Looking for a Job is like … Work

I sit and wait for something to happen and as each day goes by nothing happens, no calls, no emails, no acknowledgment.

A few times in the past I have posted about rejoining the workforce. I had all the intentions of landing a full-time, meaningful job in a relatively short amount of time. Yet, I have found the process more difficult than I initially thought. As I reviewed all the jobs which are available, I was sure I would have a job within a few days. I looked and considered the job openings for churches, chaplain positions, non-profit ministries and veteran’s non-profit organizations. I started sending out resumes to churches that listed opportunities on ministry job websites. I was convinced I would receive a phone call or an email right away. However, I found the opposite to be true. Out of all the churches I sent resumes to, only one church actually responded in any sort of manner. It was a nicely worded email and straight to the point, informing me they believed other candidates were better suited for the position. I was not upset or offended by the email. I was, in fact, happy, that at least one church had the courtesy to acknowledge I had submitted a resume. So here I sit waiting for something to happen and as each day goes by nothing happens, no calls, no emails, no acknowledgment I have submitted an application, resumes or cover letter. Just crickets chirping away in the background making me feel I am engaging a world that does not even know I exist.

So far the search for meaningful employment has not gone very well, maybe it because I’m not very good at being a civilian. I’m still waiting for the email or phone call from the Army chaplain personnel manager to tell me where I am going for my next assignment and the job they set-aside for me. But unfortunately, no personnel manager is about to inform me of my next assignment or position. For some reason, I thought I would be different. I thought I would buck the system and land the first Job I applied for, yet I was wrong. I have not even landed an interview, a callback or even an email showing any type of interest. At one point I applied to a major pet company to become a dog trainer. I thought I would work a side job until I could land another career job. But alas, I never heard back from the company either. Not saying it was discouraging … but it was, I can’t even land a service job let alone a meaningful professional job.

I am a Pastor called of God to minister to His people 

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whether I am called Chaplain or Pastor … it is all the same.  

As most veterans have come to learn, trying to translate military experiences and job titles to a civilian job is very difficult. I am amazed at how many church leaders do not view me for what I am … a pastor. Most will not even take the time to read my resume; they see the words “Army Chaplain” and never equate a chaplain as a full-time pastor. When I list the chapel services I was responsible for, pastoral search committees do not associate my experience for what it is, being a pastor of a church.

To make it a bit more challenging, throw in the fact I have PTSD. Something I cannot hide as a minister. I minister out of my life experiences; I can never minister to people without revealing this significant aspect of my life. I cannot share how God has worked in my life without sharing how God has brought healing to my soul and my struggles with PTSD.

By the way, both my Healing the Storm blog and my Facebook page truthfully address the struggles I have with PTSD.

delrinSo see, I can’t really hide it or not mention it even if I wanted to, of course, my service Dog Delrin gives it way also.

What makes the struggle even harder is the general misunderstanding, and misconception people have concerning those of us who suffer from PTSD. The prevailing thought of a Soldier who has PTSD is that we are on the verge of having a major break down. They are afraid at any moment we are going to “go off” and lose control of ourselves and either seriously hurt someone or even kill someone. We are seen as emotionally unstable, untrustworthy, a danger to others or ourselves. We are someone who needs to be carefully watched “just in case.” Does my PTSD cause me difficulties at times? Yes. Does my PTSD cause me to withdraw from people from time to time? Yes. Do sounds, smells or things I see sometimes trigger me? Are there times when these triggers cause me to be scared, become hyper-vigilant and aware? Yes, they do. Are there times when my triggers go so far as to make me believe I am back in Iraq or that I am in imminent danger? Of course, they do. Do my triggers make me unfit, unsafe and unstable to minister to God’s people? No! For even the Apostle Paul tells us in the book of Corinthians that God chooses the weak things of the world to confound the wise.

It is very difficult to hold onto encouraging words.

So I have learned looking for a Job is a lot harder than I thought. Just navigating the initial application process with the hope I can have a small chance to prove I am a viable candidate is trying in itself. Throw in my status as a veteran with PTSD who has undergone treatment in a mental health treatment facility and it becomes even more challenging. Will I ever get a professional job again? Will I get the opportunity to once again serve in full-time Christian ministry? Will, I ever have the chance to once again to do what I love most, and that is to preach? The easy answer people will give is “God has a place and a ministry for you.” However, it is challenging to hold onto those encouraging words at times, especially when churches do not even acknowledge they received my resume.

O’ well that’s my sad story for the day and all my complaining for the week. I’ll post this today and then start looking for a meaningful job once again tomorrow morning. Where that leads, I have no idea.

I am off once again to valiantly search for a job!

Tired of Just Exsisting

I wanted to find some way to start living my life again.

My goal for 2017 was to start living my life again. For the past five years, I was living with the burden of having PTSD and being controlled by the symptoms of my PTSD. Each year I faced a significant trial and had to make difficult choices on how I would handle the struggles. Some decisions I made were good, others not so good. 2016 marked a high water mark for me; I saw no future for myself, had no passion or purpose and was spending the vast majority of my day doing nothing. I stayed inside my house as much as I could, only venturing out if there was a real need. Towards the fall of 2016, I was beginning to really get discouraged with the direction or lack of direction of my life. In September of 2016 I went to a Wounded Warrior event, I spoke with one of the combat stress recovery specialists who told me of a new program they offered. The program partnered with different treatment programs around the country, which provided Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) for combat veterans free of charge. road-home He recommended I look into the Road Home Program at Rush in Chicago, Illinois. I looked into the program and made a phone call about attending the program. After a multi-part review process, I was accepted into the program and headed for my three-week IOP in January 2017.

I did not go with a great sense of optimism, my goal was simple; I wanted to find some way to start living my life again. I wanted to stop hiding in my house and avoiding people, events, and places. I did not want to be controlled by my loss of purpose any longer. I went to hopefully find some sort of spark that would set me on the track to living again. I noticed about 10-days into the program nothing was happening for me. I began to think this whole experience was going to be a bust. Then I had a breakthrough, I recalled a very traumatic experience I had in Bosnia in 1999. The experience served as

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My Office in the Camp Eagle Chapel Tuzla, Bosnia 1999

The basis of an overwhelming feeling of danger and a view that I was a liability to my fellow Soldiers. I never understand why I was so upset during my deployments to Iraq for not having a weapon and for having to rely on others for my protection. I knew as a chaplain, I would never carry a weapon, and I would have to rely on others for my protection. I accepted that limitation and was ok with it, but my view changed when I deployed to Iraq. I saw myself as a liability to others; I thought I was putting people in danger. I resented the fact that Soldiers were assigned to provide protection for me. I wanted a weapon, so I did not have to rely on others and put others in danger because they were protecting me. Once I was confronted with those feelings in therapy, I was asked why I felt this way, knowing as a chaplain I could not carry a weapon. That question led me to explore where those feeling came from. It was then; I was reminded of the dangerous and traumatic event that took place in Bosnia. As we worked through the traumatic experience in Bosnia, I began to see some amazing changes in my thinking and my view of myself. When I graduated from the program, and I returned home, I brought with me new hope. A hope that I just might be able to regain my life again.

I came home with just a small spark of hope that 2017 would be different.

February 2017 was a challenge, as I had to make the decision if I was actually going to move forward or fall back into the pattern of 2016. I chose to move forward, and in March I formed the foundation of Healing the Storm Ministry. My focus with the ministry is to help people find spiritual healing. With this goal in mind, I established healingthestorm.com. My purpose of the website and blog is to share my experiences with living with PTSD. I want to also share from a Biblical perspective how we can overcome the spiritual injury we experience as a result of trauma and traumatic experiences. Many think the only ones who suffer from PTSD are combat veterans. But we know this is not the case. PTSD can and does affect anyone who has experienced trauma in his or her life. I want Healing the Storm Ministry to reach all those who suffer from the effects of living with traumatic experiences. I want to share how a loving God and a loving Savior can bring healing to our wounded souls.

So far 2017 has proven to be a significant year for me.

Not only have I made the decision to start healingthestorm.com but I have also made efforts to overcome my desire to hide in my house. I have even gone so far as to consider getting a job for the first time since I was medically retired from the Army. 2017 also marked my 50th Birthday and the 10-years since my last deployment to Iraq. It was in 2007 that I began to experience my PTSD symptoms from my first deployment to Iraq in 2004 and from my deployment to Bosnia in 1999. More importantly, I do not want my 50s to be like the last five years of my 40s.

goal

My goal for 2018 is to make even more progress in living my life. I realize if I am going to make my 50s different from my 40s I must start now and not wait until later. At this stage of my life, I don’t have the luxury to wait until then. If something is going to happen, it must start now. I cannot afford to allow 2018 to be another year of merely existing. When I first thought of the concept of Healing the Storm Ministry I wanted it to be more than just a website and blog. My desire was to one day develop it into an active fulltime ministry. I hope to start a ranch for those who are seeking spiritual healing for their trauma. I have no idea how this would be accomplished or what was needed to actually make it happen.

I am currently working with a mentor who is helping me get back into the workforce. I met with him last week and gave him some of my business cards. On the cards, I have my website listed, and he took a look at the site last week. He approached me yesterday and asked me what my thought was about expanding Healing the Storm Ministry into a non-profit ministry. He shared with me how as a non-profit I could pursue faith-based grants focused on reaching out to those who suffer from PTSD. He told me some grants would allow me to teach or conduct seminars and retreats. My mentor has experience with non-profits and is successful in securing faith-based grants to hold workshops and retreats. He told me yesterday he would be very interested in helping me through the process and help take Healing the Storm Ministry to a new level. This is just what I needed to make 2018 and my first year of my 50s different from the previous 5-years. There is lots of work, challenges, and discouragement waiting down the road, but there are also many rewards, successes and life-changing opportunities down that same road.

This morning I was reminded of the Psalmist who wrote

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him Ps 37:1-7a

 

Iraq Pictures of Chaplain Doll and Team

I was going through some old files and found these pictures from my 2006-2008 deployment to Taji, Iraq. The female Soldier is my Chaplain Assistant Staff Sergeant Drain. She was the best Chaplain Assistant I ever worked with. 

“Unfit For Continued Military Service”

 

despair-1436325-1920x1280I took the words to heart and accepted them to mean I was unfit as a minister and I was unfit as a person.

“The Officer is unfit because this condition prevents him from being able to perform the required activities of his AOC (56A, Chaplain Officer).” The first time I read these words on my Physical Evaluation Board (PEB) report on 03 October 2014 just one day after my 47th birthday I was devastated. I had spent 21 years in the Army giving my all, doing everything I needed to do in order to be fit for service. In just one moment, someone I had never met, signed his name to the PEB and sealed my fate and future as a Chaplain in the United States Army. I was now officially deemed to be unfit to continue serving in the Army. My career had come to an unceremonious end, it was over and all the schooling, training, experience and work had come to a crashing halt. There would be no retirement ceremony, no retirement party, no gathering of friends and family congratulating me for a career well done. There would not be any wacky gifts or cards, no rocking chair to sit in to anticipate the reminder of my life. There would be no awarding of the Legion of Merit in appreciation for a full and successful military career. I will always be 3 ½ years short of twenty years on active duty, I will never be a retired officer, I will always be a medically retired officer who is unfit for continued military service.

This simple phrase “unfit for continued military service” has haunted me for years and will continue to haunt me for many years to come. I loved being in the Army, I loved being a chaplain, I loved the discipline, the structure of the Army, the camaraderie of being a part of a team that is larger than oneself, the pride that comes from wearing the uniform of the United States Army. Was the Army perfect? Not even close. Was everyday roses and unicorns? No, although some days were. Were there days that I came home declaring this is it I’m done with the Army? Yes, there were more than a few days. Was I tired of being deployed, missing birthdays, holidays and special days? Yes. But I still loved being in the Army. I miss the good days, the great days, the excitement and the pride of being a Soldier. I miss standing in formation, hearing a command and instantly responding to the command along with everyone else in the formation. I was not ready to stop being a part of the active Army; I was still looking forward to years of active service.

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A Moment In Time

The real question is not how you arrived, but how you will respond when you find yourself in your moment of time. 

It was just a moment in time, one moment of many over my lifetime. A moment that in any other circumstance, I would have responded as I always did as an Army chaplain. It was a moment I had prepared for, a moment I had trained for, a moment I was ready to respond to. But as it turned out, it was not just another moment. It was more than the sum of what had just happened. It was a moment that brought together all the events of my life in a single snap shot, during a single moment of time. That one moment brought to light all of my fears. It raised questions and frustrations; it brought pain, a sense of hopelessness, weakness, doubt and desperation. It awaken a deep spiritual struggle within my faith, a questioning of my calling as a minister and as a chaplain, a questioning of what I was taught and what I believed to be true of God. That moment caused me to question my purpose as a Christian, a minister, a chaplain, a soldier, a husband, a father, and as a man. That single moment in August of 2007 left me standing in Iraq finding myself overwhelmed by a lifetime of struggle and a sense of hopelessness.

Continue reading “A Moment In Time”