Tuesday, December 27, 2011


                The last few weeks have been absolute hell on Earth! Besides battling through the skirmishes of my own day-to-day existence, I hear horror story after horror story about suicide, divorce, addiction, abuse – substance, physical, and otherwise, homosexuality and the cost of choosing to live that lifestyle, atheism … I mean you name it and somebody’s out there overwhelmed by the very fact they are going through this thing called life! We expect so much out of it and yet are often let down by it. Is it any wonder people are checking out on life? Is it any wonder that people have become so indifferent about life? It’s almost like we’re all saying, “Screw it! I’m getting what’s mine and that’s it!”
                A couple of things have really hit me hard in these last two weeks: (1) life is never going to be easy, i.e. the SEALs say, “The only easy day was yesterday,” (2) you have to wade through all the crap to find the pony in the room, (3) it’s all about beating the attrition rate – dum spiro spero, and (4) the greatest gift that has ever been given cost a man his life.

Life is never going to be easy – “The only easy day was yesterday.”

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.” – Romans 5:3

Life is just like this, isn’t it? It just sucks sometimes but you know what, it’s expected. The Bible is clear about situations we’re going to face and it’s also clear that we have a choice in how we engage those situations and either overcome them or be overwhelmed by them. The story that Jesus tells of the two houses built on sand and rock is a great example:

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” – Matthew 7:24-27

                The key to remember is that the rains come down in both houses in this story. The floodwaters rise and the winds beat on both houses as well. There’s nothing different about the situation. The only thing different is the foundation on which the house was built!

You have to wade through all the crap to find the pony in the room!

“Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.” – Proverbs 14:4

Sometimes I really have to work hard at persuading myself to believe that there is or there is going to be something good in every situation. Ultimately, there has to be because:

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” – Romans 8:28

In all likelihood (and I say this because I’ve been there) time may be the biggest factor in finding out what  the pony looks like in that room full of crap. But let me ask you this: if you were in a room, waist deep in horse piss and poop and it was still rising … wouldn’t you like to see if there was at least a pony in there somewhere?

It’s all about beating the attrition rate – dum spiro spero

                I used to believe that this was something that only the elite men of the SPECOPS community had to deal with as they qualified for their respective teams and units. Not so. This “attrition” gig covers every aspect of life. Think about it: what’s the current divorce rate? What’s the suicide rate in returning combat vets? How many people quit Church – quit God – because they just don’t see it or him happening?
                Here’s the hard reality I’ve been learning. If I want my marriage to make it “till death do us part” I’m going to have to be willing to fight into hell for a heavenly cause! It’s not an impossible dream! It’s about having the stones to stay in the game. It would be so easy to walk away – to quit – that’s why so many people are broken. They’ve quit.
                Go back to the SPECOPS community. How many fully qualified men – men who believed in their hearts before they got there that they could succeed and come home with a Trident or a Green Beret – dropped out? Exponentially more than will ever wear those distinguished items. Is it because their bodies couldn’t do it any longer? Maybe 1% if that many but I’ll bet you it was simply because they quit. They gave up.  At some deep, dark recess in their psyche, they became comfortable with throwing in the towel. Their heads – and their hearts – weren’t in it anymore.
                It’s always going to be hard. I don’t doubt that one bit. But it’s like the old combat saying, “Complacency kills.” The minute you quit moving forward – even if it’s just moving forward a centimeter at a time – you cease making progress. You regress. You lose.
                The greatest thing we have in life is hope.  DUM SPIRO SPERO – “while I breathe, I hope”

The greatest gift that has ever been given cost a man his life

                Have you heard the quote or read the email containing the quote, “Only two defining forces ever offered to die for you. Jesus Christ and the American Soldier: one died for your soul … the other for your freedom.” It humbles me when I read that because I know others who have gone long before me providing for the very freedoms that I so often take for granted. It almost reads cliché but it’s true. Jesus said:

“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:13

I have found that it’s only when I truly lay down my own agenda’s that my marriage is at its best. I have found that it’s only when I lay down my life that I can serve my fellow Soldiers without hesitation or judgment. I continue to find that when I lay down my life for others, Jesus is proclaimed. And that’s the ultimate goal - being a light for Christ.

“Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” – Matthew 5:16

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

True Gentleman: Self Control

            What is self-control? Merriam-Webster defines self-control as, “restraint exercised over one's own impulses, emotions, or desires.”[1] But is it simply restraint from doing things you know you shouldn’t do? Or is it leaning toward moderation in certain situations … for instance: drinking, discipline of one’s children when you are angry, or retaliation when you feel like you have been “done wrong?”
Unfortunately, for most of us, self-control is often thought of as a bad thing – a thing that hinders all that a person can be and/or experience. What we fail to realize is that self-control can be one of the most beneficial attributes of a person who is seeking to serve and lead others. Maybe that’s why they see it that way. They aren’t planning to serve or lead, they simply want to take. They are self-serving.
            One of the best modern examples of self-control draws from Mark Bowden’s Black Hawk Down. For those readers who are not familiar with the operation, book, or movie, a military operation that should have been routine escalated into what military personnel call FUBAR – F’ed Up Beyond All Recognition.
An angry, retaliatory mob of people from the city of Mogadishu swarmed down on some of America’s most elite combat units who had been sent into the marketplace to extract targets from warlord Aidid’s Tier One personalities. The sheer number of people who wanted to kill the American’s would have overwhelmed anyone but the composure of the men on the ground and their teammates overhead allowed a majority of the men to escape immanent death. Though many were wounded, nineteen gave their lives, and one held as a prisoner of war, the situation could have gone from bad to worse if it had not been for their self-control, professionalism, and training.
            How can I present a combat situation as self-control in the same stroke as I write about Jesus who told us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves? That is a bit bizarre but self-control can be seen in so many different ways. One example involving Jesus was at the Temple (Matthew 21:12-16).[2] He often went to the Temple to hear the reading of the Scriptures and be in the house of his Father. On this occasion, the abuse within the confines of the Temple was to such a degree that Jesus showed the jealous fury of our God and began overturning tables and running the moneychangers out of his Father’s house.
Later in the story, Jesus is found sharing the Scriptures and his love with children. The chief priests and teachers of the Law of Moses got upset with him because of the miracles that He was doing and the reaction that the children were having to him and the miracles – “shouting praises to the Son of David.” This story shows us two beautiful sides of an amazing Lord – jealous fury and loving compassion. Opposites that live together in a wonderful harmony that is so much of whom the Lord is and what He does.
            Jesus’ self-control always proceeded from his good will, had a definite sense of propriety, and was equal to all emergencies. He understood when things were necessary for certain situations and when they weren’t for others. Another example is the story of a woman caught in the sin of adultery (John 8:1-11). Why didn’t Jesus condemn the woman? He, of everyone involved in the story, had the right to condemn. Why didn’t Jesus condemn everyone involved? Why not accuse the accusers? Again, He had every right.
I think Jesus taught us a great lesson by accusing neither the woman nor her accusers. Instead, He offered each party the opportunity to reflect on who they were on the inside. He simply said, “You throw the first rock if you’ve never sinned.” When no one was perfect enough to even pick up the stones He said to the woman, “No one can judge you because of what you’ve done – your sin – because they have sinned. Now you … go and don’t sin anymore.”
            Wow! “Go and sin no more!” That sentence more than any other in the Bible haunts me to this day. Can I sin no more? The first three words of his command are very easy to keep, “Go and sin” but Jesus challenges us with two more words, “no more” and expects it to happen. Does He really mean that I don’t have to sin anymore? Is that conscious sinning or is that all sins? Does this simply mean have some self-control and quit disobeying God? I’d like to think it’s that but it’s one of those paradoxes in the Bible that I know I’ll never answer fully on my own accord and I’d seriously question the motives of someone who did say they had a concrete answer for it. Paradoxes, I’ve come to believe, are some of the most awe-inspiring things about our God.

            The following verses may offer some insight to you as to the self-control that our Lord showed and ultimately expects of us. I fully believe that his greatest victory in self-control was shown on the cross and that every situation that surrounded his passion culminated in his suffering and death on the cross, the ultimate victory.

  • “Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)
  • “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” (Matthew 4:7)
  • “Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.” (Matthew 4:10)
  • “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” (Luke 6:27-30)

Reflect on this:

  • In what areas of your life do you still lack self-control?
  • What do you think about the command, “Go and sin no more?”
  • Describe a time when you lost all self-control. What could you have done differently to achieve a different result? Do you know that you are forgiven? Have you confessed this to the Lord?
  • How do you practice self-control?

[1]               http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/self-control accessed December 21, 2011.
[2]               See also Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-48; John 2:13-22.

He Without Sin

            I realize that not everyone was as excited as – much less cared about – my birthday as I was this year. Facebook, for all the things about it that frustrate me, has been a tool that has humbled me to no end with all the “Happy Birthday” shout outs that I received on the 19th. I attempted to respond to every person who was kind enough to stop what they were doing that day just to drop a note to me but it was too much so for those of you to whom I didn’t personally say, “Thank you,” forgive me and thank you.
            I realize that it is only by the grace of God that any of you have been a part of my life. To some degree or other, we have all made some kind of impact on each other. Sometimes I feel like it’s the “Six Degrees to Kevin Bacon” game. Particularly with Facebook, when you can get online and see who has mutual friends and which friends of friends you’ve never met. Pretty cool, actually.
            So, in some way we’re all connected. This brings me to Christmas – the most obvious time in our existence when we’re connected on a large scale. I don’t care – well, let me rephrase that one – I understand that some folks simply choose not to believe in the existence of God. Some, in fact, blatantly disregard him and deny his very existence in ways that – in their own minds – lift them up to an “enlightened” place. Well … that’s tough because I feel pity for you. In my mind, the saddest person is he who dies “enlightened” yet has chosen NOT to walk in the Light.
            My wish this Christmas is that humanity would quit mocking God. Maybe that’s an unattainable request but I’ll throw it out there anyway. My heart breaks for those of you who continue to crucify my Lord because you criticize his followers thereby criticizing Him; but He said you would do that. All I can think to share with you at Christmas are the words of the Savior: “Let he without sin cast the first stone.”
1 Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, 2 but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. 3 As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
 4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
 6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. 7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!8 Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
 9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
 11 “No, Lord,” she said.
   And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

Sunday, December 18, 2011

True Gentleman: Good Will and Propriety

The True Gentleman is the man whose conduct proceeds from good will and an acute sense of propriety

            Throughout my life I’ve been reminded of how one never gets a second chance to make a first impression. The importance of that first encounter one has with another person will be the meeting that makes all encounters pale in comparison. The importance of this phenomenon has been passed down from generation to generation – so much so that most people believe that how impressive you present yourself during that first interaction is all there is to winning someone’s favor.
While I do believe that it’s important to make a favorable first impression – especially if that’s the only impression you will be able to make – every interaction that we have with other people is another opportunity to leave a lasting impression on that individual. The first impression is one that can set you up for success or failure but it’s the last impression you leave with that someone that they will remember the most. If that person comes away feeling good about having interacted with you then you will have made a good impression on that person regardless of the number of times you have interacted.
            Your conduct is what makes the deepest impression that will be left upon the hearts and minds of the people with whom you develop relationships. The True Gentleman’s conduct flows out of a desire to do well in any situation. It does not flow from the simplistic desire to gain another’s favor but is more deeply rooted in the genuine desire to live a disciplined, well-mannered, and humble life. He wants to do good things because his heart is motivated by the pure enjoyment and excitement of sharing in experiences that will benefit and lift up his fellow man. There is a sense of right morality.
What is right morality? It seems that in times of political correctness, post-modernism, and social relativism a greater portion of our world believes that each society within the larger frame of the world picture has its own moral code. Each code is relative to that particular society. And even more so, each individual within that society is afforded the opportunity to live by their own chosen code. The idea of “absolutes” becomes an archaic ideology at best and more often is a punch line for those seeking to undermine the moral infrastructure an ordered society requires to remain a leader – a contributing influence on the international and global scene.

C. S. Lewis writes,
“It seems, then, that if we are to think about morality, we must think of all three departments: relations between man and man: things inside each man: and relations between man and the power that made him. We can all co-operate in the first one. Disagreements begin with the second and become serious with the third. It is in dealing with the third that the main differences between Christians and non-Christian morality come out.”

Conduct and right morality have set the stage for the True Gentleman but can we leave them alone in the spotlight? No because we are ultimately attempting to establish definitions of “good will” and “propriety.” It would be safe to assume that in American culture, the mention of good will most often brings to mind one’s opportunity to buy clothing at a discounted price. This has not always been the case. Good will is defined as, “A kindly feeling of approval and support,” as well as, “willing effort.”[1] For example, it is only by man’s good will to his fellow man that more wars are not fought throughout this world. Merriam-Webster goes on to define propriety as the “quality or state of being proper or suitable” and “conformity to what is socially acceptable in conduct or speech.”[2]For example, when attending a function of the State, there are certain proprieties that must be followed.
“The True Gentleman is the man whose conduct proceeds from good will and an acute sense of propriety.” Stated again, the True Gentleman is the man whose outward conduct reflects an inner life of kindness, love and support of others, willingness to go above and beyond – selflessness, and proper demeanor in any situation. Though he sees situations through his own eyes, he does not live for himself. He lives for a much larger purpose than he alone could ever be. Contemporary society does not teach its young men to live like this. We teach our young men to be self-serving. We teach our young men to fear no one – especially their Creator!

[1]               http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/good%20will accessed December 18, 2011.
[2]               http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/propriety accessed December 18, 2011.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Knowing Gods Will

I've recently experienced a setback in my pursuit of Active Duty Chaplaincy which has made me ask the question, "Is this really God's will?"

I have often said those words to hurting people - and believed them completely - but now I'm that hurting person and I'm really struggling to believe the words that I've fallen back on so often for reassurance! I guess that I'm guilty of believing that God's perfect will is in alignment with what I have as my vision. In other words ... I conform God's will to my desires!

I have allowed God's Word - his assurance that He will give me the desires of my heart - to be molded to what I have desired as my own understanding of God's will. Here's the issue in a nutshell: I believed since 9/11 that I was supposed to serve this country as an Active Duty Chaplain. I fully believe in my heart that God called me to do that. I was notified today that I will not be given the opportunity to be boarded by the Army Chief of Chaplains' office because of my age. Obviously I am frustrated. Obviously I question, " Why?" Obviously I question my hearing God's will.

So I ask these questions and then I think: this must be something like what it's like to lose someone you love. I know it's not the same thing but when you pour your life into something for over 10 years ... It most certainly becomes like a child. It's your dream - your passion - and now it appears to be gone. What do you do? What would you do?

My mind goes through the answers I've been trained to give: nobody owes you anything, entitlement is a destructive attitude - loose it, drink water drive on, one door closes and another one opens ... Yeah, I get it but I also now understand that these words don't offer as much comfort as I believed they once did. I realize that all you can do is circle the wagons and then head back out - maybe in a new direction.

So what now? I still believe what God put in my heart 10 years ago. The question now becomes how is it going to happen?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Tim Tebow and His Ten Talents

I’ve just finished watching the halftime show of the Giants vs. Cowboys game. Bob Costa did a small piece on Tim Tebow. Tebow has been in the spotlight – more like he’s become the bull’s eye on the target – since high school but more specifically, since playing with and leading a back-to-back National Championship team at the University of Florida.
For all the good that Tebow does as an individual, I think that it’s because of what he can do in the midst of others – despite others – that impresses me. I’m in no way putting him up there with the Christ but I am amazed that a man as young as he can withstand the amount of pressure put upon him by coaches, teammates, other professional athletes, the media … you name it and they’re probably sighting him in their crosshairs. The beauty about Tebow is his humanity. He isn’t perfect. He’s not Superman. He’s an everyday Joe that has been blessed with extraordinary talents … and he’s doing something with them!
If you follow Tebow at all then you know all the awards that have been showered on him throughout his football career. You know that he undoubtedly has God­-given talent! You also know that all this talent has been developed over the years by other talented men and women who have seen the potential of an investment like Tim Tebow.
In my mind, he is a great contemporary example of Jesus’ parable of the three servants. A quick reminder too: for as long as I can remember watching Tebow at UF, he always had the Scriptures under his eyes on game day. He took the opportunity more than once to “speak the word” while he was on the platform of national exposure on College Game Day Saturday’s.

14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15 He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.
 16 “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. 17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. 18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.
19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. 20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’
21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’
22 “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’
23 “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’
24 “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’
26 “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, 27 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’
28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 25:14-30)

            So what do we do with that challenge? How are you living? Are you doing all that you can with what God has given you to bring gain/glory to the Father or are you simply living “safely?”
            There is no excuse for mediocrity in the Kingdom of God. There simply is no excuse … yet Christians are the first to offer excuses for almost every situation. The time for excuses is short. It needs to be nonexistent. Imagine what could be changed in the world for the better if everyone lived with genuine purpose; or in the words of Tim McGraw, “Live like you were dying.” What if?
I once found a t-shirt while skiing up at Beech Mountain which read, “A life without risk is a waste of oxygen.” We could substitute danger for risk … a life without danger is a waste of oxygen. A life without productive work is a waste of oxygen. A life without purpose is a waste of oxygen … whatever words you need to insert to get you motivated to do something at a higher level that where you currently exist … then put them in there, go out and engage your situation, and get it done!