Finding God’s Peace in the Midst of Hurricanes

At this this very moment there are millions of people experiencing the very real despair and pain of living through the hurricanes over the last few weeks.

As I began to write this morning I wanted to see when I last posted and in doing so I decided to take a peek at my stat page. What I found surprised me and caused me to pause. I enjoy seeing what countries people are from as they read my blog. What I saw this morning surprised me, I have had some people reading my blog from the Caribbean and the Virgin Islands in the last few days. At first, I was a bit puzzled why people were reading my blog posts from the Caribbean and the Virgin Islands nations, especially as many are recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Irma. I wondered why people who are recovering from Irma would take the time to read my blog about my PTSD. However, I notice the blog posts they were reading was not about my PTSD experiences or struggles, they were reading the posts I had written about God’s grace and healing in the midst of our storms. they were reading my post on “God our refuge” “Our hope is found in Christ” “Caught in the storm” “The Psalms 91 Crisis.”

At this very moment, there are millions of people experiencing real despair and pain of living through the hurricanes over the last few weeks.  For some, they are just now beginning to experience the emotional and spiritual storms that inevitably result from living through a traumatic event. Over the next few days, weeks and months people will start to seek answers to their questions, and some will look to God for some kind of peace and deliverance from their storms.

IN THE MIDST OF THESE GREAT NATURAL DISASTERS GOD HAS NOT CEASED TO BE! atlantic-ocean-hurricane-irma-jose

My message for those who have experienced the devastation of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Katia over the last few weeks is that God has not forgotten you. He has not forsaken you nor has He cast you aside. God understands your anguish, pain, suffering, brokenness, and hopelessness. In the midst of these great natural disasters God has not ceased to be, He has not and will not turn His back upon you.

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God Our Refuge

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.

While not my favorite genre of movies I do enjoy a good natural disaster movie from time to time. I think the last one we watched was San Andreas and to be honest we basically went to see it because of the cruise ship scene. Being that we love to cruise, we were eager to watch a cruise ship get carried away by a giant wave and end up in downtown San Francisco. At least for me that was the best part of the whole movie.Cruise ship wave

Almost all of the natural disaster movies I’ve seen are basically the same. Someone has the inside scoop of an upcoming disaster and although they try to warn every one of the impending doom no one is willing to listen. As the impending disaster finally occurs it is left to the one who gave the warning to save all mankind or at least their family from the devastating tragedy that is accruing. The majority of these movies depict building crashing down, dams breaking, and massive fires rising from the ground. There are always people running everywhere only to have buildings fall on them Lavaor overtaken by a mile high wall of water or worse yet a rapid flow of hot scorching lava. The movies seem to always end with the one who gave the initial warning surviving with their family, while countless thousands of people perished in the midst of this unprecedented and unparalleled disaster.

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Finding Reconciliation

Webster defines the word reconciliation as “the act of causing two people or groups to become friendly again after an argument or disagreement”

6a00d8341c500653ef012877186c7e970cIt is common among those who deal with PTSD to find themselves in conflict with those around them. Whether it is among family members, spouses, friends, co-workers or neighbors. Conflict seems to be an issue that comes up frequently as we deal with our PTSD symptoms. Conflict happens. Some conflicts are resolved quickly and are forgotten. Other times conflict goes on for a while but at some point there is a resolution to the conflict. Then there are conflicts that take place and the result are long-lasting and may even bring relationships to an end. I call these conflicts devastating conflicts. These are the worse conflicts as they destroy the relationship between two people and bring pain and hurt to all involved. These devastating conflicts can last for years or even a lifetime. They have the real possibility of bringing so much pain and hurt that there is no probability of reconciling. Even in the best of relationships there are conflicts that happen. Conflicts are not reserved just for veterans or those who suffer from PTSD. However, devastating conflicts often take place within the relationships of those who suffer from the symptoms of PTSD. Some of the reasons are we have a tendency to hide and cover up our emotions. Some do so to “protect” those around us. We do not want our families and friends to know the horror we went through in war. Other times we are focused on self-medication as we try to forget the trauma we witnessed or were involved with. As we focus more and more on self-medication whether it be substance abuse, risky behavior, withdrawal and dissociation or other forms of self-medication. We pull further and further away from those who love and care for us. We freely give up the love and concern of our loved ones and friends to embrace our own self-medication as a way to cope with our PTSD.

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Fighting My PTSD Symptoms

This week our church First Baptist Church of New Braunfels, Texas; suffered a tragedy as one of our church buses was involved in a fatal crash.

The bus carried 14 passengers who were returning from a senior citizen’s retreat. A pick-up truck crossed into the lane of the bus and crashed into it head on; of the 14 people aboard 13 were killed. There were only two survivors of this horrific crash the driver of the pick-up truck and the one person on the bus. I had seen news alerts throughout the day about this crash, but was unaware the church bus was from our church. Around 6:oo p.m. another news alert come over my phone and this time it mentioned the name of our church. My response was like so many from our church and throughout the community… one of shock.

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We Are Not Our Trauma

We are not the sum of our trauma, Our trauma is simply a part of who we are now.

The attack on our Combat outpost  Taji Market delivered a spiritual blow that shook the very foundation of my spiritual life. The following morning I woke up to the reality of the attack on our COP. I was faced once again with the duty of supervising another memorial ceremony, but this time I asked myself what difference does it makecamptaji_fpo There is no way our Soldiers could sit through another ceremony and listen to our empty words of encouragement and hope. I could not bring myself to accept that what we offered to our Soldiers mattered and that our message of hope had any real impact upon anyone. How many times could we read the Psalms, pray for God’s comfort and healing, share our belief of God’s protection and yet watch as even more Soldiers die? I was convinced that our Soldiers must view us with contempt and view our message as senseless and offensive. It was a revelation that hunted me for many years, a revelation that brought me to the deepest spiritual struggle that I had ever faced in my life.

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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.

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