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

 

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 sort of happened over time. Now you would think to have such a variety 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 quiet, 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 tasty 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 the instance a peaceful moment can explode into a major battle.

Continue reading “A HOUSE FULL OF PETS”

“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. The 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 actually “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 the 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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