The Plan

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During a conversation with a friend recently the subject of plans came up. Human plans vs God’s plans. Part of the talk was about how sometimes we humans experience things that, as we go through them, seem hard to comprehend and at times seem to lead us away from where we think He wants us, but later as we look back and see the whole picture it makes more sense.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Jeremiah 29:11

We both made statements about God knowing so much more than we do and that His plan is perfect and if we trusted Him more, as in completely, we would end up where He
plans on us being much sooner and without the difficulties many of us encounter.

A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps. Proverbs 16:9

 

As the conversation continued I commented on how it is similar to a military operation and how the privates don’t always understand a lot about what is going on, they have a mission and instructions on how to complete their mission but sometimes those instructions, the big plan, involves them going what to them seems like the long way around to reach whatever the objective may be and they decide they want to take a short cut but as they do so they run into a flooded fields, barbed wire, land mines or some other trap the enemy has laid for them and because of that they either have to move very slowly or they end up caught in a trap. How the enemy makes them suffer for not following the plan. But, if they persist, they can still reach the objective and after the mission is complete and they have seen the reason they were supposed to take the long route that in the end would have been simpler and safer, yet still would have resulted in reaching the objective without all the hardships they encountered because they took what seemed to be an easier, more convenient way.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33

I reflected on how God often has a plan and we decide to take short cuts, remembering the objective, the goal, but not doing exactly as God leads us to do. Seeing and understanding His perfect plan for us, but in our simple human minds thinking that we can do it better than He can. So, we try and fail. Eventually we realize (hopefully) that we strayed from the path He laid before us, diverted from His plan. We are caught in the enemy’s traps and then trying on our own, just can’t seem to get out. So, we call on Christ to help us and He hears our pleas and gets us out of the mess we created and sets us back on His way for us. Reminds me of a movie I saw about World War 1, a soldier took a short cut while they were retreating and got caught in barbed wire and the harder he tried to get out by himself, the more tangled up he got. He didn’t have wire cutters with him to cut the wires and he was trapped. He called for help and another soldier heard him, made his way to where he was caught and cut the wires so the trapped soldier could escape.

8 For my thoughts [are] not your thoughts, neither [are] your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
9 For [as] the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9

 

He is our savior. He has given us the tools, the Bible and prayer, to get out of the barbed wire snares of Satan and God has a plan for each and every one of us, we must only allow Him control and follow His guidance. Using the tools He gives us, requires faith and obedience, without those we can easily fall into traps and by alone we cannot get out of the traps. But if we find ourselves caught in situations that we know are not of God, even though we pretty much got ourselves in those circumstances through our own poor choices, He will come to our rescue and loosen those traps and help us, sometimes carry us, away from the situation. He will deliver us from evil, He will take care of His children and if we believe in Christ as the Son of God, who died on the cross for our sins and was resurrected to defeat death and confess our sins and ask for the forgiveness we need, HE WILL REDEEM US. What an amazing Lord He is!

Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. Luke 21:36

 

Lord, I thank You and praise You that You have a plan for me, and each of us; that You have understanding of things far beyond my simple abilities and that only through seeking You and following You will I be able to escape the traps of satan and reach that place that Christ has for me. I pray in the name of Jesus that You help me listen for Your voice and feel Your presence and hand upon me, guiding my steps as I live my life here on earth. I ask that You help me better understand You and Your plan for me and help me stay in the path that leads me to Jesus. I ask that You draw us all close to You and help us be lights in this dark world to help others see the true path. Thank You for the mercy, grace and redemption that was given to me because of the sacrifice and suffering of Christ.

Amen

 

I appreciate those who take time to stop by my blog. I hope something I said blesses someone and that you all have a blessed day and are able to be a blessing to someone else.

 

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Eye of the storm

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I was listening to the radio and “The eye of the storm” was played. I like that song, depending on the circumstances going on at various times in my life, many parts I can relate to in that song. One part that got me to thinking today was:

In the eye of the storm
You remain in control
And in the middle of the war
You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor
When my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me
In the eye of the storm

I got to thinking about my time in Ar Ramadi and Fallujah. I was not saved at the time, but I have mentioned how praying parents make a difference, and the fact that God looks out for His children, even if they have strayed. There were many times I was terrified. Most of the days like that  was when we were in actual gunfights with bullets hitting the ground near me or buzzing by in the air. Most of the casualties there were from the roadside bombs, but those did not scare me too much. It was the bullets. But, mid April 2004 was one day that I recall having bullets buzzing around like that. I was standing near a Humvee, no where to hide or get cover, I prayed out loud then, asking God to protect me and those with me. Nothing fancy, but fancy aint always needed. He did give me a calm. Oh, it wasn’t total calm. But the fear, the terror, subsided. I was able to do what needed done but had just enough fear to be cautious where I went and watched for dangers. He doesn’t want us to get stupid with our calm, but does want us to be careful. But, to be able to function with clear mind and not dwelling on the fear. THAT means so much and I praise Him for the comfort and peace He provides.

 

BUT, He can calm us, He is there for us, in the worst of times, He is all the protection we need. Times of spiritual need, emotional, physical. He will take care of us. WHAT AN AMAZING GOD WE SERVE!!!

 

 

Here is the video, or maybe the link, computer acting kinda weird today, but, if you can’t see it here. Look for Ryan Stevenson, “Eye of the storm.” It’s a great song with a powerful message.

 

Lord, I worship You and thank for all the majesty of Your creation. I thank You for reminding me that You are my hope, my safe place in the storms, my Protector and He who never fails to watch over me, even when I am not serving Him as I should. I thank You for my redemption and the gift of forgiveness Your Son Christ paid for on the cross. I pray in Jesus Name that You continue to remind me of those things, help me learn to seek You, show me how to have the heart and mind of Christ. Help me serve You better. Lead me to Your path in my life. Please help my loved ones, draw them to You, show them Your plan, Your will, Your way for them. Burden their hearts on issues in their lives so that they seek You to get the forgiveness and redemption they need. Help as all know the love of Christ.

Amen

 

Thanks for stopping by. Sometimes, the messages in the songs say more to me than at other times. Maybe things going on at the time, maybe when I am listening better to the words. But, take a look at the video if you can, read the lyrics. I am hoping it will bless someone else too. Please, try to be a blessing to someone else today too.

Memorial Day!

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I just wanted to take a minute and think about my brothers and sisters in arms, regardless of war or branch of service that were they who gave their lives.

For many people Memorial Day is a long weekend, the start of summer, barbecues and such. Many will visit the cemeteries to visit the graves of family members who have died. Others will be sure to thank veterans and the military. Today is a day for those who died in the service of the country. I don’t object to the other things, and for many years, that was my Memorial Day.  But, for those of us who serve or served in the military at war, it develops a different holiday. Those of us in that group have more than likely lost friends, some many, some only a few, but regardless of when or where, ANY who died in the service of our nation are brothers and sisters. I lost friends, acquaintances and saw others die as I tried to help them. Some, many I never learned their names but those I counted as friends, their names are forever seared into my mind. Some I can tell you about when and how, others, I can talk about that and what was done to try to help them to no avail. It matters not to me, they are all FAMILY! A family that has bonds that others cannot understand. I have spoken with veterans from WWII, Korea, Vietnam and other conflicts, when the conversation moves towards anything combat related there is a subtle, knowing look exchanged. No words required. We see and feel each others pain and sorrow from those things.

It is Thursday as I write this, I had lunch with a friend of mine from our time together in Iraq. We went through some pretty significant events together. But, the conversation is rarely, if ever about that, we know, we needn’t speak of such. Rather, we talk about other guys that were there, funny moments, well, compared to the rest of the time. Today, conversation of Iraq was the mud that you encounter there in the winter and other minor details that help us remember the less bad times there.

But, as you prepare your celebrations, PLEASE, take a moment to remember those who were lost. And, pray for those in harms way now that God keep them all safe.

 

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

 

Lord, I pray to you in the name of Jesus that You keep all the military members safe from harm and bring them home to their families. Be with those whose family members died, give them the peace and comfort only YOU can provide. I pray that You work in the hearts and minds of those people, the families and the military that You draw them to You and lead them all to salvation.

 

Amen

 

 

 

My story.

I felt the need to repost this.

Seek the LORD and His strength, seek His face continually. I Chronicles 16:11

Thanks for bearing with me so far. I want to take a moment and tell you about myself. My thoughts, motivations and some of the circumstances that have been part of my life. I wish I had lived a perfect and wonderful life, no mistakes, no difficulties, only living through Him and for Him. But, such is not the case, I have travelled far from Him. Thankfully, He never travelled away from me. So, please, take a minute, read on and hopefully it will help you make sense of me and my motivation.  And, now my journey begins.

 

WOW! I never thought I’d find myself trying to blog. I say trying, because I never have done this before, and I’ve hardly read any for that matter. But, here I am. I ask you all to bear with me as I grow in the process while I try, make errors and then try to correct them. Much like Christian life, while going through the process of living we make mistakes. Some are easily fixed while others much more difficult, if near impossible.

Now, if I were one of the readers (if there are any) I would be asking myself: Why is he writing this blog? What is this guy trying to say? What is he rambling about? Will any of this make any sense? And, to answer all those I should explain a little bit about why I even decided to try this. Now, before I go further, I will say that because I am human, I have failed. I have faced heartache and pain because of those failures. Worse yet, I have caused others in my life to have heartache and pain as well. And, while I never intended, such is the effect of life at times, compounded exponentially when poor decisions and living without Christ. I will try, as this blog evolves, to explain things that will help others understand where I come from spiritually, some of the trials and tribulations, some of the victories and how I am striving to live for Him.

Before I start answering the questions I would like to give just a little information about me. Now, I won’t be able to be completely straightforward as too many details will possibly make others feel I am talking about them and possibly bringing negative attention their way. That is not my intent and because of that, I may at times be a little vague. I also, will for the time being, not say a lot about me. Not because I am worried about people knowing who I am, possibly judging me. Believe me, I have very seriously judged myself and while not afraid of others’ judgement, putting a name and face to someone sometimes interferes with the message. Many people like to point out old sins and then say, well, he sinned so I know this is all a farce. It is not, but to prevent interference with the message, I am going to keep me out of it. It may also cause those I love, those that are, or have been, in my life to be scrutinized unfairly. I don’t want to write this to cast others in a negative manner.

I am a professional male, late 50’s. My profession is helping people. No, I am not a minister. Many careers and professions involve helping others and at this time what I do is not relative to the blog. Likely, in the future, I will say things that will make my career obvious, and eventually will more likely than not reveal that and more details about myself, but for now I will leave it at that. If there are ever names mentioned, they will be fictitious names, even though the circumstances will have been real. Like Dragnet: the stories you will hear are real, but the names have been changed to protect the innocent. I was raised by a strong Christian mother, a saint of a woman that had me in church every Sunday. My father, while not a church going man, was in his daily life, more kind, caring, compassionate and far more Godly than most people you see in church. He did not minister to people from a pulpit. He didn’t talk to folks about Christ, not that he didn’t have conversations about Christ, but did not do as some that choose to be very overt in their Christian lives. He demonstrated the values that Christ preached about. Yes, I was in church regularly as a child, but as I came into my teen years I did as many and became rebellious. I can’t say I fell in with the wrong crowd, because to be honest, I tried to hang out with the wrong crowd. During the 70’s, drugs and alcohol were always part of those groups. I was using a variety of substances, marijuana and alcohol mostly. I never could convince myself to use heroin or other intravenous drugs thank God for that. After high school I started dating a girl, and several months later we were married, I was almost 19. No she wasn’t pregnant at the time. Eventually, we had children, our first when I was 20 and while they were young, about 10 years later than I should have, I decided it was time to go to college and prepare for my desired career. Of course, going to college late, and having children created issues. I obtained a military scholarship to pay for my education and then after completing it, was in the military. I spent time in Iraq and a few other places that helped shape who I became. That is a very, very brief autobiography of sorts. I promise to fill in details as time goes, when those details are relevant and hopefully helpful to the point I hope to make.

Throughout my life I was Christian-ish. What do you mean Christian-ISH? Well, I say that because, no matter where I was, how far I got from Him, I always KNEW He was there. I always believed in the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. But I didn’t always know Him. I didn’t always, in fact, to my shame, almost rarely lived for His glory. I attended church off and on, sometimes for a few years at a time. I tried to be active in church, I volunteered for a lot of activities. Sadly, I never really fully and completely surrendered all to Him. I thanked Him in good times and begged for His help in the bad. But, never really, really lived a good Christian life by striving to make every day about Him. I would eventually drift away from church. Always some excuse that I wasn’t able to attend. I had to work. I worked late the night before. I had a test to study for or a paper to write. It is easy to find excuses if one tries. Over the last few years, I faced some marked personal tragedies and losses. Things we will all have to face. These things were the most difficult things I with which I was forced to deal. During that time, my wife wasn’t giving me the support I felt I needed in my time of pain. During my time of pain and suffering I found myself; well to be honest, I did not find as that indicates a certain passivity to the events that occurred and I sadly was actively involved in placing myself there, in a process of working a lot, always finding something to keep me occupied and other ways that served to help me ignore the pain and kept me from dealing with it in a spiritually and mentally healthy way. It did not help me get through, rather it helped me avoid, the pain I was feeling. When I finally realized, or admitted, what I had always known: The true comfort I needed would never come from avoiding the pain of human existence and losses related to that or by not facing the pain to get a healing.  The only hope for comfort was in Christ. I spent a lot of time praying. Fighting my human mind, still not willing to completely let go of things. Then, when I listened to Him, I spent even more time praying. Asking for peace, comfort, guidance, happiness. I spoke with a pastor who spent time with me in prayer and I found at that point I was finally ready to let God have me, to stop fighting what I knew to be right and just give it all to Him. All the burdens, all the heartache and sorrow, all the pain. As long as I tried to carry those things I could not get the peace, comfort and joy that I wanted and needed. I did so then. He has given me peace and comfort. Not total and complete, but I feel that is my human self not letting Him do so. Well, to be honest, that has not been easy. I struggle with the human side of things and don’t want things to not be the way I want and to be angry about things. But, day by day, I continue to improve. I continue to seek Him to make things better, to make me better.

OK, you say FINE, but answer the questions. And I might as well answer in the order I asked. So, again, please bear with me. I try not to ramble and hopefully you will bear with me. Sometimes, correctly or incorrectly, I feel I am like Andy Griffith telling stories to teach Opie. Things may start out far from where they will end, but things in the story are relevant and if you can stand to bear with me, it will make sense. Or, at least in my mind and hopefully yours.

Why is he writing this blog? I would sure wonder. Well, to be perfectly frank about it, I initially elected to try this as a catharsis; to help myself purge negative emotions that interfere with my walk with God. I do this for a selfish reason: I want to help myself release all the negative feelings, to process my thoughts, to see what ways I need to seek HIM for the release, looking to Christ to change my way of thinking. I also write hoping that by reading about my trials and tribulations, my sorrows (yes, yes, I know, very much self inflicted) that someone, even if just one person, will read this and find some comfort, will find peace, will find joy, will find Christ! The last is the most important of all and if one finds Him, the other things will follow.

What is this guy trying to say? In a long, drawn out way, I am saying that there are sorrows, challenges, difficulties. I’ve faced failure and adversity. If you haven’t noticed, LIFE IS HARD! I know, I have been poor, I’ve worked two jobs, I worked full time and attended college, I have been to war. I have had illnesses, injuries, personal losses. Life is HARD!!! Finally, when I got to the point of accepting His mercy, I find that, even if somethings are still hard, the hard things are so much easier with His help. God is there for us, to help us and make us stronger, to make our lives better. All we have to do is let him. I will as time goes here, try to tell you about things that Christ is doing for me. Reflect on times He would have made things easier. Even if going through those times knowing He was there would have been easier. We all have hardships but Christ makes them a little, sometimes a lot, softer. And, with saying these things, I hope to help others realize that while we are all unique, we all have common problems. We all have different shortcomings, but it isn’t about each individual, it’s about what makes us human, what makes us alike in some manner. Then, using the common thread, see how something I went through, though different, is still similar in some way, and hopefully what helped me with my problem will help someone else.

What is he rambling about? Well, hopefully, at the end of each blog entry, there will be some clarity on that. For now, my ramblings are because God is so very good. He has given me so much more than I deserve. His love, protection, mercy and He gave me salvation, which I did not earn, did not deserve. He just GAVE that to me. He is so much better to me than I have ever been to myself. God is a great, might, merciful and magnificent God. I ramble, because He is so good, and even though I like to think I have a better than average vocabulary it falls so very short of truly saying how great He is.

Will it ever make any sense? I sure hope so. I hope and pray that He guides my words to help someone out there. Writing this, thinking about how mercifully He has treated me has already helped me. I pray that Christ uses my words about my experiences in some way to help someone find inspiration and to help them have a closer walk with God.

Finally, to summarize my thoughts right now about the why, the what, the rambling, the sense of the purpose is to try to help me remember to look to Him for the help I need with my daily struggles. I am not writing this attempting to say how great I am or to otherwise draw attention to myself. I am not one that has ever enjoyed too much attention, preferring to be more or less anonymous to a large extent, to blend in and not stick out a lot. I don’t write this trying to make someone else feel bad about themselves. I am not writing to say look at me, I am a righteous and Godly man. I am writing to point out my own failings and through my life stories, daily struggles, my trials and hardships to say; Look at what a gracious God we serve. To remind me to serve Him in all times, the good and the bad. So that I have reminders to give Christ the glory he deserves. I plan to use anecdotes, examples of my failures, observations about shortcomings, none intended to do anything but serve as teaching points to help me, to help others and to give Him the honor he deserves. I am not a strong, strong Christian. I am weak. I have failed so miserably. I am new to trying this all again, and definitely new at doing it earnestly. I beg that no one think I feel I am better than anyone else out there. I am not and I won’t pretend. I will incorporate scripture in my input as I share my thoughts and feelings on what those passages mean to me and what they have done for me. I hope and pray that someone out there can relate, can understand, can use my experiences, feelings, observations to help themselves or others become stronger in Christ.

I would like to thank you for making it this far. I hope you will bear with me. I promise that not all entries will be this long. But, starting out something is never simple and takes some organization of thought, some structure to begin with that I can build upon. I hope this helps someone out there. I hope that doing this helps me to serve Him and learn to walk with Christ daily and to remind my daily to give HIM the glory.

I pray that God keep all safe and well. That He keep His hand on your lives. That He blesses you all to the fullest extent possible. I pray that those I have hurt look to Him to find forgiveness for me and my bad judgement and to forgive my shortcomings that have caused hardship for them in any manner at all. I pray that all savor the richness of His grace and truly experience all He has for each and every one of us.

 

A GOOOD DAY!

 

 

Well, I got a chance to spend some time today with an Army buddy that was in Iraq with me. We won’t hear from each other for weeks or months, then we visit quite a bit, text, email and such. Just pick up where we left off for the most part. Great having friends like that. Well, we went hunting, but not really, just hanging out mostly. Didn’t sit in one place long enough, mostly spent the time talking and such so nothing to show for it but good memories. It was a great day, weather near perfect, sun was shining, just a very slight breeze, the kind of day one thinks of as a nice day. We never talk about specific things from Iraq, still a lot of pain for both of us so we leave some topics alone. But, we know what the other is dealing with because of that. We don’t need to speak of such. Ever have a friend like that, you just knew what they were thinking, sometimes no need for words. Well, anyway, we don’t always know everything. During the conversation I shared about this blog. He read a bit on a couple of the posts and said, you know, I was hoping you would find Christ. Well, I was thinking sharing the blog would possibly be an opportunity for me to talk to him about it. Seems he had already had his own come to Jesus moment and has become active in his church. So glad to hear that from him as he was about my own salvation. So, we just hung out, enjoyed the weather and the company. Still, such an uplifting thing to hear we both made it back to the Lord.

Thanks, just wanted to share.

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.

 

soldiers

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.