Saturday, December 27, 2008
This is the biggest jump of rank in the Army. It means I go from being a "regular joe" to being a member of the Corps of Noncommissioned Officers (NCO's). It means I'm being entrusted as a leader and given the title "Sergeant." This is a really big deal.
It's kind of funny because once again it was something I was really frustrated about and really wanted, and I had talked with God lately and prayed for Him to expand my sphere of influence so that I could affect more people. So, He's trusting me with a huge responsibility. Please keep praying that I stay strong and my love for Him continues to grow and become more evident.
Thank you for your prayers. God is still great this holiday season.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
As I read, I realized how much I used to draw on the people around me, particularly Laura, for my self-esteem. I knew it at the time, and commented to God about it. I asked Him to forgive me and help me place Him as the only object of veneration. (Just so you know, you should be very cautious about what you ask Him for... I should have just been content to be an idolater. My life would have been easier!)
Well, as you know, since then, God has broken me completely down. When I got back from Iraq, Laura left me. My sources of esteem failed me, and I went through a major depression. I was considering hurting myself in some serious ways just so that I could feel pain on the outside in order to drown out the pain that was inside.
I constantly asked God to show me that He was there and that He cared. At one point, I asked Him that, and some verses came to mind that I had never read. And I went to that passage and was struck by how He was the conquerer who was already marching in victory. He knows that He wins in my life.
My feet had hurt constantly from the deployment. When I went to Guatemala last summer I asked Him to heal my feet so that I could help build this orphanage more effectively, and while I was standing in the shower one day, the pain went away completely.
Still that wasn't enough. I didn't trust Him. I told Him that He I could swear those and many other instances away as coincedence.
So one day, I quit. I decided to leave Him. I told Him that I no longer believed Him. I didn't think He cared. So an opportunity presented itself for me to leave Him in a very physical way. And I decided to do it. I told Him that night that I was done, I was going to go have some fun and do what I wanted to do. I hopped in my car to go have some "fun" and was driving on an empty road in North Dakota at 1030 at night when a car whipped out of a used car parking lot and nailed my car. He completely totalled my car. And that night, I knew it was God. He had litterally reached into my life physically and there was no way to swear it off anymore.
So I asked Him, "What do You want me to do?" I heard only one word in reply, "Run!" It was weird cause it was one of those sorta audible, but silent kind of things. I don't know if you know what I mean, but I was clear that it was Him and no one else. I didn't know what to do.
Litterally the next day, Ben called and asked me to come to California to help him with his shop. So I put in my two weeks, got out of my lease and moved.
Most of you know the story from there, but God put my in an amazing church working with awesome, supportive people. My relationship with my brother is fantastic. And my walk with God is solid. I can only get my self-esteem from Him. And I know if I try to go somewhere else for self-esteem, He'll total my car, and I don't want that.
So that's my story, and I would encourage you this Christmas to think back through what God has done for You. Maybe he's sheltered you from evil like He has me. Or maybe He pulled you out of some lifestyle. Whatever the case, I would encourage you to write it down and keep it. It's so cool to see where God can bring you.
Sorry this is so long.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
This week, I've been thinking about various options for the future. Will I go back and work for Ben? Will I get a full time job with CCF? Will I extend my military career? Will I move somewhere else? They're all viable options. But which one is best?
Then I got to thinking, "Why would I do any of them?" I know my purpose in life is to bring glory to God, and time is terribly short. What would be the best use of my time? Do I have time to spend in preparation for something in the future? Or should I just make the future now and do the best I can? How can I serve best?
That progressed into thinking, "Am I taking the time right now to do the best I can? How will God entrust me with something bigger if I'm wasting the time now? What can I do right now to show that He is real to the people around me?"
It turned out fantastic. I was in the back seat of our Humvee thinking about all of this, and someone asked me about what had happened to me this past year. I got to explain my entire testamony and how God has protected me my whole life, and has done straight up visible miracles this year. It was awesome because I got to remember, if even just for a minute, what God has done for me.
That brings me to another point. Isn't this website awesome? Cause even if no one reads this (which I can't tell if you read it if you don't leave a comment, so please leave a comment! It's really encouraging!), I get the chance to recite what God has done for me in the past week. I would totally recommend finding a way, time, place, journal, or website to consciously think over what God has done for you on a regular basis.
Well, that turned ungloomy there at the end. Cool. Later.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
I mean, we were warming up, and I thought he could beat me. Then we played, and I beat him, so for those of you who are waiting for me to lose at a game of ping-pong, you're going to have to wait a little longer.
Somehow, the Chaplin tricked me into telling him I play the piano, and now I have to play this Sunday. I don't know how the guys in ministry can rope you so sneakily into their devices, but I appreciate it.
I was going to go to practice this past Wednesday night, after going to the gym. And I sprained my ankle playing basketball. So I had to hop all the way to the chapel. That was an experience in itself.
I'm learning about how God is worshiped in all circumstances.
Have you ever taken a rifle with you to church? Well, I have, and it's weird because no one looks at you weird when you bring in a rifle. And I can't help but imagine what in the first century people must have done. They were being persecuted not far from here, and I'm sure they came to church with a war plan. Or at least an escape plan. It's really interesting to think, and to be put in a position where your life is in danger, and still worship God.
God will be worshiped whether we feel good or not. Whether we sprain our ankle or not. Whether we are in danger or not. Whether we care or not. God is bigger than any of our human circumstances. How cool is that?
God is pretty cool this week in Iraq.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Have you ever felt that way (or I guess a better way to put it is, have you ever not felt that way?)
I'm sure you have. This isn't the first time I've felt it, and the nice thing about writing it down, it is makes me aware that I'm feeling this way, and it's time to once again go to God and ask Him to help me remember! I want to remember why I'm here and remember that He's good.
Could you please pray that my spiritual life will be enlivened, and that I will be able to have spiritual food poisoning, just puking joy on everyone around me?
Alright, well that's all the time I've got for disgusting metaphors. I love you all.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Since we've been here, I've got a completely different schedule than my Christian friend and encouragement and we haven't had a chance to spend any time together.
Also since we've been here, I haven't had a good schedule to get spend quality time with God. I miss Him terribly, but there doesn't seem to be much I can do yet. It's really hard to make time to spend with Him.
Well, this past Sunday, I finally got to be on post during a service, and I finagled my way out of a meeting so that I could go to church. Well, I was pulled to the side a few times to set stuff up for the next day, and I missed my chance to catch the bus, so I had to run to church. As I was running, I got really really sick, and had to spend some time in a porta-john (details edited out here). I have no idea what made me so sick. I had to sprint to church, and when I got there, I was sweaty, really really stinky, sick and completely misearable because I didn't feel any better. At the end of the service, I had to sneak out to go spend more time in the porta john. A half hour later, I was walking back to my chu (that's our word for trailer-house dealy that I live in), and I felt fine again. Except I was angry.
"Why do I feel this way after church, God? Didn't you know I needed this time with You? Why pick this time to make me so sick? Why can't I be encouraged and my heart lit aflame again?
Part of me would like to resolve this story with some fantastic end that God swoops in and makes it all better because He can see the bigger picture, but in truth, He didn't. Or I haven't listened yet.
Will you please pray for me and for my friend and for the testing that we're going through. When I back-up, I know that I can end this note with hope and anticipation because I know that my God has always answered my prayers, and will answer again. Will you watch and wait with me while we pay attention to how God works?
Thank You for your prayers.
I love you.
Monday, November 3, 2008
Well, there are some things that I'm not going to talk about on the internet, because it puts my battle buddies in danger when you give out too much info, but I'll give you what I think is generic enough to be safe.
We're on a base up in Northern Iraq, and it's actually very much like California here. There's a lot of dirt and gravel, a few trees, and the temperature is hanging out in the high 80's during the day, and the low 60's at night. We're near the Tigris River Valley (for those of you that know Bible history about the Tigris and Euphrates, that's where I am). It's really neat to think of all the Biblical stories that took place here in this very area. The Babalonians used to run this whole area, and this place has been fought over since the beginning of mankind. Most people think that the Garden of Eden wasn't terribly far away from here. Isn't that fantastically cool!? Just thinking about the FACT that our religion is based on history and not myth. Those places do exist.
In more recent history, I'm on a base that was once a Ba'ath Party Outpost. At the beginning of the war, our soldiers came and conquered this post and now it's ours.
Being here has gotten me thinking about the history of our religion. It got me thinking about why we fight here.
A man two thousand years ago came and started teaching some radical stuff, and ever since, our half of the world has been changed.
A man fifteen hundred years ago came and started teaching some radical stuff, and ever since, this half of the world has been changed.
What is the difference? One man came and told the world, that there was only one way to heaven, and that was through the our actions, we can earn our way to heaven, and that anyone who disagreed should be hurt or killed and conquered.
One man came and told the world that, he was the way, the truth, and the life, and that the work is all done. We don't have to do anything. He has already conquered the things that need to be defeated-- sin and death, and that it is only our joy and jubilation in Him that causes us to do good works. Grace is such an amazing thing, don't you think?
Other updates: The food here is unbelievable. In all honesty, your taxes are going to very good things here, because in my adult life, I have not eaten this well. It's unbelievably delicious, and I have a ton of options about what to eat. The only thing I could still go for is perhaps some home-made cookies, cause the cookies here are kind of a joke. So... hint...
Our equipment is top-of-the-line. We are very well equiped.
Our living arrangements are good. I share a trailer with only two other guys, and have my own little space, I'll try to send pictures at some point.
I'll admit, I logged back on here, kind of frustrated because I wasn't sure anyone was actually reading this, and it is a big time chunk to update, and you all wallopped me with comments. Thank you so much for caring.
For the first time in my life, I understand what Paul meant when he said, "It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart, for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me." (Phil 1:7) I know I'm not imprisioned, but you are here with me daily while I deal with the spiritual, emotional, and physical aspects of this deployment. I love you.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
"I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me."
So lately, I've been praying for God to bless me like he did Joseph. There is a promotion coming up that I want, but as with everything, there are politics to it. What do you think of praying for God to improve your situation when you don't need it? I want to be able to represent God in everything here, and I want Him to increase my sphere of influence. I also want Him to give me a roommate who doesn't snore. Do you think those are legitimate prayers? If so, please keep them in your prayers, along with strength and joy through this entire deployment. I love you guys. Please stay in touch.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Isn't that a neat perspective? What can you say to someone who thinks like that?
Could you imagine being one of the guys trying to intimidate Paul?
"You quit talking about Jesus, or we'll beat you up,"
"I would count it a privilege to suffer for Christ"
"You quit talking or will put you in jail"
"Put me in jail, and the word of God will spread more rapidly"
"You quit talking about Jesus, or we'll kill you!"
"For to me, to die is gain... I get promoted, I'm excited about the day I die."
Seriously, what would you say to someone with that perspective? Nothing else would matter if we could get to that mindset. No suffering, nothing would compare to the privilege we get in Jesus! That is so cool.
Alright, that's all from me for now.