Friday, June 19, 2009

Full Battle Rattle

When the Army tells you to put on full "Battle Rattle" that means you are to come wearing your Kevlar helmet, your IBA (Individual Body Armor) vest, gas mask carrier strapped to your leg (not pictured), knee and elbow pads, and a few other accessories. (Note: I realize I sound like a real girl to call them "accessories" but hey ... I am a girl!) Here is a picture of my friend and CH-BOLC Platoon leader, CPT Heather Simon, sporting full battle rattle for the camera.

She may be small, but she's scrappy!! :o) Of course, chaplains are non-combatants so otherwise we would have another vest on over the IBA with all sorts of weapon-related things strapped to it. Thankfully we don't have to deal with all of that.

As my unit prepares to deploy, there is much training and prep that has to be done. Every drill is packed full of things they have to complete to be ready to go. And most of the training has to be in the exact same environment they will experience over there ... which includes completing the tasks while wearing full battle rattle. I don't know if you can tell from this picture, but all of that stuff adds a lot of weight. The IBA alone weighs about 25-30 lbs! In fact, a couple of drills back, we did a first aid training exercise and I played one of the victims. I was dressed in full battle rattle and dropped to the ground as if I'd been shot. Do you know that I woke up the next day feeling like Rocky Balboa had pummeled me when I wasn't looking! I finally realized it was from the IBA pressing in on my ribs when I fell to the ground. This thing is exhausting to wear around for very long, much less to be doing a lot of activity in it.

Then I thought about Ephesians 6 ...
10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
I've read this passage a million times. But it is starting to take on a whole new meaning for me. The reality is that many times we don't want to put on the armor of God. It's time consuming to gear up ... and sometimes the weight of it feels like more of a disadvantage to our effectiveness than an advantage. But as a general rule, you don't hear a lot of soldiers complaining about the IBAs. Do you know why? Because they know those 30 lb vests can be the difference in them coming home to a parade or a funeral. Why can't we see the benefit of the armor of God the same way? Why can't I??
God has offered us supernatural protection for the supernatural battle we are engaged in everyday (whether we are aware of it or not). Why in the world would we refuse it and insist on going out unprotected, vulnerable, susceptible, and all but wearing bulls eyes on our chests?
More and more I am coming to realize that some of God's best blessings and provisions we refuse and/or balk at because they appear difficult or inconvenient at first. How short-sighted and juvenile of us. We should be suiting up everyday and thanking God for the provision of His protection!
One final note ... there is one other thing in common in this analogy. In God's armor, the only offensive tool is the Word of God (and verse 18 seems to indicate prayer is one as well). As a chaplain, guess what my only offensive tools are in battle? Yep, prayer and the Word of God ... oh, and a Chaplain's assistant who is armed and poised to protect me. Hmmm, I wonder who that would be in the spiritual scenario? (Hint: His initials are JC.) And do you know how a Chaplain best partners with the Chaplain assistant while under fire? You stay as close to him as possible always keeping him in front of you leading the way. Somehow I feel like I've heard that before.

Monday, June 8, 2009

This Ain't the Oscars ...

Every spring it happens ... people begin making statements like "It's an honor just to be nominated," when in secret they are actually dreaming of grandeur and laboring over an acceptance speech with the perfect blend of humor and sentiment, surprise and humility, and one, of course, that includes thanking all the right people. The big night arrives, complete with limousines, red carpet entrances, and wardrobe by the latest designers. The lights gleam, the nominees beam, the music climaxes until the big moment.

And the award goes to ...

Counter that with the God of all creation coming to earth as a baby born of an unwed teenage commoner. No red carpet. No music swells. No fan fare. No one asked Mary who designed Jesus' swaddle. It was just them, in a barn, with some animals.

And that was just the beginning.

So I guess it should come as no surprise that He would grow up to preach a message of becoming great by making yourself less, being glorified by being ridiculed, and being first by putting yourself last. Is it any wonder that people were so enamored by Him and His teachings? They were radical! Foolishness to many. But to some ... some who were just crazy enough to believe Him ... they were words of life.
"They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ." (Acts 5:40-42 NIV)
Did you catch the red carpet moment in that? The apostles had just been beaten and told never to talk of that which they wanted most to talk about ... and they beamed with pride over it like they were accepting an award! They didn't sleek out with their heads hung low whining about how doing the right thing gets you no where these days. They didn't grumble to each other about their inevitable bruises and broken bones. They pulled out that proverbial acceptance speech and humbly began, "It really is just an honor to be in the same category as those before me ... those I've looked up to for years ... the heroes of the faith. Those who have suffered for the cause of Christ." And when they thank Jesus, you can rest assured it is not a token "shout out" to the Big Guy; it is an emotional utterance of their deepest gratitude for the One who suffered most of all.

Imagine that.

I learned something as I read some Revelation passages recently. Did you know the martyrs will be resurrected before the rest of us? And as if that early admission isn't amazing enough, they are resurrected to co-reign with Christ during the 1000 years! (See Revelation 20:1-6)

I'm starting to see a pattern. It makes Paul's words in Galatians 6:9 take on a whole new meaning! "So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up." Our greatest glory comes in sacrificing to bring God glory. The more suffering it causes us, the greater the reward later! I'm not suggesting we go LOOKING for ways to suffer, but imagine how different our perspective could be if we viewed things through this upside down paradigm of Christ ... the one these apostles lived by. Imagine the next moment of excruciating hardship, instead of dropping our shoulders and rehearsing our bitter diatribe of woes ... what if we replied as if we'd just been handed an Oscar!

"Me?! Oh my gosh! This is so unexpected! I can't believe you would even consider me worthy of such an honor!"

Ridiculous right? This is not some pipe dream; this could happen! The Bible is not a collection of exceptions, but examples! (Right, John Elderedge?) If we will press in and allow God's view of life and circumstances to radically change us ... we too could walk the red carpet of fellow sufferers ... with joy!

Oh, that I would view difficulties and obstacles this way, Lord. May each problem arouse anxious anticipation instead of fearful dread. As if the envelope is being opened to reveal ...

... and the winner is ...