The Storms

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I was driving today and one of the disc jockeys was talking about a conversation that she was having with some friends and one they knew had a lot of less than pleasant things going on in her life. They asked her about it and she gave them updates on things. Then, one of the women said something that is true, storms come before the seasons change. That the storms just have to be weathered and then better things are on the way. It made me think about in Iraq, how you could see a HUGE cloud of dust in the fall. We asked the locals that we were working with what was going on and they said that in 3 days, maybe 4 days, the dust storm would be there and last a couple weeks, but then they got excited and said that when it was gone, the rains would come. Seeing as it is the desert, water is important and the wells and cisterns would be filled.

They were excited to see the sand storm coming, not because they enjoyed it, as it was miserable. One could see only 20 feet or so and the wind was pretty intense, with the dust and sand blowing it stung! My experience was that the dust found its way into even the tiniest crack and everything was coated with dust. I had to start covering my cot and everything I did not want dust covered with plastic and some still got through. But, as miserable as the dust storm was, it was followed by the rains. The rain there was more of a drizzle, but it was nonstop for 2 months, then it got cold, for there at least but the wells and cisterns were filled, the crops could be irrigated when planting season came and they were all happy.

23 And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him.
24 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.
25 And his disciples came to [him], and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish.
26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.
27 But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!

Matthew 8:23-27

 

For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones [is] as a storm [against] the wall.

Isaiah 25:4

So, the advise that storms mean changes for the better are coming, one must be prepared to weather the storms and see them through. But, the glorious thing is that we need not weather the storms alone. I have had stormy times in my life. Sometimes I tried to get through them on my own and it was not good. A year or so ago I had some of the most horrendous storms I could have ever imagined and I was feeling a lot of despair, hopelessness and lost. However, in those storms I reached for the shelter of God and sought Jesus to help me through the storm and He did exactly as He promises, He carried me through those times, He gave me comfort and more than that, He gave me forgiveness of my sins. What an amazing God we serve.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.    1 John 1:9

He rescued me in my storm; He calmed the seas; He forgave me my sins and I was changed. I cannot begin to express the depth of thankfulness I have for all the grace and mercy He shows me. None of which I deserve, but He gives them to me anyway.

 

My Heavenly Father,   I praise You and thank You for not only helping me make it through the storms, but giving me a change in seasons, a change in me thanks to You as I did nothing to earn it or be worthy of what You did for me and I can’t thank You enough for the mercy and grace that allowed me to be forgiven and redeemed. In the name of Jesus I ask that You work in the hearts of loved ones that they may see Your glory and come to know you as their savior as well. I ask that You help us all see that in spite of the storms a new season awaits us and that leaning on You for protection and comfort in those troubling times will not only get us through those times, but make us better for having called out to You in those times.

Amen

 

I appreciate the time that you all take to ready my blog. I hope you all are blessed today and have a chance to bless someone else as well.

 

 

Hitch hiking.

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Well, not exactly but sort of, I was thinking about sometimes as one deals with the things life throws at them, they need a lift. Like a hitch hiker out in the middle of no where, thumb out and hoping for a ride to the next town, some place they can rest, get some nourishment and prepare for the next part of the journey. Maybe it is pouring rain and chilly, the hitcher is soaked, cold, and miserable. Waiting for a ride and a warm, dry place of shelter while getting to the desired destination. Maybe the last ride they had dropped them off at the wrong location and they are lost. Maybe it seems that there is no way to get to where they want to go from where they are currently.

Fear thou not; for I [am] with thee: be not dismayed; for I [am] thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.  Isaiah 41:10

Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Matthew 11:28

I don’t know about anyone else, but I know I get worn out dealing with various aspects of life, physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. Life can be harsh and can drain a person. I’m not moaning about my life being horrible, it’s better than a lot have, but it’s not perfect. Who does have a perfect life? No person I know. We all have our own worries and challenges that take a toll on a person. We all have things that make us sad, tired, helpless or hopeless. We feel like we are out in a storm, life events dumping on us, we are drenched, cold, alone and may feel like we are at a hopeless location that we have no possibility of moving out of it. That can be a physical location, financial, emotional, spiritual or other type of situation, but regardless of the circumstances we need lifted out of that situation; we need some sort of shelter and protection; we need comforting.

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.  Romans 15:13

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.   John 14:26

Fortunately, there is Someone to whom we can turn for that ride to our destinations. Someone that will protect us from the storms that have been beating us up spiritually with the winds and rains of whatever hardship with which we are dealing, to the point we are soaked to the core. Someone that will give us that warm, dry shelter, help us dry off, feed us spiritually, carry us to where we need to be, which may or not be where we think we should go. If we let Him, He will do all that we need.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

Unlike most drivers that see a hitchhiker and are worried about what possible dangers the hitchhiker may present, God doesn’t worry about that, He sees someone with their “thumb out” asking for help, asking for that lift, asking for that shelter and comfort and Christ pulls over, helps us into His vehicle and takes care of what we need. No matter how bad one may be, Jesus is more than ready to take them in, lift them up and carry them through the storms to His “truck stop” that gives us the comfort and spiritual nutrition we need. Regardless of where we think we need to go, if we allow Christ the control He will deliver us and be sure to get us to where we need to be for His glory.

For thou hast been a shelter for me, [and] a strong tower from the enemy.        Psalms 61:3

Our spiritual thumb is prayer and acknowledgement that Jesus is the son of God, if we confess that He is the Lord, that Christ is His Son who died for us. He will give us that ride we need, He will be our salvation and deliverance. What an amazing Lord He is!

9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.    Romans 10:9-11

 

Lord, I praise You and thank You for the lifts You give me as I struggle through life. Lifting me out of sin and carrying me to forgiveness and salvation. I thank You for protecting me and comforting me in my times of need and for knowing where I need to go, regardless of where I want to go. For knowing better than I know what Your plans are for me. I pray in the name of Jesus that I remain sensitive to where You want to take me and not try to plan my own destinations and that I remember during the storms and hard times I remember to call out to You, to seek You for my deliverance and comfort. I ask that you draw my loved ones to You so they also seek Christ in times of need, when they feel lost so that He may carry them to the destination He knows that they need to reach. Teach them to be sensitive to what He tells them on ways they need to serve Jesus.

Amen

 

I hope all are well and that you are blessed today. Please, be a blessing to someone else today.

 

The Calm Before the Storm

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I love watching lightening storms! So much power, so beautiful and terrifying both. Thunderstorms fascinate me, as do tornadoes. Seen lots of thunderstorms, a few tornadoes and they are something to see. Again, so much power, the capability for destruction. Yet, I know that God will protect me. But, tonight we have storms in the area, tornado warning earlier, haven’t heard much about the warnings for about 30 minutes, so maybe it is now gone but the tornado watches continue. I stepped outside a few minutes ago and there was hardly any breeze, just still and that made me think about the calm before the storm.

Many times in my life things have been calm with no big issues, things seem to be going great, no huge turmoil, just living. Things seemed to be going well. Then, suddenly, the storms hit! Sometimes was a total surprise. Things happen I can’t control and without warning a lot of times the “winds” started blowing, thunder, lightning, torrential downpours of financial, emotional, work problems, whatever, I have had most all of them. Sometimes, of my own creation, but often nothing within my control brought on the storms, just life.

I know there were times when I was younger that one or the other of my parents knew that a storm was heading my way. There were times they tried to warn me and usually I didn’t listen. Other times they knew, but didn’t say anything because they knew that saying something would have been received poorly or not at all and that I would try to blame them for the storm somehow. Humans are funny in how we sometimes blame the storms and problems on the ones that care and try to help us avoid them. I have seen it happen with my kids. And, like my parents, tried to warn to no avail at times, and yes, at times received the same hostility from my kids that I had given to my parents and others when they were trying to help me avoid issues. I am sure I am not the only one that has experienced such things, the storms, and the blame for trying to help others avoid storms.

Now, we all have storms, but before I came back to Christ I did not weather them well. I had no safe harbor when things got bad. I did not have that comfort and protection. Being Christian doesn’t keep me from having storms, but it sure makes them easier to weather.

For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones [is] as a storm [against] the wall. Isaiah 25:4

 

For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. Psalms 61:3

 

The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.  Proverbs 18:10

 

I have figured out that the really calm times, the truly peaceful, still moments very often are because there is some sort of spiritual storm coming. Maybe because I was sinning in some way and Satan was leaving me alone, but a price for the sin was coming. Perhaps it was because God knew a storm was heading my way and he wanted me to prepare. No matter why the storm, I have learned that the calm sometimes means a storm is coming and I should prepare myself. Spend the peaceful, calm time with the Lord, strengthening myself spiritually for the storm. And, the great thing is, if no storm appears, well, maybe by spending time seeking Christ I avoided the storm, or maybe it was just an unusually calm time but either way, I still benefited from the prayer and study of the scripture. Win, Win I would say.

 

Jesus, Thank You for Your protection in the storms. Thank You for the peaceful, calm before the storms. But mostly thank You for showing me that the time to seek You is before the storm, to prepare for the things to come. I praise Your Holy Name and thank You for the blessings, protection and my salvation, for the sacrifice You made for me. You are my rock and my salvation. Help me improve my walk with You, help me have more faith, understanding, give me more tenderness in my heart. Help me show You in my daily walk. Please draw loved ones to You and show them what they need to do to get closer to You, to better prepare for any storms that come their ways.

Amen

 

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I hope someone else gets benefit from it as I did from thinking through things and looking to the scripture for understanding of God on the storms and how He protects us. Please, have a blessed day and try to be a blessing to at least one other person today. We can all use a blessing here and there as we go about our lives.

 

 

I believe in angels.

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I believe in angels. It says so in the Bible, so I believe. I have seen angels. Not the spiritual beings, well, if I have, I didn’t realize it. No, I am talking about those that God sends into ones life at times of need. During crisis, whether physical or emotional, God will send angels to give help. He often uses people to do what needs done. Sometimes, it’s a simple pat on the back, a hug, a kind word. Other times, it’s in the form of doctors, nurses and emergency personnel. Sometimes, it is one’s own parents. He sends angels in many ways.

Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation? Hebrews 1:14

While I have never seen, to my knowledge, a spiritual angel I have felt them there protecting me in times of danger. Sent by God to keep me from harm. I have no doubt that a praying parent helped (look back at the earlier post) as I was not living right at that time. Yet, Christ protected me. He sent His angels to watch over me. There have been other times besides that. Times I SHOULD have been in a serious car accident, but somehow gained control of the vehicle and avoided the accident. No way that it was me. I have managed to fall from 20+ feet, and other than aching for a few days, no serious harm. I have been in so many stupid situations where I should have been badly injured or killed, yet I wasn’t. Not because of me, but thanks to Jesus and His angels. So many times, out of my own stupidity I risked my life and my soul.

For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. Psalms 91:11

The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. Psalms 34:7

OH, YES, I believe in angels, sent by God, sometimes people that are doing as He commands them, often not even aware they are being angels. Other times, He sends the spiritual angels to watch over and protect us.

Praise God, His Son Jesus and thank them for the protection and help from the angels.

Lord, Praise your Holy Name. I thank you for providing the protection and comfort when I needed it and for sending your angels to help me and protect me. I know that these were Your doing and not my own. That You sent them to me out of love and concern for me. I ask You provide those angels to my loved ones to protect them from harm, even harm they may possibly cause themselves, physical and spiritual. I pray You will continue to draw us all closer to you and show us Your will and way for us.

Amen

Thanks for stopping by and reading my words. I hope it helps someone. Remember, there are angels, we can all be angels, just be sure to be a blessing to at least one person today.

 

 

The Band

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OOOPS, Sorry, wrong band.

 

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This is the band I meant. Now, I do not want to glorify war in anyway. It is a horrible thing to have happen, worse to experience it first hand. To quote a bit of Shakespeare:

This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

 

This is for those who have been through war, any war, a powerful speech. Some parts, are may seem overly dramatic, and, while to those who have been there, who may or may not have literally shed blood together, it is pretty accurate. There is a kinship amongst those who have been through circumstances like that. While many did not suffer physical injuries we all sustained wounds. Wounds to our souls. There is no way of explaining. There is a Clint Eastwood movie, The Outlaw Josie Wales, there is a line in it that I thought I understood when I watched it several years ago, before I fully understood war and its effects. However, when I watch now, those words have a different meaning, they actually say volumes about such experiences. While the movie is set in Civil War era, some truths of one war are truths of all wars. The line, “We all died a little in that …war.” Speaks volumes, to they who understand. They that have been there, that have all died a little together,  develop a bond that exceeds the bonds of normal friendship, and to a large extent, family relationships. The power of the bonds with one’s Band of Brothers is strong. I wish I could find the words to explain, but while one can, and will love those they live with and that can be a powerful love, the love of those with whom one dies is different. I love my siblings, cousins, children, grandchildren. I loved my parents and grandparents. But, as much as I love them, there is a bond borne of war for those who fought side by side, who die a little together with each bullet that is fired, with each bomb that explodes it intensifies. There is a kindred spirit with all members of all branches of the military. More with others that have seen combat up close and personally. But, those, as I said, that stand side by side in literal life and death situations, who have faced the enemy and took significant risks of personal harm to protect the others in his unit, those who put their own life in peril to ensure the others were protected, who died a little with me so many times, they who have done so share a relationship that defies words.

I mention this in my post this morning. But, wanted to, while touching on those experiences, use the bond soldiers share as an example of the type of bonds Christians should share. And to use this as an opportunity to remind myself, and others, that we Christians are at WAR. The enemy is everywhere, parts of society pushing decreasing moral values, the acceptance of “little sins” by a huge number of Christians and churches, the list is near endless on the ways the church, Christians and society is under attack. There are many, many dedicated Christians that strive to live the best they can through Christ, to share His light, to bear the burden of standing up to the enemy, regardless of the form it is in. MANY churches, MANY Christians do this, different denominations, all facing the enemy head on to show the love of Jesus in their lives, and to give others the opportunity to share in that love, mercy and forgiveness that Christ offers all who would seek him.

I would hope that any that may realize that WE ARE WARRIORS FOR CHRIST! We should strive to develop that same bond as we fight daily for God. Today, and everyday should be Crispian’s Day. That day when we develop that type of bond with each other as we die for Him daily and we fight, with His word, His Love, His Compassion, His Mercy, His FORGIVENESS. Those weapons, and the many others Jesus gives us to fight with are more powerful than those carried by any Army. The might of Christ’s weapons destroy evil, but in the process, rather than causing pain, suffering and death; ease pain, stop suffering and offers life, life eternal.

Now, while I will say I will never have a bond like the bonds I share with those I served with while at war, I do say I eagerly anticipate an even better bond with the other warriors for Christ. The fight we fight is without a doubt a righteous fight.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. Revelation 21:4

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Ephesians 6:13

 

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

 

THESE are the reasons we fight, the weapons and armour He provides. The love that He gave His only son for us, the armour of God to protect us from the assaults of the enemy, the promise that death, sorrow and pain will be defeated. THESE ARE POWERFUL WEAPONS.

Let us use them, in our fight, in our war against sin. Not to destroy the sinner, but the sin. With the purpose of glorifying Jesus and in our efforts to recruit more soldiers for Christ.

Lord, thank you for your protection of me and my brothers in our time at physical war, thank you for those brothers I was given then. Thank you for my Brothers and Sisters in Christ. I praise you for all you have done for me, I glorify your name for what you have done for others and for the promises of so much better to come as long as we continue to fight for you and serve Jesus. I pray you strengthen our commitments to you, that you teach us to use the weapons you provide as we fight our spiritual war.

Thanks once again or letting me put my thoughts to print. I hope the message was not obscured by my words. Please share or comment as you feel He leads you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I died in the desert.

As I prepare to start this, I pause, as it is with much trepidation that I even begin. This is something that is deeply painful for me. It seems that for a very long time I had no feelings. A lot I hope will be explained in this post. But, despite the paucity of emotions, which is still one way or another a part of me, better now, thanks to Jesus, but still not where I need to be. It is odd in one regard that I feel as anxious as I do about this, and that I feel sorrow to the extent I am now feeling. I have very much become accustomed to the lack of emotions and some aspects of the return of any emotion is both puzzling and awkward. Thanks for reading it. I hope He uses me to help someone else in the process of me getting the help from God that I desperately need.

 

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Well, not literally, at least my body didn’t, what died was my soul, or at least a huge part of it. I have to give a bit of a back story to help put things in context to the events leading to that point. Please, bear with me. Understand, there may be somewhat graphic information but I will do my best to avoid going into some details that don’t help illustrate the distance Christ has carried me and the many blessings He has given. And, to help understand part of this, you need to know I am in health care. That is how I help people. Exact job doesn’t matter, but it will be relevant to understand the dramatic effect things had on me. I don’t tell this for sympathy, to attempt to depict myself as heroic or to glamorize war. I explain this, to put in context my state then, my prolonged dealing with it and most importantly, how Jesus has helped with the impact on me of that year in the desert. Part of what brings this topic up is a discussion with someone that I have always been close to, we grew up together, known each other our entire lives. While discussing other things he commented, “I miss the you that you used to be.” well, that got me thinking about how I had changed. Yes, we all grow and change as we age, but there is almost always a core of that person’s soul still there. Mine was not intact at all. Thoughts about what lead to that occurring, and some changes since then bring this topic up, well, that and the fact it is that time of year. An anniversary date that I don’t enjoy celebrating.

 

I have mentioned I was in the military. During the course of that I was sent to Iraq in 2003. My unit was located in the heart of the Sunni Triangle and we conducted operations (a military way of saying missions or battles) in and around Baghdad, Fallujah and Ar Ramadi. At the time the last two in particular were hot beds for insurgent activity. Through the earlier part of the deployment I would go out with different units during patrols and other operations. Part of my job, while not directly requiring me to do so, there were parts of planning my piece of missions that made it necessary to have a strong working knowledge of the area to know where to designate what we call casualty collection points and landing zones for those needing transported by helicopter. There are things that one cannot fully understand and appreciate from looking at maps. Even the good terrain maps and satellite images don’t sufficiently show all the needed information. Plus, my job also required making sure the medics were doing their jobs correctly and to see what additional training might be required to best care for the wounded. During the course of those patrols I occasionally was involved in attacks with the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or small arms like the AK 47. Vehicles were damaged, my ears would ring if we were too close, but I wasn’t wounded any of those times. (read a praying parent if you haven’t, it fits in with this) I had close calls, EXTREMELY close calls. Many times, but again, no wounds, rather no physical wounds. Those events, living with a certain amount of fear and stress, starts to weigh on a person. Without Christ in my life at that time I dealt with it in a mentally unhealthy way. I started to shut down emotionally. Not just the fear was getting turned down, but almost all feelings.

In addition to the occurrences during patrols I was often at the main medical treatment area of our main camp. Doing my part to help take care of wounded. Now, we have all seen war movies, the sounds, the chaos, the visual impact is pretty close to real, but there are other sensory clues present as well. The exact sound of someone fighting for each breath, the moans of the injured cannot be recreated. The odor, of blood, body fluids, and burned human flesh. Even the visual, for seeing in a movie does not completely depict the image of someone’s limb torn off or flesh shredded or accurately convey the look someone has when, despite your words that you are doing all you can and they will be fine, they know they are dying. We often tell people in those circumstances things will be ok, we will fix them, etc and part of the reason is to help calm the casualty (yes, we often use generic terms to help avoid thinking of them as Joe or John) and, to help ourselves believe we are going to do what we are there for and save these people. But, no matter what you say, no matter how hard you try, people know they are dying, and the expression from the eyes speaks volumes. I can’t explain it. I can see it right now in my mind and can’t even explain the sensation I felt when I saw it. The look in their eyes carried a sorrow so deep it defies my ability to explain. The days like this weren’t everyday, thank God, but they were common enough. These experiences added to my emotional shut down. The war was taking its toll on me.

Today, April 6th,  is an anniversary of sorts for me, it truly is the anniversary of when what little humanity I had left at the time died. My soul died that day, and the worst part is I didn’t even realize it for so very long. The day started like many others there, morning briefings, writing orders for various operations, reviewing and answering emails and then a short trip to one of the other camps near by where we had soldiers. We went and returned without incident, eerily quiet that day as a matter of fact. We could all tell something wasn’t right, but did not know what. We returned to the main camp, as I was preparing to go to grab chow (food) with a couple buddies we were interrupted as within the 4-5 minutes since I had left the command area with the radios there had been multiple ambushes throughout the city. One of the soldiers in the Commanders Security detachment hollered, said they were rolling out and asked if I was coming or not, but the Old Man (how we often refer to the commander) had asked that I come along. So, I grabbed my gear, body armor, etc and climbed in. Within 10 minutes of leaving camp we began to receive small arms fire. However, we had about 5 or so minutes to get to a particular unit that was in most extreme danger, pinned down by machine gun, AK47, and Rocket propelled grenade (RPG) fire. We drove further and finally, had to get out of the vehicles and go on foot for a few blocks. The small arms (AK47) fire continued. As we approached to within 100 meters (a bit over 100 yards) we began to receive fire from heavy/large caliber machine guns and RPGs as well. We continued and finally reached the unit we were trying to rescue. There were several wounded and 2 dead. Somehow, we managed to reach them, provide some treatment and then evacuate casualties (dead and wounded)  from that position to 50 meters away.

As we regrouped, I did what I could for the wounded, tried to cover the dead, and wait for evacuation. It was longer getting there than expected and while waiting, the insurgents had shifted position such that we had little to no cover. But, at least they didn’t move the machine guns. Regardless of that, the fire from the AK47s and RPG’s continued, there were several from my unit that had them brush their legs. RPGs make a distinctive sound when fired, I heard one and looked, to see it headed towards me.  I heard 2 more fire within seconds and saw them headed in my direction as well. The first one went by, less than a yard away, I could feel the heat of the rocket and smell the propellant burn. It smells very similar to gun powder burning, but more acrid, more acidic. It went past me and past the building I was standing by at the time. I took a step forward, really for no reason, maybe to try to see if that RPG hit anything. Then an explosion maybe 10 feet above me and debris from the building falling down. I tried to cover the casualties with my body, well, started to move to do so and the third RPG went inches behind me and exploded. By this time I was next to the building and the blast knocked me to the ground. Some month later I found out, that despite thinking I had never been wounded, I fractured my spine at the time.

Eventually, most of the insurgents were killed or captured. While still waiting for evacuation for the wounded I happened to see an insurgent come out of a building a half block away and start moving towards us. I didn’t really think about it, no conscious effort at all, but I picked on one of the wounded men’s M16 and fired. I watched as the insurgent stopped, looked at me and then fell to the ground. Now, I wish I could say that was the moment that my soul, or the biggest part of it, died. But, there was no emotion, ZERO. I felt totally ambivalent. That was the point where I thought, that is odd, shouldn’t I feel something? But, I didn’t feel about it. I wasn’t glad I had killed him, wasn’t sad, wasn’t upset. I felt nothing. Was that the moment I died inside. I don’t really know, maybe all that was mostly dead by this point anyway and rather than being a single event, it was the cumulative effect. I just know that is when I realized it. I didn’t celebrate, I didn’t mourn. I mentally noted as that was when I “made my bones,” “Ghosted someone,” “smoked” or whatever term that people use to help decrease the emotions of taking a human life. The day continued, more wounded, more deaths. I did my part. I am not proud, nor ashamed of doing my job. I am ashamed that I did so with no emotion or remorse what so ever. Even now, I feel remorseful that I didn’t feel anything then. Eventually we were able to gain control and stop the attacks that day. I had a small part in the big picture, so please, don’t think I am saying I rushed in like Rambo or Chuck Norris and saved the day. Too many Soldiers and Marines were out there fighting for any one individual to pretend that they were the only one fighting. Everyone did their part. We finally returned to camp and for a few minutes we all stopped, exhausted, physically and mentally. Then, we started to tease one another about this or that one or the other did during the day. We laughed, as soldiers do, using gallows humor to try to deal with some of the things we had just been through. I laughed with them, but wasn’t really feeling much yet. I sort of, once again, mentally noted that I didn’t really have much in the way of emotions. After that, I took care of things I needed to do; checked on casualties, cleaned my weapon, restocked supplies, finally got chow then went to bed. I slept, like any other night, no tossing and turning, no thoughts of what had transpired that day.

The next few days, with rare exceptions, involved a much higher level of, actually, near constant, contact (army way of saying one is being attacked or involved in gunfights.) One morning, at the end of the briefings the Old Man said, “well, I need to go to TQ (our nickname for one of our other camps) and from all I see and hear, there is going to be blood in the streets. No extra vehicles, no extra personnel, No one but stone cold killers and cut throats. I won’t take someone that has not proven themselves in a fight.” He then pointed at me and said, “You ride with Sergeant G, I need the hardest troops in the lead truck.” That somewhat stunned me, because I still didn’t think of myself as a hard, stone cold killer. But, being army, one says yes sir and does as ordered. Over the next few weeks and months, repeatedly during conversations with one person or the other comments were made about this fight or that fight (battle if you will) and one soldier, senior enlisted, who had killed far more than I, said, “You know, you are the coldest man in a fight I have ever seen.” He didn’t elaborate, I didn’t inquire.

Now, one thing about my job, and, several other in the military, is that for certain jobs  attending basic training is not required and so not done. Basic is where soldiers are made to be honest, that is where they learn to shoot at man shaped targets, as well as other skills, that helps them dehumanize the enemy. Not that it make coping with the aftermath of killing another human easier, but it reduces the hesitation before firing a weapon and shooting someone. Not attending boot camp should have caused some hesitation, or at least I would think so. But, when the time came, my emotions were gone, I did what needed done the same as I would any of the many routine daily activities, make my bunk, put on uniform, brush my teeth, etc. It was a task that needed done, and I did it with no thought, no feelings, just something else that needed done.

It never bothered me to take lives, it was needed to save myself or someone else, it needed done so I did it. What has always gnawed at me is that I felt no remorse. I didn’t enjoy killing, but I didn’t dread the possibility of doing it again. It was just a task that needed done so if needed, I did so, or would when necessary again. I still feel no remorse for my actions. What I do feel is remorse for not being remorseful. Sorrow for that part of my humanity, my soul, that died somewhere in that desert.

There were other days, other fights, but, after April that year I personally did not have to kill anyone. There were other events after that, mass casualties with many wounded, some dead. Smaller numbers of casualties with no large amounts at one given time. One mass casualty (MASCAL) event was with 40+ casualties. During the course of all these individuals getting treated, there was one that had over half of the medics, nurses and doctors occupied. My job put me in overall command so to speak of these people, I very briefly asked why so many taking care of one. They started to tell me something, I checked a pulse, said he’s dead, get him out and take care of the ones we can help. They complied, we took care of the rest, losing only 5 or 6 out of the 40+. Some that survived were no doubt saved by the efforts by the people there that took care of the wounded. They did an awesome job. A few hours later, talking with some buddies, one asked about John. I didn’t know what he meant and they said, well, he got hurt with that big bunch you guys took care of but I haven’t heard anything about him. John, was one of my buddies, a bunch of us on Saturdays would get chow, then have a little campfire and hang out. This mascal was on a Sunday. I said I would look into it. The one that asked about John decided to come along. We walked about a mile to the treatment unit. I went in to talk to my folks there and asked about John, did they know anything about him, was he sent to the Combat Support Hospital? My senior guy there, Clint, looked at me, asked me the name and I repeated it. He checked, and said, that’s the one you made us stop treating because of all the others. Now, John and about 10 total people including me, had eaten dinner the night before, hung out at the campfire and all, just a normal Saturday night. He was not my best friend, but he was a good friend. I didn’t feel bad that he had died. I was surprised, but that was all. Unexpected news. Colin, who was not a combat experienced soldier,  the one that had gone with me, was visually shaken. Still, I just did not feelNo, I didn’t mourn my friend. Not for a long time but eventually I did, John and others I lost there. After I returned home, I was different, anyone that knew me could tell. It took years to talk about some things, other things, I still haven’t. I suppose, some are buried deep enough that I don’t want to open those emotional wounds yet. But, it was several years before I felt any true sorrow or joy. Oh, there were “fun moments” but no joy. I got annoyed or upset, even mad, but never any sorrow. I lost my dad 10 years after that, I did have a lot of sorrow, still do then. But, even that far from the actual events. I still had almost no other emotions, or if present, minimal. Definitely not normal.

Other events, some less memorable, others too memorable that I am not yet at the point to discuss with anyone that wasn’t there, and, those who were needn’t speak of some things. We know without saying, we communicate without words. Such is the bond of soldiers that have been through these things together. There is a kinship among all military, despite the different branch rivalries, we are all brothers and sisters, but, like large families, there are those that are far closer than the rest. For me, there is roughly 15 men that are in that closest of groups. Some, I see fairly often, some I speak with several times throughout the year, some I haven’t spoken to in 8 or 10 years, but to a man, any of them could call, say they needed something and I would do all in my power to help, no questions, no hesitation. And, they would do the same for me. Now, THAT is the relationship I want with Christ. The type where if I feel him lead me one way or the other, I act first and find out more later. I am much better at that with Jesus now, but still have a ways to go. But, back to the blog before I forget where I was and start all over.

While I may have died emotionally there, and came home with a lot of anger issues. Seems that was pretty much the only emotion I had left. And that, rarely came out. But thankfully, I left what violence may have been in me in the desert with my feelings. Now, there were those that, to one degree or another tried, to help me over the years to recover emotionally, but helping one find one’s humanity, one’s ability to feel, the ability to care about and love oneself is no small task. For personal and professional reasons too much documentation in the records can cause some difficulty. Not career ending, but can make some stumbling blocks so I persevered, well, or at least survived. Some that tried, didn’t really seem to try, but gave the superficial show of trying to help, trying to be supportive, but they didn’t know how and I believe were afraid they would worsen, rather than help, the situation. Why was it so hard to get through all the things I was dealing with from my experiences? Well, as I mentioned, some didn’t know how, some were afraid of making things worse, some honestly despite saying they cared, didn’t really. On top of those things, I was resistant to help. Not because I didn’t want to regain the ability to feel, but due to the fact I was afraid of the healing process. It is a terrifying process, because part of it requires what I did here, cutting through things, facing the facts that brought me to the point of being so cold. I did not want to relive the events. It is a painful process. The number that that cared enough to try and were able to reach through the layers and help me find that part of me, or at least a portion of that part was extremely small. Surprisingly, it wasn’t completely dead but very dormant. Finally, I was at the point of surrender to Christ, I had no where else to turn, He was always there and it is something I should have done many years ago. He had watched over and protected me so many times despite my turning my back on Him. Praise Him for His mercy and goodness to us. Have I mentioned before what a MIGHTY and Compassionate God we serve? I know I have, just reminding myself of all He is for me.

After surrendering to Jesus, giving Him my many burdens, so much pain, so very many sorrows, He has lifted them from me. Oh, I still grieve for losses of loved ones, my parents, friends, parts of me that was before and is now forever lost, or at least I ad thought so, I have hope in Christ that I may yet find the me that died in Ramadi, the part of me that died in the desert. I don’t know if He will ever restore all of me to where I was many years ago but I know He will restore the important parts. I know that when I surrendered to Him other parts of me died. But, those were the parts that needed to die. I thank Him for helping me so much, in such little time. I know Christ has more to do with me, and has great things in store for me in the future. But for now, I rejoice in Jesus’ holy name and thank him for His love for someone that had lost his heart and soul.

THESE are the verses that mean the most to me about this part of my life story.

Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.  Galatians 2:20

And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: Ezekiel 11:19-20

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Titus 3:5

 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

 

Praise Him for all He is, and for the rest He granted me from my burdens. I pray for His continued help and guidance. I pray Lord, that you help me make a difference, that my brothers and sisters in arms find you, that you reach out to them and draw them to you. I pray you help me to do my part to help you reach them.

Thank you for bearing with me, long I know. I just had it laid on me to share, mostly for me. Still something I don’t think I can actually talk about openly, at this point am having trouble typing and I need to spend some one on one time with God. It was, without a doubt the most difficult thing about which I have ever written.

Next post will be less a weighty topic, well, I hope anyway but I will seek Him and try to see what lessons He has for me.