THE STRUGGLE OF OBEDIENCE – PART 1

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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

 

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!

Lesson Three Notes Where is God in the Hard Times

The lesson three notes are now available to view on my website. Just click on the “Where is God in the Hard Times” page. This week we look at the principles of Biblical interpretation as we seek to interpret Job19:25-27.

I have also updated the notes from Lesson Two,  correcting and adding a few comments under the overview of Job’s discussion with his friends.

 

Where is God in the Hard Times: Lesson Two Notes

I have published the lesson two note on my class Where is God in the Hard Times.  These note are found on the Where is God in the Hard Times page. 

Hope you enjoy these notes.

GET A JOB

JUST EXISTING IS NOT LIVING LIFE, IT’S JUST PASSING TIME UNTIL ONE DIES

My 50th birthday is coming up in October. So I’m contemplating what the second part of my life is going look like. I have three different pictures of the direction of my life. The first one is to keep doing what I’m doing now and what I’ve done for the last three years, just staying home and existing. Existing as in not really doing anything important, significant or meaningful. The thought of doing that for another 20 or so years does not seem very appealing. Just existing is not living life, it’s just passing time until one dies.

I’ve thought about selling our house, all our stuff and heading out to the open road with our 5th wheel trailer. Stopping to flip a quarter at every major intersection to determine our direction. We have seriously considered doing this and were pretty close to actually making it happen. The excitement of traveling, going where we want to go and doing whatever we want to do seems very attractive. But eventually the traveling will get old and we would have to ask the question “what we were actually doing with our lives?” Do we really want to spend 20 years or so living in our 5th Wheel? Going place to place without any real purpose or direction? Establishing short-term relationships because we know we were only going to be around for a short period of time. Then head out again and show up somewhere different to start all over again. While on the surface it sounds great, it lacks purpose and significance and in essence is still a form of just existing.

Continue reading “GET A JOB”

“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.

Continue reading ““Unfit For Continued Military Service””