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SPIRITUAL INJURY

Spiritual injury is caused by a contradiction that stems from a belief that did not accurately capture what was happening in our lives at the time the event happened. – Victor Scott “Spiritual Injuries: A definition” victorscott.org

      Psalms 69:1-4; 16-20 NLT

Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck. Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can’t find a foothold I am in deep water, and the floods overwhelm me. I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched. My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help me. Those who hate me without cause outnumber the hairs on my head many enemies try to destroy me with lies, demanding that I give back what I didn’t steal.

Answer my prayers, O Lord, for your unfailing love is wonderful. Take care of me, for your mercy is so plentiful. Don’t hide from your servant; answer me quickly, for I am in deep trouble! Come and redeem me; free me from my enemies. You know of my shame, scorn, and disgrace. You see all that my enemies are doing. Their insults have broken my heart, and I am in despair. If only one person would show some pity; if only one would turn and comfort me. I am suffering and in pain.

In these verses we see David struggling with a deep sense of despair. He is overwhelmed in his circumstances and is on the verge of total despondency. He is so overwhelmed that he describes his emotional state as sinking deeper and deeper into the mire, of being consumed with the floodwaters. He cries out for help only to become exhausted in his effort. He literally cries as he waits for help from God. Yet God’s help does not come. In Verses 16-20 David is convinced that God love is unfailing, His mercy is plentiful and He is able to redeem David from his misery. Yet he cries out to God and reveals his brokenness, he calls out that he is in deep trouble and is suffering emotional pain. He wishes there was just one person who would show some type of pity upon him. In these verses David is reveling to us the extent of his spiritual injury, which has taken over his life. Continue reading “SPIRITUAL INJURY”

The Crisis Of Psalms 91

No matter how much we prayed, read or preached about God’s protection and refuge, Soldiers were still dying.

For those who struggle with the spiritual aspect of PTSD the challenge to one’s faith can be just as daunting as dealing with the emotional aspect of PTSD. When it comes to reconciling one’s faith with traumatic experiences we often find ourselves expressing statements like these: “I can’t trust God anymore.”
 “I thought God would answer my prayers.”
“I can’t believe in God’s presence, power, or character anymore.” 
“God has abandoned me.” “I am angry at God.”
“My faith isn’t big enough to handle this.”
“God is punishing me.”

Throughout the Psalms David writes concerning the questioning of his faith and why God seemed to have forsaken him.

Psalms 13:1-4 “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.”

Psalms 22:1-2 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.”

David wrote over seventy-five desolate, anguish-filled passages like this in the Psalms. He struggled intensely with trauma and spiritual injury that comes with enduring trauma. These questions are common among those who have faith in God and who face trauma. Trauma and the effects of PTSD will often shake the foundation of one’s faith, sometimes to the point that we “lose” our faith completely. While deployed to Iraq from October 2006 – January 2008, I faced my own crisis of faith. I called it the Psalms 91 crisis.

Psalms 91:1-7 “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand but it will not come near you.”

I saw and heard this Psalm quoted throughout both of my deployments to Iraq. During the summer of 2007, I finally found myself questioning the truth of Psalms 91. I started to become bitter and angry with God. No matter how much we prayed, read or preached about God’s protection and refuge, Soldiers were still dying. I came to a point where I could no longer reconcile what I read in the Psalms with what I saw and experienced. I struggled with this crisis for many years. No matter the progress I was making towards recovery, I harbored this spiritual anger towards God for allowing so many people to die. As God slowly healed my spiritual anger, He revealed the many ways He unquestionably provide protection from harm and was in fact a refuge to others and myself. In acknowledging this, I had to accept the truth that war is not of God, but is the result of the fallenness of man and in itself is evil. As in all things sinful and evil, there are consequences and often times the consequences are severe. Combat deaths are not the result of God’s inability to save and protect, but is the natural result of the evilness of war. When I came to this understanding, the healing of my spiritual injury began. It was not instantaneously but rather a gradual reaffirming of my faith in God and a testimony to the graciousness and patience of a loving Heavenly Father.

I Miss the 4th of July

Tuzla

It was July 4th, 1999 at Eagle Base in Tuzla, Bosnia. Where I have one of my favorite 4th of July memories. We were in Bosnia for 5 months, we were working long hours, 7-days a week. We had little time off and the constant grind was becoming tiresome. There was a plan to have an outside BBQ for everyone. We were going to have volleyball tournaments, horseshoe tournaments, basketball games and have a concert by Larry Gatlin. There were even rumors the day would end with a firework show on the airfield.

When the 4th finally came, the day was beautiful, the sun was out and it was a perfect day. We all enjoyed a day of relaxation and great BBQ. Larry Gatling was interacting with us, singing, joking as though he was at a family BBQ. The Commanding General even came up and sang Roy Orbison’s Pretty Women. He nailed it and if you closed your eyes you would think Orbison was actually singing. The day ended with a grand fireworks display on the airfield. I did not expect too much from the show, I figured it would be a few fireworks and maybe some flares, then we would be on our way. However, it was an actual firework show and it was really good. The thing I remember the most about the show. Was halfway through the show, the Bosnians came out and starting firing their AK-47s to help us celebrate. It is a fun memory one that I look back upon fondly.

Until 2004 I looked forward to attending a good firework show, I enjoyed them and waited anxiously for the shows. I miss those days; I miss the 4th of July. I don’t go to firework shows anymore. Instead of looking forward to the shows I now face the 4th of July fireworks with dread. July 4th of 2005 was the first firework show I attended after returning from my first deployment to Iraq. I took my family to a local park and was looking forward to a great night of fun and a fantastic firework show. It only took a few minutes to realize this was not going to be the experience I had hoped. Within a few minutes, I found myself back at Camp Anaconda in Balad, Iraq. The mortar shells that were exploding overhead reminded me of the constant mortar attacks we received everyday at camp Anaconda. Out of the year I spent in Balad, there was only Balladone day we did not receive mortars. On my Birthday October 2, 2004 we spend almost the entire day in our shelters due to constant mortar attacks. During the show, as the whistling fireworks screamed into the sky and burst with a loud blast, I was instantly transported back to my tent in Iraq. Laying on the ground while listening to the incoming rocket fire. Wondering when and where the rocket was going to land. Those moment of waiting seemed like an eternity, “where was it going to land and was my tent going to be shredded with shrapnel” As I watched the fireworks, I remember thinking while I was in Iraq “am I low enough on the ground to avoid the shrapnel if it did shred my tent?” During the show I was reminded of the day I was in my tent and I heard a rocket approaching. As it came closer to my tent, I could hear the rocket descend and I realized it was going to land in my area. All I could do was lay on Rocketthe ground and pray for the best. I heard the rocket hit the ground just outside my tent. I waited, but there was no explosion, after a minute or so I got up and stuck my head out of the tent flap. I looked to the left of my tent. Just on the other side of the small road was the rocket that had landed. The rocket was still smoking but never exploded. Throughout my 24-months in Iraq I experienced many mortar and rocket attacks. But this one experience sticks out in my mind. Now when I see or hear the loud explosions of fireworks on the 4th of July. I mentally go back to the moment I was laying on the ground in my tent waiting for the explosion, wondering if I’m going to survive.

I miss the 4th of July fireworks show, I miss them so.

A HOUSE FULL OF PETS

 Living with the symptoms of PTSD and trauma is like living in a house full of pets.

Over the years we have accumulated a number of pets. At last count we have 3-cats, 4-fish, 1-dog and 1-bird. We never sat down and discussed how we wereIMG_0669 going to accumulate such an assortment of pets. It just short of happened over time. Now you would think having such an assortment of pets would result in a house full of frenzy disarray and chaos. But somehow our pet population has found a way to get along. That is not to say there are no pet conflicts, but somehow it stays pretty peaceful.

Most of the conflict comes between the cats, as they tend to be pretty moody. Most of the time all three cats: Natasha, Bullwinkle and Zika the Angry Cat live in a precarious truce and co-exist in relative peace. Sometimes my dog will get a bit spirited and chase the cats around the house to demonstrate he is still the boss. Then we have the bird that belongs to my daughter, the bird is old and grouchy. If she does not like what is going on she will squawk loudly until someone pays attention to her. Then there are the fish, they are always quite, don’t complain and pretty much swim in circles all day long.

Even though they get along pretty well they are still animals with natural instincts. I’ve caught Natasha sitting on top of the fish tank looking through the opening of the tank lid. No doubt dreaming of the day when the fish will swim too close to the surface and she will finIMG_0701ally get to enjoy a good fish snack. We have observed both Natasha and Zika the Angry Cat, crouching behind the couch in the best tradition of Sylvester the Cat, waiting for a chance to eat the bird. Then we have my service dog Delrin, who out of nowhere will jump up and chase the cats just for the fun of it. From time to time Gracie the bird will get upset at something and let everyone know very loudly that she is unhappy. Usually she does this when she is out of food, being ignored or her ladder is disconnected from her climbing tower. Living with the symptoms of PTSD and trauma is like living in a house full of pets. The potential for conflict is always there, in an instance a peaceful moment can explode into a major conflict.

Continue reading “A HOUSE FULL OF PETS”

Resource Page

Finally added some resources to my resource page

I have finally added some resource links to my resource page, I did not realize it would take me 3-months to add links to the page. But in my defense it took a bit of learning on how to add links properly. Also its was one of those things I kept saying “I’m going to do it tomorrow”.  Then I forget all about it for two weeks or so until I noticed on my stats page someone click on the resources page. If anyone has any suggestions for links please pass them on to me.

“DO”

“Doing” is not living in the control of our trauma or the symptoms of PTSD, “Doing” is going out and moving forward!

I am at a significant turning point in my life, one that will make all the difference in my future. I am at the decision point of either living the way I have in the past or moving forward. I have mentally made the decision to move on and start living my life again and return to full-time ministry. However, just making the mental decision and commitment to move forward does not equate to actual action. Actual action only takes place when I’m actually “doing” something.working-in-the-dock-1530932  It is all good and well to dream, think through, plan, talk and write about what I’m going to “do”, but until I “do” I’m just sitting around. I will not move forward until I “do”. Whether it’s looking for and applying for a job, improving my website or simply getting out and interacting with people. None of this will happen until I actual “do” something. I have had a desire for a while to minister to my fellow veterans. As a chaplain I’ve asked myself what needs do veterans have that I am able to meet, and how can I use my experiences to meet those needs. With talking with veterans and especially the veterans I have gone through treatment with there is one overwhelming need they present to me. That is “what do I do with God?” I have had veterans tell me their stories of going to war believing in God only to return questioning or denying the existence of God. Their stories are disconcerting. However, it’s more bewildering for a chaplain to return from war having those same questions. It is this need of my fellow veterans that I believe I have something to offer.

One of the reason’s I started this blog and website was to address some of the spiritual issues and questions. Since I started my blog in March, I thought at this point I would have hundreds of people reading my posts. However, I quickly realized developing a following as a blogger takes time and a lot of work. By writing and posting I am “doing”. It would be easy to be happy with my “doing”, but my blog is not my entire vision, it is an important part, but only a part. I must continue to “do” or I will find myself hiding in my house behind my computer “doing”, but not really achieving my vision. For me, my vision is not accomplished until I expand my “doing” to actually meeting with and ministering to veterans face to face. This is the scary part; actually leaving the safety of my home to reach out to other’s who struggle with the question of “what do I do with God?” My next step of “doing” comes with holding veteran’s symposiums, where we deal with the question of “what to do with God?” we explore what moral and spiritual injury means and we look to the Scripture for the answer to these questions. The first symposium will be held on Saturday 29 July at First Baptist Church in New Braunfels, Texas. Where we will discuss moral and spiritual injury, watch a DVD and look to the Scriptures to find answers to our questions of “What do we do with God?” This is what “doing” looks like for me.

If we miss out on our freedom because of our war trauma, then the enemy has won.

My question for you is simple, “what are you “doing”? “Doing” is not living in the control of our trauma or the symptoms of PTSD. It is not living in fear, anger, resentment, or refusing to “do”. “Doing” is going out and moving forward despite these feelings. The thoughts and feelings will never go away, we will always struggle with them. However, it is not an excuse to not “do” nor is it justification to simply hide and avoid. If you are not “doing” you are not living, you are missing out, your own prison that you have made for yourself traps you in doing nothing. I certainly know that “doing” is so much harder. I understand the fear, the anger and the resentment, I understand what it is like to hide and avoid. I understand the distress that is felt when faced with the thought of venturing out of our comfort and safe zones. We must not allow ourselves to be controlled by our trauma! We cannot live a life with no joy, no happiness, no peace, and no relationships. We have sacrificed too much and given too much to this nation, to stay defeated in our trauma. We cannot miss out on what we have provided for others and that is freedom. If we miss out on our freedom because of our war trauma, then the enemy has won. They have not just taken out one service member but have taken out our families, friends, spouses, children and grandchildren. If you don’t “do” then what you fought for and sacrificed for is in vain. Don’t live in defeat, Go out and “DO”!

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