Category Archives: General

Surprising Silence

One of the realities about camp life is that there is no silence. There is always noise. If you are in a tent, either the heater/air is running or the constant hum of the generator assures you that life is happening. Outside the tent, there are vehicles, machinery, the machinations of a war camp, and, lets not forget, the heart-stopping sound of the alarm letting you know trouble is coming fast.

Then, there are the people. Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, Sailors, Civilians, Local Nationals – people everywhere you go! There is no sanctuary where there are not people. Even in the portajon, a solitude against the ever maddening crowd, you can hear clearly the people in the stall next to you.

Tents are full of people. There are the day sleepers who work at night and the night sleepers who work in the day. Everyone is trying to be quiet and everyone is making noise. Sometimes the harder one tries to stay quiet, the more grating the noise. Especially when trying to sleep.

All the noise is for me reassuring. I grew up in a large family, one of 12 children, and noise really does not phase me. I’ve never really liked being fully alone. This is not to say that I like talking. The introvert in me loves silence and space but I also like knowing others are close by. At home, my family is ever present. In the field, my Soldiers are ever present. It’s actually one of the things I love about his work.

Two nights ago, I was reassigned to a new tent. I went into the tent and in it was the unit that we replaced, they were waiting for their flight home. Last night, after leaving Bible study at the chapel, I returned to an empty tent. It was surreal. I don’t think I have ever, in 11 years of Army service, spent a night alone in a tent. It was so odd. Even a little unnerving.IMG_20160229_083507520

I woke up with a start about 02 and heard nothing. The generator outside the tent had shut off and I could literally hear nothing. It was so weird. There was no shuffling about in cots, no rolling over, no hum of laptops playing movies, no hushed conversations, no clumping of boots from Soldiers returning from missions. Just silence. Then, the generator kicked back on and it sounded right again. It was still a little odd as I was the only one in the tent (there is another crew coming in tonight so it’s a one night experience) and could hear only my thoughts.

I rolled over and went back to sleep.

Such surprising silence.

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Why I use “they” when writing

The other day, I got a paper back in which I had been marked down for using the word “they” to speak of “Soldier” in the singular voice.

Here’s why – I am intentional about using gender neutral language when speaking about gender neutral things. If I am actually talking about a man – I’ll use masculine. If I’m talking about a female – I’ll use feminine.

However, when writing about commanders (CDRs), Soldiers, and Chaplains, I am inclusive about it. I’ve had female CDRs and certainly have experienced both male and female Soldiers and Chaplains. However, I consistently experience educated, thoughtful people referring to ALL CDRs, ALL Soldiers, and emphatically ALL Chaplains as… “He”.

The other day in class, I could barely suppress my annoyance when I pointed out, yet again, out loud and in class to the professor that not ALL my Soldiers were men.

And again, I say, “Really? You have to be reminded of that? In 2014??”

So here is a great video that highlights how the plural word “they” is increasingly being used as a gender neutral pronoun… even in the singular.

I’ll keep using it. Thank you very much.

Gender Neutral Pronouns …: http://youtu.be/46ehrFk-gLk

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First Day

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She was shaking her head, “no.” I really wanted her to say yes, so badly did I want her to say “yes.” But, she didn’t. She didn’t need me to stay. No matter how much I wanted to sit with her, hold her hand, keep her 6 forever, it was not going to happen. She was shaking her head and then said out loud, “no.”

It was time for me to go. It was time for her to grow.

This morning has been coming for months. She’ll be 7 in December. She had to start 1st grade sometime and sometime was this morning.

First grade is different somehow. Kindergarten is a separate issue altogether. When the numbered grades start, the clock starts. Today was 1. In twelve years, it’ll be done.

12 short years.

At breakfast, she was so excited. Anticipation was palpable. She had her new outfit, chosen for the first day of school, new backpack, new shoes, new everything. All I could see was my little one. My little girl I left as an infant on that second deployment. The little toddler I came home to. My oldest. My little that could now read and sing and reason. My pride.

We took pictures and off we went.

The process for this school is that everyone gathers in the school cafeteria and then the teachers take the students off to their assigned classroom. I walked her into the school, down the hallway and into a crowded cafeteria. I expected to hand her off to another adult but its 1st grade and she needed to do this on her own. I shook hands with a teacher who showed her where to sit.

We hugged. I saw a tear in her eye and that’s when mine started to get red. I asked her if she was ok and she said yes. Then I asked her if she wanted me to stay and she smiled, shook her head, and said, “no.”

She didn’t need me to stay.

Walking out, I’m reminded of Milne, “If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.”

 

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Favorite cartoon ever…

Ok, *one* of my favorites…doubts-14

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Purple Pizza – the skit we did for my CHOBC 2005 class ball

For my old ensemble comrades, I pulled out the classic “Purple Pizza” in my Chaplain Officer Leadership Course military ball in order to make fun of my leadership. I ran across this little gem while moving. This was 1LT Fisher and company in 2005. Three days after this video happened, I was married and a week after that – on my way to Iraq with 2/121 Infantry Regiment. This was a young chaplain who had not yet tasted war. What a life!

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July 2, 2014 · 12:49 am

How She is different from Me in the pulpit

As an aside to the last post here were a couple of differences between she and me in the pulpit:

1. When She was done with her kids sermon, she told the children to get their coats on before they went to children’s church.

2. She is short. Therefore, when standing on a stool in the pulpit, she totally owned that she stumbled a bit. Congregation laughed warmly. #wearweaknessasarmor

3. I wander, she stands still. Congregation appreciates not having to worry about preachers getting in their personal space.

4. She never once said, “Saint’s of God…” (in that oratorical sort of way)

5. She does not wear a robe as I do. Not because she doesn’t want to, just because they don’t make them in her size and she refuses to wear a child-sized choir robe. #whatiswrongwiththeworld

6. Totally owns knee high boots in the pulpit. Respect.

More to follow…

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“dad, can I preach you a sermon I wrote?”

Sophia looked up with hopeful and expectant eyes. 

“Of course!” 

“Ok. Good morning. Why does Jesus love us? Why is the law? How does Jesus help us?”

As she asked these rather profound questions, she began pacing back and forth. The questions kept on coming. 

Questions and pacing. She, clearly, is influenced by my preaching style. 

Conclusion? Jesus helps us keep the Law. 

There’s even some great theology in there… 

Here’s me just proud to be a dad of a six year old daughter who spent time writing her very own sermon. 

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Back to the Future Grocery

Question: Is the new “connected world” where a corporation can track your preferences etc. to target you with specific adds really that much different from the “old days” where your local grocer knew what you liked and offered that to you?

I’m listening to KCUR’s “Up To Date” and they are talking about how Meijer chain in Michigan and Indiana is developing an in-store wi-fi system to assist shoppers with their grocery (and everything else) shopping. The example that was given is that you are walking around the store – the system notices that you are looking at peanut butter – it tells you that there are 10 different types of PB at the store and three are on sale – you can access reviews etc across the internet to make an informed choice – then, the system generates a coupon for Peter Pan PB and Welch’s Jelly.

On the one hand, it’s creepy that the store could know you that well. However, my question stands – is that really all that different from “back in the day” when you might go into your local grocery store (the good ‘ole days when you had a relationship with your grocer) and talk to the owner who knows you and your needs. He takes you to the PB and notes the pro’s and con’s of each brand while offering you a deal on one particular one.

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Granted, one is big business and the other is local but based on personalized service alone, its actually very similar. Frankly, in a world of choices, it’s nice to have some information with which to make a decision. As someone who came into the internet age as a teenager, I like the idea.

Also, as a parent, the idea that I can hand my children a tablet on which they can happily watch Netflix while I shop?? Thank you. Really. Thank you.

Is that a fair comparison?

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Back Pain and Soul Pain

There is a lie that floats about in our culture. It goes something like this – “healing has not happened (or worked) unless I do not feel pain any more.” As an Army prison chaplain, I experience it most in relationship to mental/spiritual anguish or “the dark night of the soul.” 

It goes something like this – the individual’s coping methods to dealing with pain land them in jail. They continue down this path (substituting alcohol, sex, drugs with ego trips, anger/rage, prescription meds) until they realize that they are still suffering greatly. They first reach out to mental health for relief and then, after realizing that drugs “won’t fix it” or that their counselor is encouraging them to work through their stuff reject it and show up in church. 

Here, they start reading the Bible furiously. Or, they start praying (at least in church) until something offends them at which time they either approach me about changing it or drop out all together. I challenge them on it and they say something like, “well, it didn’t take.” 

Another scenario that happens all the time is that someone will be the best Christian you ever met until they are denied parole. Then, clearly, God hates them and does not keep promises. (That they made to themselves on God’s behalf)

By the way, this is a common line of reasoning outside of prison too…

Which then introduces me mantra – people will not change until the pain of change is worse than the pain of staying the same. 

Somewhere along this path, they reach out to me for help. I introduce the above idea and say something like this, “I will not carry your burden. I cannot heal for you but I can and will join you and suffer with you if you want to really heal. You should know that it’s going to take you through some very dark waters. I’ll walk with you but not for you. I will be asking very hard questions and if you really want to heal, it’s going to be a little worse before it gets better. AND, it may actually NOT get better! In fact, your family might not be down with your growth and won’t like who you are becoming. You need to ask yourself if it’s worth the sacrifice.” 

Silence follows. 

Then a sigh and “I’ll give it a try.” 

Then we’ll enter into a pastoral care relationship. 

We explore the pain. We analyze why it’s painful. We struggle through how that pain might actually be a good thing and not something to be avoided. We seek to integrate it into life in a healthy way so as to not “cope” with it or avoid it but use it for positive growth. Those with enough courage hang in to the bitter end and experience great growth. Something people fall off. It happens. Either way, I’m there. Christ is there. 

What fascinates me on a regular basis is that the aforementioned lie is so prevalent in our culture. “Whatever you have to do to get rid of the pain…” 

What if pain wasn’t something to be avoided but embraced as God’s gift to guide you to healing? 

I heard this article on NPR this morning – loved it. It’s about managing back pain. 

“…along the way, she’s learning not to be afraid. “It’s learning not to fear the pain, learning that you can live with pain,” Wertheimer says. “Understand what that pain is, but then put it aside.”

In essence, sometimes the pain we experience both physically and emotionally is pain about the pain.

I teach my inmates to live with the pain, use the pain, make it a part of their spiritual strength and thus take away it’s power. 

“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – Jesus

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I love it when sports gives me the best illustration ever…

Disobeying a team rule.

Not an NCAA rule. Not a law. Not even a MSU rule. An undisclosed team rule.

It was for that, Coach Mark Dantonio benched his best player, his team captain, his undisputed leader of his tea. An undisclosed team rule.

That’s principled coaching.

I’ve been teaching the 7 Habits on the Inside (this is 7 Habits of Highly Effective People applied to prisoners living prison life) twice a week for 6 months now and once a week for over a year before that. It’s safe to day (as I am not deep into my 10th class) I am fully immersed in the 7 Habits lifestyle/program/cool aide…

Most basic to the program is living by principle.  Not living by indulgence, need, or want – principle. The idea that I know who I am, what I want, and what legacy I am leaving – I live to that. I live by my thought about, analyzed, tested principles.

This is why I loved watching the Spartans tonight. They played their football. The knowledge that they benched their best player on no less than the biggest game they have played for two decades, the 100th Rose Bowl, national television, Stanford. They benched their Player for an undisclosed team rule on the biggest game ever for everyone on that team.

That’s a principled team.

Then, there is Habit 2 – Begin with the End in Mind – living your life according to your vision. Seeing your legacy and then living according to that legacy rather than the one that comes by living out the default setting.

A year ago, Mark Dantonio walks on to the Rose Bowl field. Stands in the endzone and sees it all happening. His daughter captures the moment on a cell phone. He tells his team in the video that this is where they are going. A year before it happens, he stands on the field and sees it all before it takes place. Then, he takes his team there.

Vision.

Living by Principle and Vision.

Thanks Coach. I’m going to get a solid 20 minutes of great discussion out of this…

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