I know this may seem trivial at the moment, but with each ‘yes’ or ‘no’, we potentially speak
blessings or cursing in a persons life.
Yet there remains hope.
Even if you feel you have reached your lowest point and all hope is gone, if you will turn your
life over to Jesus, He can turn all your F[ailures] into A[ssets]!
This means for us that the sun will come up tomorrow.
The moon and stars will brighten up the night sky.
Birds will sing, and the winds will blow across the plains.
Despite the many prognostications of the intelligencia, our failures do not alter Gods’ time
table: life goes on:

—Your heart beats around 100,000 times.

—371,000 babies are born.
—Your blood travels 168,000,000 miles and your kidneys filter 3,000 pints of blood—enough
to fill a container 6’ tall and 18” wide.
—A single blood cell will make more than 4,300 full circuits of the body.
—You take approximately 20,000 breaths and inhale more than 2600 gallons of air.
—One billion gallons of water will tumble over Niagara Falls.
—Up to 50 trillion cells die and are replaced in the human body.
—We will each speak around 48,000 words.
“The Transition”

I n the 2006 20th Century FOX film, The Time Tunnel, a hot fusion storm is released along
a path that is 240 minutes in length.
As the storm progressed through time, it unexpectedly rewrote many of the pages of history.
To the world, this new version was now their history.
However, those in the core of the laboratory knew what the world was like before those 240
Now they must fix those points in history that were punctually changed.
Time, just like the movie is free, but it is also priceless.
You can’t own it, but you can use it.
You can’t keep it, but you can spend it.
And once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back.
It can so subtly change events that one day you may awake to a world that you have no clue
as to how, why or even when it changed.
That’s the way I felt when I returned home from boot camp.
A world that had been my home for 17 years was now different.
However, I soon came to realize that it was me and not the world that had changed.
Boot camp may have contributed to this change, but a bigger part was genetics.
In other words it was bound to happen.
Anytime you pass from teenager to adulthood, change is inevitable.
A little change however is good.
In fact, sometimes it can push you to a better version of ‘yourself’.
When I stopped by my old high school, everything and everyone there was the way I
remembered, and maybe that was the problem—no change.
Teachers were interacting with students.
School bells were sounding the start and end of classes.
“A Special Place in My Heart”

I n 1995, Reverend Clay Evans wrote and then recorded the song, “I’ve Got a Testimony”.
For some 24 years, it has been a blessing to countless souls around the world.
I knew the moment I heard it that it was destined for greatness.

“As I look back over my life,

and think things over, I can truly say, that I’ve been blessed,
I’ve got a testimony”

I believe certain songs are written to encourage Believers.

This may surprise you, but Christians are human too.
At times, we too need to hear that everything will be all right.
These songs are gentle reminders that help refocus us back to the greatness of our God.
I believe the earmark of Christianity is a testimony of Gods’ faithfulness.
The Apostle Paul wrote to his son in the faith, Timothy,

“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his
prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power
of God” [2 Timothy 1:8].

In this instance, the Hebrew word marturia {mar-too-ree’-ah} is used.

It means <a witness, a record or a report>.
This means every person on this earth has a testimony—some good, others not so.
Your testimony may be a little rusted over, but its there waiting for you to bring out.
These are a few of our testimonies:

—First apartment: 930 ‘N’ Avenue, Apartment #3 in National City. <It still stands today>.
—News of my dad’s hospitalization and subsequent death came in San Diego.
“Déjà vu”
[already seen]

O n a cold Tuesday morning in March of 1988, I crossed the brow of the Fletcher for the
final time.
Strangely, I did not feel as conflicted as when I left the Dubuque.
I finally felt a sense of ‘closure’ to this sea duty assignment.
I served under two Captains, three executive officers, three department heads and far too
many communications officers to count—so, yeah, it was time for a change.
Although the assignment had its share of disappointments, it also brought unexpected
One of those was working with ‘plank owners’.
“Plank owners”?
They are those who were crew members of the ship prior to its commissioning.
Although some labeled them as arrogant and self-serving, I found the opposite true.
It was a given that they knew more about the ship than your average crew member.
But what I found unique was their sixth sense when it came to shipboard communication
Their requisite knowledge kept our technical problems to a minimal, which in turn made my
job so much easier.
‘Sea Story’:
30+ years ago, ships were required to participate in “Small Pipe” exercises quarterly.
These exercises tested the ships ability to maintain communications in a High Frequency (HF)
environment in the event of complete satellite failure.
Once engaged, all satellite data channels were then suspended.
Now this is where the plank owner’s expertise helped us.
Since they knew which antennas, couplers, transmitters or receivers worked best in HF, this
often gave us an edge over our contemporaries.
“People Change, Places Change
But Life Goes On”

I n my second tour at NCTAMS EURCENT, I continued in my assignment as division

officer of the Joint Fleet Telecommunications Operations Center (JFTOC).
In this role, I managed the day-to-day fleet support operations in the Mediterranean and
Indian Ocean regions for NCTAMS EURCENT, NCTS Guam, NCTS Sigonella and NCTAMS
Detachments in London, Rota, Bahrain and Souda Bay.
My boss, Captain Charles “Chip” Grafton Cooper III was a C.O.’s C.O.
Not only was he a lead naval academy graduate, but he also was a smart and aggressive
I consider him one of the top five C.O.’s that I ever worked for—sea or shore.
His passion and drive paralleled my own commitment to that of the ‘Great Commission’, “.
. . go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel . . .” [Mark 16:15].
A brief history:
In October 1991, the name of the command was changed to Naval Computer
Telecommunications Area Master Station, Mediterranean (NCTAMS Med).
In 1993 it was expanded to include the Indian Ocean communications services.
Then on October 6, 2005 NCTAMS EURCENT was designated Naval Computer
Telecommunications Station (NCTS), Naples.
Today NCTS Naples is a vital part of the US and Joint communications that provide services
to several local commands including United States Sixth Fleet, United States Naval Forces Europe
and many other non-local commands.
As technology changes, so had naval communications during my tenure on shore duty.
What was once considered the ‘Cadillac’ of communications in the 70s and 80s was now
foreign to the radioman of the 90s.
Computers, like stray cats were everywhere—literally.

I know I should be over the giddiness.

I know I should be over the goose bumps.
And I know I should be over the obvious pride of having been a Sailor, but I’m not!
Can you fault me?
In some way or the other, the navy was my extended “family” for more than 3 decades, so
you will just have to overlook my exuberance.
The professionalism and e pluribus unum (out of many, one) of my subordinates,
contemporaries and seniors, only buttressed my conviction that our nation is filled with patriots.
Although more than 43 years have passed since I recited my oath of enlistment, I still
remember how proud I felt at that moment.
After all, it is not every day that you get the opportunity to support and defend the
Constitution of the greatest nation on the earth, the United States of America, against all enemies,
foreign and domestic!
The navy’s slogan, “It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure”, still sparks fond memories these
many years later.
I guess that’s why I am so humbled anytime the “Old Salts” (elder retirees) invite me to their
quarter’s [meeting] table.
Surprisingly the “hot topic” of discussion always centers around the changing military.
I definitely agree that the military has changed.
In fact, I’ve seen sweeping changes even during my short retirement.
However, we are a government by, for and of the people.
We the citizenry still have the responsibility to question the logic and reasoning of our leaders
What I’m referring to is not a what’s right or what’s wrong issue.
It’s more of a ‘gut check’.
“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or
six of them. Most people don’t see any” —Orson Scott

J ames Langston is a retired naval officer.

He faithfully served his country for 27 years before writing the final chapter of his
career in 2003.
Langston also is the senior pastor of the Pilgrim Outreach Ministries.
He is ordained and licensed through World Evangelism Fellowship of Baton Rouge,
James is a 1976 graduate of El Campo high school in El Campo, Texas.
Langston is the founder of two popular social media sites, @joybells49 (Twitter), and (Facebook).
He is an author, ordained minister, husband, father, grandfather, avid jogger, bowling
enthusiast, a web developer, a communications officer (public relations specialist), a playwright,
and a SyFy writer.
His work across these multiple disciplines broadly addresses and defines narratives of our
human experiences.
Incidentally, as a playwright, James has captured the attention of executive producers at Sony,
Pixar, Discovery Channel, Lifetime TV, A&E, SyFy, Velocity and UKTV with his work.
You can visit the Pilgrim Outreach Ministries online bookstore at,
Or you can preview and order his books at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Lulu Enterprises and
NOOK in paperback or hardcover, or as a Kindle e-Book.

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