THE STRUGGLE OF OBEDIENCE – PART 1

100_2756
Preaching Taji, Iraq 2007

A Career Soldier 

During my time on active duty, I was often asked how long I would stay in the Army.  Most people wanted to know if I was going to make the Army a career. My answer was always the same,  “I take one assignment at a time.” My answer always conveyed the thought “I would stay in the Army for as long as the Army allows.” However, there was a seconded part to my answer. I would state with all confidence when the time comes for me to leave the Army, God would make it known, and I would leave willingly. I would say “I am a minister, I will do ministry anywhere. If that means doing ministry in the Army or the civilian then I will be happy.” During those times I sounded pious and obedient to God’s leading and will. I presented myself as someone who has so surrender to God’s will that no matter the circumstance or the direction I would faithfully follow without question or complaint. It sounded great, made me feel spiritual, and allowed me to mask that I was only willing to follow God as long as He leads me in the direction I want to go. The truth behind my grand statements was “I am willing only if God opens a senior pastor position in a large church. “If God meets my demand then I will freely Directional Signleave the Army and follow His leading.” What I said outwardly was “I would follow the leading of God in my life,” but inwardly I meant “I would follow the leading of God as long as He led me down the path I wanted.” As often the case, God is not bound by my desires or the direction I want to take. He is sovereign, and he leads as He chooses. The only response God expects from me is to be obedient to his leading and to follow as He directs. I do not have a license to decide to follow God’s leading or choose not to follow. It is merely my responsibility to be faithful in my obedience to him.

I left the Army bitter, angry, and resentful

No NO NO drag

Five years ago I left the Army on a medical retirement due to my severe PTSD. I did not go quietly; I was not leaving with an attitude of obedience to the clear leading of God. Even though I spent 16-years declaring when the time came, I would happily go and transition to civilian ministry. Nevertheless, I left the Army bitter, angry, and resentful. I was not bitter towards the Army; I was not upset with the Army for medically retiring me. However, I was resentful towards God for taking away my career and “my” calling. I was resentful that His leading was not matching up with my expectations. He did not lead me out of the Army the way I was anticipating. No senior pastor positions were waiting for me the day I retired. There were no ministry opportunities available to walk into the following day. No phone calls were made asking me to travel to churches to preach and share my story. The day I walked out of the personnel center at Ft. Sam Houston, the only things I had ministry wise was my PTSD, my resentment towards God, and ultimately more hospital stays, treatment programs, and counseling. This direction was not how I expected God to lead. Instead of leaving the Army with excitement and a spirit of obedience, I left angry, feeling betrayed, and furious not towards the Army but toward God. How Could God takes away my career and ministry I loved? How could He lead me out of the Army when I only had 4-years before I reached my 20-year mark? How could God remove me from the Army and the Chaplain ministry and leave me with no pastoral or ministry position to take its place?

I’m making a mess of everything.

Just recently I have come to the realization I was not living in obedience to God’s leading; I was living in resentment and sin. I was not submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  I was seeking my way, my direction, and my desires. I was trying to make my path with my own ministry opportunities. Yet, when the results were not what I expected, I responded with more resentment towards God. I came to the point of saying to others, and myself “I am finished with the ministry, I enjoyed it while it lasted, but now it’s over.” The reality is God has not withdrawn His calling on my life. I have, however, attempted to control God and His leading and to be honest; I’m making a mess of everything.

To be continued

 

Finding Meaning at a Train Show

I had to find a way to overcome and gain freedom from my conceived threats.

There was a time when leaving my house was something I dreaded. I often found myself not leaving the house and realizing at the end of the week I had never stepped outside.   Those were dark times. My fear of the dangers that existed in the “real” world kept me safely confined to my house. I knew that staying in the house, I could avoid the potential threats that were present as soon as I walked outside. These were lonely times, times of anxiety and times of avoidance. Eventually, I came to the point where I knew I had to stop living this way and venture out into the “real” world. I had to find a way to overcome and gain freedom from these conceived threats. Over time I have made progress. Although, sometimes I still find myself staying in the house for days at a time. There are days when it seems safer to stay inside the house when my wife is at work. So I give in to my need to feel safe and stay in the house with my service dog, three cats, and four fish. However, it gets boring, and I become dissatisfied with not doing anything. Which leads down the road to depression and that is just a quick downhill progression to disaster.

                       I Have Always Enjoyed Trains.IMG_1311

I like to watch trains and listen to the sounds the trains make as they pass. I enjoy listening to the clanging of the crossing bells and watching the blinking lights on the barriers as they come down. I enjoy riding trains and feeling the movement of the cars as they cross over the tracts. I appreciate the rhythmic clicking that is made as the wheels of the train pass over the rail joiners. IMG_0955

I enjoy train history especially the golden era of railroading in the 1950’s when the railroads ran both steam and diesel locomotives. I enjoy collecting railroad documents, timetables, brochures and ads from the 1930s-1950s. My favorite things to collect are railroad dining menus. It is fun to see what people ate 60-80 years ago and of course to see how much they paid for a meal. I am able to look at a railroad menu and determine the age of the menu by merely looking at the pricing. I also like collecting employee’s service and safety awards along with all types of railroad memorabilia (a word I can’t pronounce).

The most exciting part of my train fascination is attending train and railroad shows and the thrill of searching for and finding a great treasure. The fascination with trains and railroads eventually led me to start selling railroad items on eBay, which at best is a hit or miss endeavor. So one day, I had the idea of instead of just attending a train show, I might actually see if I could sell items at a train show. So my wife and I decided to give it a shot and see if we could actually sell items. Our first attempt, while not exceptional, showed we had the potential of selling at train shows. So we set out to start building a train show business, we are doing pretty well so far. We are still learning, trying to figure out pricing and the whole profit margin game. But we have found a right mix of items to sell and are now working with four wholesalers. Our next big step is to start looking for better places to buy our railroad memorabilia and documents at a lower cost than we are doing now.

We just finished our latest train show last weekend, and we were delighted with the sales and the outcome. We now have a small clientele that looks for us at the train shows they attend, which is nice. We are now ready to take our small but growing business to the next level by increasing the number of shows we attend as vendors.

There is a better way to live your life, you do not need to be stuck hiding from the “real” world.

You may be asking yourself, “what does all this have to do with my first paragraph?” When I realized I was stuck in my house not doing or accomplishing anything, I realized I needed to change. So the first thing I did was to start this blog. The blog gives me satisfaction and helps fill the time I normally dedicated to doing nothing. But while the blog keeps me busy, it also serves as a good excuse to stay in the house and continue hiding from the “real” world. My fledgling train business allows me to connect with people, to focus on something I enjoy and am passionate about. It allows me to get up and spend some of my days looking for products to sell and finding wholesale distributors. Finding wholesale distributors who sell railroad items is vastly harder than learning Greek and Hebrew in seminary.

My thought for you today is if you find yourself stuck in the dark void of living with your symptoms of PTSD or trauma and using the coping skills of avoidance. There is a better despair-1436325-1920x1280way to live your life. You do not need to be stuck hiding from the “real” world, you can take small steps to overcome the fear of going out. For me, one of the steps was to start selling railroad memorabilia. I started with eBay, and we have now expanded to selling at train shows. So the question today is, “what is it you are passionate about?” How can you use your passion to begin living your life again?” We don’t need to be stuck in a world of fear, darkness, and avoidance. We can live a life that is meaningful and fulfilling. But it takes courage and a willingness to step out into the “real” world. So my encouragement today is that you go forth and begin to live your life again.

TRAIN SHOWS and TRAIN RIDES

I LOVE TRAINS

A Great Train Song “The City of New Orleans by Willie Nelson 

When I’m not writing, blogging, practicing my banjo, being a bum or going on cruises, I enjoy all things railroading. Last year my wife and I started selling railroad memorabilia, advertising, safety and retirement awards, along with railroad documentation, papers, and magazines at local train shows. We mainly specialize in items from the 1940-1950 and a few times will venture into the 1960s. But the golden age of railroading was in the 1940s and the 1950’s.

IMG_1347This year we are branching out just a bit and adding railroad gifts, some Thomas the Train Engine books and my wife is making railroad theme pillows.

houston-trainshow
my Booth at the Houston Train Show

The train show season is not very long, usually from September to February and they seem to be at the same time. Which makes it hard to have a  consistent schedule of train shows to sell at. This year we have already missed two shows, one in Temple, Texas due to previous commitments and the Galveston train show which was canceled due to Hurricane Harvey. We are scheduled to sell at the New Braunfels, Texas train show sponsored by the New Braunfels Railroad Museum. The 9th annual winter show is scheduled for October 28-29. This is a good show that is held at the New Braunfels civic center. The 30th annual  Train Show and Jamboree is planned in April 2018 at the civic center. The big show that we sell at is the Houston Annual train show which is held in February. It is a one day show but draws in a few thousand people each year.

But my train hobby goes beyond just selling and attending train shows. I also enjoy “riding the rails” when we can. During the labor day weekend, my wife and daughter took a one day ride on the Austin Steam Train association “Hill Country Flyer” from Cedar Park, Texas to Burnet, Texas. The “Hill Country Flyer” is a 66-mile round trip excursion journeys through the Texas Hill Country, crossing the wooden trestle bridge over the South San Gabriel River and Short Creek Canyon. During the two hour layover in Burnet, you can enjoy lunch on your own, a leisurely stroll around the historic town square and the Wild West Gunfight. We had a great day on the trip and enjoyed the day together. Below are a couple of Videos and pictures from the trip.

This first video is a short video with all the great sounds that make riding the rails so fun.

This second video is a short video as we pass four diesel engines on a siding. 

IMG_0974 IMG_0948

         Train at the Cedar Park Station                                    Train at the Burnet Station

IMG_0934       IMG_0924

Burnet Train Station 

Take a look at all the wonderful day trips available at the Austin Steam Train 

Click here for fun-filled train trips