Tuesday, October 27, 2009

CH-BOLC: Rising Above

Well I went back to the hospital on post for my breathing test today. Officially, the results concluded that I do not have asthma. Strangely enough, I wasn't sure whether to receive this as good news or bad news. When the doctor began to suggest (however tactfully) that perhaps my symptoms were psychosomatic and just a result of anxiety, or that they might disappear when I continue to exercise more, I felt my defenses revving up. To suggest this was all in my head or just because I wasn't in good shape felt insulting. I actually found myself wishing the results had been different for no other reason than to legitimize what I've been experiencing physically.

{*insert sound of record screeching*}

Hold on. Time out. What?? I was actually wishing I had asthma? What is that!??!

I'll tell you what that is: that is the enemy trying to psych me out ... again. How in the world is being diagnosed with asthma the desired result here? The truth is, maybe the medicines my doctor has had me on are doing what they're supposed to. Or maybe, just maybe, the God who created these lungs may just have healed me. How about that?
1 Praise the LORD, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

2 Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits-

3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,

5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

Psalm 103:1-5

I must not forget all His benefits. I will not allow the enemy to convince me this good news is somehow bad. Today, God kept me from being labeled. He kept me from having the option of blaming some disease or illness for my performance. He showed me YET AGAIN that He is bigger than anything I may come up against.

Forget that I have not done much PT in the last two weeks. I'm going to take the diagnostic PT test this Friday confident that my Creator provides every breath, He empowers every step, He strengthens every muscle. He will renew my youth like the eagle's. (My platoon, interestingly enough, is "the screaming eagles".) So come Friday I will soar above discouragement, fatigue, doubt, and anything else the enemy wants to throw at me.

And the only label I will allow to be placed on me is this one:


Monday, October 26, 2009

CH-BOLC: He is For Me

Just because God promises to be our support (and Titus 1:2 assures God does not lie), that doesn't mean people always will be that to us.

The Soldier's Creed declares we will never leave a comrade behind, yet during our PT run today, one of my classmates complained about having to circle back around "just because of them" with the "them" being those of us who run slower than the others in formation. (He didn't know one of "them" was right behind him.) "Funny," I thought to myself, ... "he's memorized The Soldier's Creed, but clearly doesn't understand what it means to live by it."

But why should the Army, yes even the Chaplain Corps, be any different than the rest of the world? People will let you down. (I'm sure you've experienced this in your churches too.) Yes, some will encourage, but many will discourage. Some will build you up, but many will tear you down.
"At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength ... "
(II Tim 4:16-17)
"May it not be held against them." That's right up there with "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." I wish I could tell you that's what I thought when I overheard the comment during the run this morning. But as God later led me to this Timothy passage, my heart softened. I asked God to forgive me for thinking less of people who hurt me or let me down. I asked Him to help me look to Him for all my needs. I prayed that when I look at others that I would not expect failure and disappointment from them, but that I would not hold it against them if it happens. And I praised Him for the beautiful truth of Paul's last statement above ... "But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength."

And then, like a gift delivered through the speakers of my car, God reminded me of His faithfulness ... something I never have to call into question. He will never fail me.
I know that You are for me.
I know that You are for me.
I know that You will never forsake me in my weakness.
I know that You have come now
even if to write upon my heart,
to remind me who You are.

(Chorus of "You are For Me" by Kari Jobe)
Click here to watch/listen to the entire song.
God reminded me of who He is.
He is faithful.
And He is for me.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

CH-BOLC: The End of Phase 1

Well, Phase 1 is over. (If you are interested in viewing a few pictures, click here.) Two weeks have zipped by. As I sat waiting to go into my doctor's appointment (more on that in a minute), God began to give me some clarity I thought I would share with you.

Being back at CH-BOLC has been an interesting journey. I'm in a better place emotionally but not necessarily physically. After being put on profile due to my breathing problems, I had mixed emotions. Of course in some ways, it was a nice physical break. But I have been feeling a little cheated. Pushing yourself beyond what you perceive your limits to be is a big part of what being here is all about. It's what can be agonizing but also extremely rewarding. Not doing it may make for an easier race but a hollow victory (if a victory at all). I never thought I'd say this, but I began to miss the suffering. Maybe that's why Paul wrote ...
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers [and sisters], whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4)
"Not lacking anything" ... that's what I'm talking about!! But it only comes in maturity which comes by perseverance. Not just perseverance, but perseverance that has finished its work. And that doesn't happen without trials & the testing of your faith.

In Army Operation Planning there are 2 approaches: forward planning or backward planning. Forward planning is moving from step 1 to step 2 and so on until you ultimately arrive at your goal (hopefully). This is what most people use in daily life. Reverse planning is starting at your goal and working backwards determining each step and what must take place for each to happen. If "not lacking anything" is the goal, then maturity, perseverance, trials & testing are the necessary steps. I can try other steps but they will likely not get me to the desired goal.

Me + Trials = Perseverance = Maturity = Completion = Not Lacking Anything

This is my desire. But it may require getting over some hurdles. It may seem like they are coming one right after another. It may be scary. It may seem way too big.

But you are not alone. There are people around to help you get over the obstacles. And better yet, there is a God with you every step, providing all you need to be victorious. These trials are a gift. Sure, they don't feel like it ... but they are. They are leading towards maturity and completion.

Not ... lacking ... anything!

I am grateful for a week to realize the benefit of the training I am receiving here. The medical staff is continuing to work to confirm once and for all what is happening with my lungs. (I have another test on Tuesday that will prove for sure whether this is asthma.) But in the meantime, they have cleared me to return to training (at my own pace) and I am grateful.

May you be encouraged by whatever you are enduring also. It is not for nothing.

"For I know the plans I have for you,
plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you a hope and a future."
(Jeremiah 29:11)

Monday, October 19, 2009

CH-BOLC Phase 1 Week 2

Well, Week 2 is off and running ... but alas, I am not.

Upon my platoon leader's recommendation, I went to the clinic today to continue the medical investigations my doctor started in Birmingham to diagnose my breathing problems. The assumption is that it is just exercise induced asthma, but as of yet that has not been confirmed. Until the medical staff here can review my doctor's records, I have been stricken from doing any PT or training. I know, I know ... I can hear your collective voices saying, "Awww, what a shame!" But no one wants to be the one sitting on the sidelines while everyone else is "playing."

I go back in for follow up on Friday. Hopefully I will regain some of my exercise privileges back. (Yes, I said "privileges." Think I'm off base by calling them that? Just ask someone wheelchair bound.)

In the meantime, I have very mixed emotions. This verdict will keep me from doing one of the tasks I was most anxious about during my time here. Of course part of me is releaved. The other part feels like I got the easy way out. I guess God's desire is for us to be willing to do whatever, to trust Him even when the task is too big or difficult to comprehend. But maybe sometimes just being willing is enough. After all, God is a God of grace ... grace to handle all life throws at us. But He is also a God of mercy.

Grace or mercy. It matters not to me. All I know is He will always be everything I need.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

CH-BOLC Phase 1 Day 4

APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test)

Well, the PT test is over ... as is my first week back at CH-BOLC. I am pleased to say that I did pass the test! It was a little disappointing to see my PT score drop since the last time I took one, but I hadn't put in the kind of training time for this one as I did then. It helps me know I really need to kick it in gear, and progress will follow! The good news is this test was just a diagnostic, though I will have to take one for record before I leave.

On a slightly more spiritual note, God continued to demonstrate His faithfulness to provide for my every need every step of this journey...

The run occured on a track that is 3 laps plus a little to achieve 2 miles. After my second lap, I was feeling the pressure to maintain my pace if not speed up a little to ensure a passing score. My body, however, was feeling the burn ... especially my lungs which seem to be working overtime these days. As soon as I began my 3rd lap, a fellow classmate began to run alongside of me. He himself had already completed the run, while I still had a full lap to go. He humbly announced that he was going to run with me, and did so with great encouragement and support. He never belittled my pace or told me to suck up the fact that I seem to have developed asthma in the last 6 months. He empathized, he encouraged, and he ran beside me every step of the way.

This soldier, along with the one who encouraged me through the Fit 2 Win course the other day, were both such gifts! I thought about Hebrews 13:2 that tells us sometimes we entertain angels and don't even know it. I believe in the spiritual world, angels and demons both, but I can't help but wonder if sometimes other people don't serve as angels to us. I know I had 2 this week.

Thanks to them and to the God Almighty who is gracious and compassionate enough to provide whatever we need whenever we need it.

"God shall supply all [my] needs ..." (Phil 4:19)
"[He] will never leave [me] nor forsake [me]." (Deut 31:6)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

CH-BOLC Phase 1 Day 3

Red Letter Day

Well, prayer works. I know this should not be a news flash to any Christian but I just thought you (meaning me) might need a reminder.

Most of the day today consisted of nothing blog-worthy. Then came the moment of truth ... the weigh in. First, let me be sure you understand how this works. There is a height weight chart based on age and gender and the Army wants you to fit into it. Someone of your age, gender, and height should weigh no more than what that chart says. Thanks to General Schwarzkopf, however, this is no longer the ONLY standard. If a soldier does not fit into the chart, a series of measurements are taken and percentage of body fat calculated. Every soldier MUST meet either the height weight requirements or the percentage of body fat ones.

Now, for me, I don't even worry about the weigh in because I don't think I came out of the womb fitting into one of those height weight charts. But the tape has always saved my large buttocks from failing to meet standards.

Today, however, for the first time in my young military career, I did not have to be taped because I passed the height weight check!! I was so shocked I made her repeat her statement again. Part of me thinks it is an error, because none of the charts I can find online agree with her verdict. But for all I know the charts have been updated and the internet just hasn't caught up.

In my heart of hearts, however, I know it's because of all the faithful prayer warriors who were praying "light" thoughts for me today ... so thank you one and all!

But don't quit on me yet ... your work, sadly, is far from done. Tomorrow is the PT test and I desperately need your coverage for that. 5:30 am EST is the bewitching hour, so toss up some prayers before you go to bed tonight since it will all be over by the time most of you wake up. I should be able to meet standards for sit ups and push ups but am nervous about the run since, as many of you know, my doctor suspects I've developed exercise-induced asthma and tomorrow morning will be especially cold. Both of these will be obstacles to overcome.

Thankfully I believe Philippians 4:13 with all my heart ... "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."

Thanks SO much for your faithful prayers. I'll let you know how it goes!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

CH-BOLC Phase 1 Day 2

Now THIS is the Army!

As promised, today was much more the kind of day in the Army everyone imagines. I got up at 4:30 again and went running. We had no PT this morning since we were going out in the field so I took the initiative to do it on my own. After showering and getting cleaned up - a task which soon proved to be a waste - I met the rest of my class for formation ... in the rain. Soon buses took us to the site of our first event for the day. A little ditty they like to call "Fit to Win". This is an obstacle course where we run over the river and through the woods but grandma's house is nowhere to be found. Instead we travel from one obstacle to another, completing them as a squad and competing against other platoons. These obstacles included things like crawling through various tubes and tunnels, climbing over walls, crawling in the dirt under barbed wire, and the like. There were a few stations we had to bypass for safety issues due to the rain, the monkey bars (or horizontal ladder) being one. As someone who broke her wrist as a child on said monkey bars, I was ok with this choice.

Since this was a timed event and took place in the rain and mud, I wasn't able to get much in the way of pics & video but I did manage to capture one video. Here it is:

Tilt your head to the right at first. Don't worry ... eventually I did remember you can't take video with the camera turned longways.

(Remember if you subscribe to this post via email, you'll need to click on the title to go to the online version so you can see the video. If you are reading this as a note on Facebook, click on "View Original Post" at the top of the comments section.)

The purple heart for the day went to one soldier who happened to be the first to crawl through one of the cement tubes (like the one pictured at the top) and was greeted by a spider ... in his mouth.

Ahhhh, Army life.

This was an exhausting morning and by midday most of my body hurt. (Note to self #1: On the days there is no PT, there is a good reason. Do not feel compelled to add in your own.) But this was the first challenge with my platoon, so I enjoyed the bonding and inclusion ... and was especially appreciative of one person on my squad who ran alongside me and encouraged me through every exhausting hurdle.

After this event, my "typical" Army day continued with exactly what you want after being in the mud and rain ... a nice, cold shower. No, this was not on purpose, I was just fortunate enough to shower in a facility which turned out not to have hot water. (Note to self #2: pick a different place to shower next time.)

The day continued with a sermon by a fellow classmate, lunch, more classroom time and death by power point, and the exciting announcement that I have weigh in tomorrow.

And there in lies my prayer request for the day. :o)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

CH-BOLC Phase 1 Day 1

Well, we're off and running ... in more ways than one! I started my day at 4:30 and gave myself a trial PT test in preparation for Friday. From there I got cleaned up and headed to the school for "in processing" aka Army welcome paperwork. Then the remainder of the day was spent in classes on a wide assortment of topics, some more heavy on the Army side (e.g. - strategic mission planning & how to write an Army memorandum) to some leaning more towards chaplaincy (ethical decision making). Couple of homework assignments, picking up some supplies, then back to my luxurious hotel. As days go here, today was about as tame as they get.

Tomorrow will be a little more what all of you picture it to be like here ... out in the field crawling in the mud. Don't worry, I'm hoping to take pics and/or video.

Until then!

Monday, October 12, 2009

It's not vacation ... I promise!

So, as most of you know, I completed basic or CIMT (Chaplains' Initial Military Training) at Ft. Jackson back in January. I still have 3 more parts to complete which are simply referred to as Phases 1, 2, & 3. Today I arrived back at Ft. Jackson to begin completion of Phases 1 & 2 (a 5 1/2 week task).

In preparation for my departure from my regular job, my dear sweet co-workers enjoyed referring to this time away as my "vacation" if for no other reason than to watch me immediately argue the ridiculousness of such a statement. Sadly, their jesting was all the more perpetuated when I was notified that Ft. Jackson's lodging was full and the 15 or so of us about to come were going to have to stay off post in a hotel. I tried to explain to my co-workers this was actually an inconvenience, but to no avail.

But today was the day ... and despite a torrential downpour that traveled with me every mile from Birmingham to Columbia, I arrived safely only to discover that the hotel was even nicer than expected. Turns out it has only been open about 4 months and the place is pristine! See for yourself in this video:

(If you subscribe to this blog via email and are unable to see the video, just click on the blog title and it should take you to the online version.)

One quick prayer request before signing off ...

I will have to take (and pass) a PT test this Friday. (Nothing like jumping right in!) If I am unable to pass, I will have to do PT every night as well as the standard 6 am PT. Needless to say, this is not desired. Please pray I am able to meet all standards ... sit ups, push ups, and the 2 mile run. Oh yeah, and I'll have to pass a weigh in as well.

Looks like the party is starting already. :o)