Monday, July 27, 2009

The Shack

I have been in a few discussions about the book the Shack. Its been a while since I've read it and just want to express myself on the book. Our men and women in the armed forces are reading the book and many see nothing wrong with it. I personally was enthralled by the way the book kept me going. I didn't want to put it down. In that regard it was well done. It touched my emotions. I felt for the father who lost his daughter and in the way that he did. I was angry at the one who did it and thought he deserved God's judgement, as we all do. Finally it was thought provoking. Forgiveness and justice and judgement and compassion are things to think about especially in a combat zone. Many kids see violence in a way they wouldn't back home. We experience things that turn our stomachs upside town. What about the enemy? How do we treat them? What about the one who killed or wounded my buddy...I just want to get even or just get someone for what happened. There often is not forgiveness, at least not expressed so this is good also. It can get a discussion going that may help a soldier, but I have to look at it theologically.
Again, I don't have the book in front of me so I can't quote chapter and page but I know that universalism is taught. That everyone is saved. Now I can say that the killer could be forgiven through the cross. He concievably could make a deathbed confession/conversion. But he is not saved by virtue of being a human being. That is one area I struggle with. The other is the depiction of the Trinity. I understand it is just a book....saying that, God is not Della Reese. The father in the book was depicted as a black woman and I read into that "Touched by an Angel." Della Reese played the top angel and I heard her voice when the Father talked. Jesus was a black man and the Holy Spirit was an oriental woman. In "Touched by an Angel" they were angels and didn't bother me as much as the depiction in the book. In the New Testament in Revelation Jesus does not remind me of Morgan Freeman. Jesus was treated and still to be treated as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. In the Old Testament we see in Isaiah 6, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is filled with His glory." Isaiah almost disintegrated. We don't need books to continue weak views or blasphemous views of God.

I probably said enough for now, so I will wait to get some responses and continue the post. In His Almighty Grip, even from Afgahnistan, Chaplain Don.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ministry in Afghanistan

I am now in my 3rd month in Afghanistan. The altitude is around 7200 feet above sea level. Hard to breathe sometimes. Much of the base is set up and is growing. I am the Forward Operating Base (FOB) Chaplain. My responsibility centers around the Chapel. We have three protestant services, one Catholic service and an LDS (Latter Day Saints) meeting. I was also approached by a Pagan, wanting various oils etc He identified himself as a Pagan after I asked him what he wanted these for. I thought he would claim to be Wiccan. He said he is Pagan. I asked him if there were others. He said he didn't know but he considers himself a "solitary." The three Protestant services include a Contemporary service at 0900. I inherited a worship team. They are made up of military and civilians. Keep them in your prayers. I preach the 0900 am service. There is a 130pm service or Gospel service. This service has more African American involvement. There is more singing and clapping. I try to get others to preach and I am finding out I need to be careful. Also, one of the men is working on video taping the services to develop something to share about the ministry. The 730pm service just started. It will pick up. Right now no one has an excuse not to come to any service since we cover all time frames.

Some of what I do has to do with counseling. I counseled one young lady who made a profession of faith. I ask for your prayers in being bold in this context and sharing Jesus. Though the military has no problem Chaplains preaching their Faith they do look down on trying to convert or proselytize others. I have counseled people who are having marriage problems, not getting along or feeling like they fit in, who just feel there are too many problems and they need to go home. They would do better and the unit would be better if they were home.

There is also a big push to educate soldiers in suicide awareness. In 2008 over 142soldiers took their own life. Way, Way way to many. We are going through a three phase program to help soldiers be aware. I think excellent material from a secular standpoint. I ask for wisdom in this area with men and women and counseling.

We have movie nights. I've shown Fireproof; Facing the Giants; Passion of Christ; Amazing Grace; Something to Sing About; Jesus film; etc. I would like more DVD's with films to share with the troops.

We also have the Table of Grace. This table has stuff from home that churches and families send to give to the troops. This represents the gospel of Jesus. He paid the ultimate price but it is free for us. People back home pay the price of getting stuff from stores, boxing them up and sending them. This I try to share with people in the Chapel.

My daily routine is wake up around 330 - 4am and exercise/shower and quiet time. By 730 am I get to the office and attend a briefing Mon thru Thursday at 8:30 am. Friday and Sundays are no briefs and Saturday is a big briefing. After the briefing I work on a sermon or do some counseling. I go to lunch with my assistant and do more sermon/counseling and visit around the FOB. I call my wife around 530pm my time or around 730/8am her time. The rest of the evening I may visit or watch movies in my room. My wife sends me the great, ie., Walker : Texas Ranger or Rocky series. I am usually in bed by 10 - 10:30 pm.

I may have to travel some to other FOB's to check on Chaplains. This travel is all by air.

As time goes on I will contribute more to Crosswinds. We have a civilian Internet and limited space and very slow connections when they are up. I can do very little in Afghanistan and will try to do a few while home on leave.

Please be in prayer for me and Bess as well as the ministry I am entrusted with in Afghanistan. Pray God would be glorified/honored in what I do and may many come to know Him during this deployment.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Putting the Puzzle Together in the Crosswinds

Earlier I wrote about putting a puzzle together. This puzzle would be easier if we had a picture to evaluate the pieces by. If you had 1000 pieces and no picture what would you do? You might as well take any piece and try to figure it out. You start from yourself and eye the piece of the puzzle and try to figure out what it is. Then you look at other pieces and try to figure their relation to the one you pick. It would take a long time to put it together. It would speed up if and when you thought you knew what it was to look like.

Life is like a puzzle. To many it is puzzling. Things happen to us or to the world and we wonder how that fits. How do we interpret these pieces? We do this by what our family believes about them. Or what we are taught by our friends as we grow up. Teachers and other important people have an impact on us and our world view is developed. Yet most of the time we don't know we have a world view. We just think that what we are taught is the way it is.... Until we find someone who thinks differently than you. That throws a chink in the puzzle. Why, it's obvious that .... We tend to think in bits and pieces. By this I mean we have our social life and work life separate. Those who have faith in a religious system separate faith from their work life. Then they may have their married life and on and on. Our life is fragmented and in many ways frustrating. Some may like that but I think many of you don't. Let me list 10 pieces of the puzzle that make up a world view and I will tackle each one in this order. We have theology, philosophy, biology, psychology, ethics, sociology, law, politics, economics and history. Now these are academic pieces to the puzzle, but they all relate to everyone of us.

So we need to realize we have a world view and this world view interprets life for us. We need to examine our world view and keep what we believe is true and add or subtract others. But first, let us define a world view. Simply put it is a way we make sense of the world. It answers the questions, Where am I from? Why am I here? Where am I going? We need to start with the fundamental question of theology. EVERYONE has a theology even atheists. Their theology is that God does not exist. Their world view flows out of their lack of belief. As a Christian Chaplain my theology starts with God. Crosswinds has a presentation entitled, "Who's On First?" The presentation deals with this issue. Your starting point is of fundamental importance. Contact the ministry to have someone give your church or organization the presentation.

Colossians 1:15-21 gives the Christian the BIG PICTURE. The text says:

"And He is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and the earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers and authorities___all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also the head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first born from the dead ; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything. For it was the Fathers good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; Through Him I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven."

This big picture puts Christ at the center of everything. Jesus Christ created everything visible and invisible. He made all things for Himself. He holds everything together. He is the head of the Church. He was the first to rise physically from the dead never to die again. He is the pre-eminent One. He is God. Scripture tells us He is the Image of the invisible God and all the fullness of the Fathers good pleasure to dwell in Him.

Our theology starts with the Triune God who created all things. He started all things and holds everything together. God is now involved and will continue to be involved in His creation. How does this impact our thinking about the world and what happens to the world and how it impacts us. What kind of philosophy is generated from this kind of theology? Lets meditate on this first step, this BIG PICTURE. Remember to put the puzzle together we need to see the big picture and let that be the lens we view the world through. s

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Cooperation without Compromise - Navigating the Crosswinds

Help for the Wiccan, an unusual post from a Christian Blog. I was asked by Bob to review a book entitled, "Faith and Magick in the Armed Forces: A Handbook for Pagans in the Military." It is by Stefani E. Barner a pagan herself whose husband is in the military. Her goal is to help the pagan/wiccan believer navigate the sometimes hostile and sometimes frustrating military world and practice their faith. Sometimes the most frustrating people are Christian Chaplains who are indifferent if not hostile to them. I can understand the feelings of the Chaplains but I also see how Chaplains are walking a fine line in the military. Eleanor Holmes Norton said, "The only way to make sure people you agree with can speak is to support the rights of people you don't agree with." As Chaplains that is what we are to do. It is summed up in the First Amendment, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." It is the responsibility of the Christian Chaplain to help any faith practice in the military environment. Now there are some guidelines but overall our responsibility is to be an aid to other faiths. This can be done in a positive manner. This in effect is ministering in a pluralistic environment.

Some may want to know if there are enough pagans/wiccans in the military to be an issue. I really believe there is. When I was in Iraq we had wiccans who wanted to hold their practices. They did this at night. The base Chaplain was trying to help them and they need to go through the steps required by the military to be recognized.

Another situation was with a young man who had problems and was not overly enthusiastic about talking to a Chaplain but he did talk to me. I asked him if I could pray for him and he said no. I asked and he told me he was Pagan. He was a loner but he did his own rituals. We talked more and I asked him if there was something I could understand the Pagans better? He gave me a small book that explains what he does. We left as friends and he told me he had a Baptist pastor he was friends with in Florida. They would often talk about faith and Jesus. This was a positive response to someone who holds to an anti Christian religion.

But the military is really a microcosm of the society as a whole. It reflects the culture we live in. Wiccans are a private group usually who do their thing undercover of secrecy to avoid ridicule or unwanted attention. I found out that they are in places I would not consider. In my regular job I had to go to Watervalley MS. I stopped to ask directions, and yes men do ask directions, and the lady who helped me had a snake ring on her finger and a pentagram around her neck. The book I read said those who are into Wicca usually have something to identify themselves. A ring or necklace etc. I asked her if she was into Wicca. She quickly, confidently affirmed that she was. This is in little town Mississippi. If they are there where else are they? If they are in Water Valley, they are in the Military.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Standing Strong in the Crosswinds of the Military

This is new to me, blogging I mean. I really plan on just putting some ideas on the blog and seeking interaction. I want others to interact and challenge me as well as be challenged. Some of what I type will seem simple but I suppose we will get into meatier subjects.

As a Chaplain in the military one concern I have is how Christians can stand strong in the crosswinds of their military service. As many of you know who have been in the military, you meet people from different parts of the country with various beliefs. Young men and women who were raised in Small Town USA could be in for the shock of their life. Some family members may think their sons or daughters have a good Christian upbringing. Some may, but often this upbringing is in a very non threatening place. The military takes one out of the non threatening and challenges us by putting us in a threatening environment. We could be threatened physically, socially and spiritually. Since our country is in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as other places we could face death. If we don't face death we could see our buddies die. This could be a major earthquake in the life of young men and women as a result of their new lifestyle. This could really shake things up. How strong is the foundation? What is the foundation made of? How deep does it go? We want to explore this in depth and try to help each other in developing a foundation or world view that will help us weather whatever storm we go through.

Listen to Jesus words in Matt 7:24 - 27, "Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wiseman, who built his house upon the Rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the Rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like the foolish man, who built the house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came and the winds blew, and burst against that house, and it fell, and great was its fall."

I was mobilized for Katrina and the utter destructive power of the water, wind and rain shocked the civilized world. It looked like we were at war. I saw many foundations left but the homes were gone. Recently I was mobilized for Gustaf and the military and stat government was in place days before landfall. Gustaf scraped Mississippi compared to Katrina. We were fortunate though our neighbor, Louisiana got the brunt of this storm. The Lesson learned from Katrina is be prepared. The lesson learned from Jesus words is build on the foundation of His words. This will be the way we strive to develop a Christian world and life view. Now many come into the military with a Sunday School grasp of their faith. Don't get me wrong, Sunday School is important, but often one gets bits and pieces of Bible and Theology. They haven't been able to put it together or they haven't been challenged to. I want them to learn to put it together. Let us look at what a world view is then how we can put one together.

We all have a world view. Some may know they have one and other may have no clue what a world view is. We all look through our lens and interpret the world. We give it meaning which makes sense to us. We all have a filter through which our experience is interpreted. How do we get this "filter?" Our family and friends influence us. We pick things up from our parents. They teach us many things as we grow up. As we get older our friends start to have more influence in our lives. We try to fit in and think like them. We want to be accepted so we are like them. Through our education and culture. What do we learn in school? What kind of hobbies or interests do you have? How many movies do you try to see a week? How much TV do you watch? How much music do you listen to? Let us go back to Sunday School and Church. How much time do you and your children spend at school and work? How much time in church? When everyday cares and school take up the majority of our time and we spend maybe 3 hours a week in church what will have a greater influence? Our world view is more caught than taught.

Imagine getting a bag of 1000 pieces of a puzzle. Suppose I tell you that you need to pour out the pieces and put it all together. Think you could do it? Most likely, but it would take a long time. What is missing is the picture of what the puzzle looks like. If you know the end result then you can put it together. That picture helps you pick and choose other pieces and put them in the right place. The picture helps one make sense of the pieces. The same with a Christian world and life view, it helps the believer make sense of their life. The picture is the filter that makes sense of the pieces and makes it possible to put it together. God wants us to get the big picture.


The Crosswinds Effect on Me

I like the military. I joined in 1972. I just graduated from High School and 12 days later I was at Ft. Dix New Jersey. There I learned what it meant to be a soldier. I was in during the Vietnam Era. I didn't go. I was sent to White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) in New Mexico. It was here I ran into the Crosswinds of spirituality. I was interested in a girl. She was a Christian. At the time I really had no idea what a Christian was. I was raised a nominal Catholic from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. One day I asked her for her phone number and she asked me what my intentions were. I told her "honorable" of course. She told me I could take her to church. I was excited. When I picked her up she was living with four other girls. They were a college/military ministry called Navigators. I enjoyed spending the day with these ladies and other Christians. The church we went to was the First Evangelical Free Church in Las Cruces New Mexico. The Pastor preached on I Corinthians 15: 3,4. "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, That Christ died for our sins according to the Scripture and that He was buried and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures."
It wasn't at that time but a few days later I kneeled down in my room and asked Jesus to forgive me and make me new. He did just as He promised. It was quiet but I know something happened.

First, I continued to go to the church that the girl I was interested attended even when I knew she wasn't going to be there. See, this church, the First Evangelical Free Church of Las Cruces or E Free for short, was 35 miles away from WSMR. I had to leave early enough to get to Sunday School and Church.

Second, I carried a Bible with me where ever I went. I took it with me to work and others would come up to me and talk about it. I developed this friendship with a Chaplain on base. He and his family were very friendly and hospitable. I got to know them very well. Eventually they were sent to Germany. After I got out of the service I started New Mexico State University(NMSU). I received a letter from the Chaplain who informed me that his son died. I knew the family. I knew their son. He was born with a heart defect. I cried. I cried because I knew them. I knew the author of the letter. I showed this to my roommate. He was sad but not emotional like I was. The difference was in knowing the author. The same with the Bible or God's Word. I know the author. I see the Bible differently than I did before I became a Christian.

Third, I liked reading/studying the Bible. Before I became a Believer I tried to read the scripture but found it boring. I tried to read the four gospels, and I found they were all about the same man. I stopped after that. Now that I've been born again I see that the four gospels are four different views of Jesus. All four fit together to give a complete portrait of Him.

Fourth, I became involved with the Chapel program. I co taught Sunday School and led the Protestant Youth of the Chapel or PYOC. I was involved in the Navigator Bible study Design for Discipleship.

Fifth, I developed an interest in being a Chaplain. I started NMSU and majored in Philosophy. This is a good pre seminary degree. Also, I developed an interest in religions and apologetics. Philosophy was a great foundation. I ended up being apart of Watchman Fellowship at one time. Watchman's goals are to Educate the community about Cults/Occult and Equip Christians to respond to the cults as well as Evangelize them.

Sixth, I am now a Chaplain in the Mississippi Army National Guard. I have been deployed to Iraq for one year. I was mobilized for Katrina duty on the coast in 2005 and for Gustaf duty. I am being prepared for Afghanistan in the near future. The crosswinds in New Mexico have effects in my life and the lives of others even now. We don't see the crosswinds but I am a result an example of the Winds life altering power.