Wednesday, November 18, 2009

CH-BOLC: Proud to Be ...

Here are just a few things I am proud to be ...

... an American.

If you're like me, you immediately have Lee Greenwood playing in your head. I'm sad to confess that the song had become a bit of an annoyance to me. (I tend to get annoyed by anything that is overused.) I mean, c'mon, this song was sung by not 1 but 2 people in my Junior Miss Pageant in 1989. 20 years later, can't we put this song to rest already?

So let's forget the song for a minute and return to the sentiment that made it so popular.

We live in one of the greatest nations on the planet. We may take it for granted most days, but there are days we remember we are a part of something truly great. In the middle of chaos and tragedy, we can proudly raise our flag and declare to every American: We are resilient. We WILL get through this.

... an American Soldier.

All it takes is one trip to Arlington, one observance of the changing of the guard at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, one viewing of Band of Brothers, We Were Soldiers, or my latest favorite Taking Chance.

More directly, I am proud (and humbled) when someone salutes me. Or when I am out in public in my uniform and a total stranger feels compelled to come up to me and simply say, "Thank you." Then there was the Military Tribute that took place at the USC vs. UF game I went to on Saturday. It was no doubt pride I felt when the announcer called for everyone currently serving in the military to stand and salute when their branch song was sung. And no matter what branch you are in, every hair on your arms and neck stood at attention when the jets did a flyover to conclude the presentation.

But tonight may have been my favorite memory and proudest moment thus far as a Soldier. After a long day at CH-BOLC, I returned to my hotel, worn and weary. I boarded the elevator patiently waiting for the doors to close and take me "home". Just as they were about to close, someone stopped them to catch a ride. It was a father and daughter. We said our polite greetings then assumed the elevator protocol of silence. Suddenly, the silence was broken by the whisper of a child, "Dad! She's a Soldier!" He responded, "Yes, she is sweetheart." The little girl looked back at me and excitedly asked me directly, "You're a Soldier?" "Yes, I am," I replied. I think I may have heard a "Wow" whispered, then her dad said, "See, you can be whatever you want to be." The elevator doors opened and they got off. I smiled and wished them a good night. Then as the elevator doors closed again, another "wow" was whispered. This time it was mine.

... an American Soldier serving as a Chaplain.

If the pride I feel to be an American does not get me, add in the Soldier part and it's almost overwhelming. And now after a cumulative total of 10 weeks of direct training at the Chaplain schoolhouse and 17 months of hands-on training with my unit, words cannot express how humbled I am to be among this unique class of people called Military Chaplains. We are a people invited into some of the most profound moments of a person's life. We nurture the living, care for the wounded, and honor the fallen.

It's not a call for everyone. But I am proud it is a call God has placed on me.

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people belonging to God,
that you may declare the praises of him who called you
out of darkness into his wonderful light."
(1 Peter 2:9)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

CH-BOLC: Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head

"Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it
and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed
receives the blessing of God."

(Hebrews 6:7)

This is one of those verses I'm sure I've read over numerous times but never really SEEN. This week, however, I really felt like God highlighted it for me. It is a reminder that rain will fall ... and it will fall often. This week was proof of that ... when a fellow soldier of the United States Army fired numerous shots out against other soldiers killing 13 of them and wounding 31. And one of those 31 was a soldier from my unit. No, the land cannot control the rain that falls upon it.

But it can control what it does with it.

I want to be the kind of soil that "drinks" it in, that recognizes its own need for rain. It doesn't ignore it or act like it is not happening. It doesn't reject it. It doesn't wish it away. It drinks it in ... soaks it up ... and is somehow better for it. In fact, it uses the rain to produce a crop, not just for itself, but one that is useful to others. Other people benefit. Other people are nourished by what it yields. They are stronger. They are satisfied. They are blessed. As a chaplain, Soldiers can actually benefit from the suffering I've experienced. God can actually use it to minister to others. It "produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed."

But is there no personal benefit? Is my suffering only to bring strength to others? No! God is too generous for that. Notice how the verse ends: "...[it] receives the blessing of God." Wow. That's better than any crop, any reward, any result. Although my struggles are used to minister to others, those struggles + that ministry also yields for me the very blessing of God.

Even now as I am at CH-BOLC training for the chaplaincy, there is great rain that falls along the way: blood, sweat, tears, personal sacrifice, fatigue, separation from those I love, and much more. But through all of that God is planting (and watering) something in me that will strengthen others along the way ... and bring to me the blessing of God.

What a journey.

What a gift.

"Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass,
it's about learning to dance in the rain."