Pro Deo Et Patria- An Army Chaplain

I am a chaplain in the US Army, serving in Iraq. I'm keeping a blog to share my thoughts and experiences while deployed. They are my thoughts and they don't necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Army! :)

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Worship and Leaving

Sunday was the last worship service for me here in Iraq. It was bittersweet. On the one hand I'll miss everyone a lot- we've seen our Sunday evening service grow from around 25 people to over 120 in the last few months. And I'll miss seeing all of them each week.

On the other hand, I'm going home!

I feel good about what I've seen and done here. I don't know what is being said back in the United States, but there seems to have been a dramatic shift for the better here in Iraq in the last few weeks. I can't speak officially, but we've seen a huge drop in casualties. Things have quieted down a lot. Remember, the surge only reached its full strength about a month ago. I went through a period of skepticism, but I'm leaving here feeling like we are on the cusp of some very good things happening. It's going to be a matter of time and patience, but the results of the surge from this guy's perspective is a matter of burgeoning optimism.

As far as returning home... obviously I've got almost unrestrained excitement! There is no way to describe it for someone who has never been here. Going back to my family feels like winning the lottery. I can't wait to see my family and friends back home.

I'll be taking some time off when I get home. I'm beginning a call with a new church (Zion) this fall, but I will have some time to spend with my current church, LCC, and I can't wait to see everyone, and share my experiences with you. I had the blessing of having a member of LCC at my last service here in Iraq (how cool is that!), as we shared communion and worshiped. Nice way to finish out the tour.

I can't be specific about when I'm leaving Iraq, or what the return will entail, but I will probably not blog from Iraq again. We'll see. I'll try and update as I get to Kuwait and on to the demobilization site.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Stopping Mail

To everyone back at home: please don't send any more postal mail to me, as my time is getting "short" here. Most of you know that I can't be specific about dates, but suffice it to say that I'm in the process of starting to get near to leaving. So... no more incoming mail. :)

Monday, July 09, 2007


I'm just finishing a book a few of us have read here. It's called Bullet Proof, and it's written by Chuck Holton, a former Army Ranger and helicopter pilot. He explores the ways in which God works His purposes and plans in our lives. Essentially, he argues that we must desire to take risks for God. Here is a quote from page 55:

"God wants to give us important, meaningful work to do here on earth. But we have to decide how much we are willing to participate. He will accomplish His plan with or without us, but He wants to include us. The bottom line is that a long life doesn't have much appeal if it has no purpose."

He discusses risk and safety. We are not called to live "safe" lives and the reality of Christianity is that to walk in God's will necessitates taking some risk to our mortal, temporal safety. Eternally, tough, we are held in God's protection. On the other hand, to walk outside of God's will is to invite true and lasting spiritual danger. Here are a couple more quotes, from pages 90 and 91, talking in this case about families:

"....endeavoring to keep your family in God's will may require the assumption of some objective risk. And without a proper, well-exercised faith, fear will always follow."

A few sentences later he explains that real risk and real danger is being outside of God's will, and this bring danger to those around us:

"...when I disobey God, I'm not only putting myself in danger; my family is in it with me. Shrapnel in physical combat doesn't discriminate by guilt or innocence, and neither does the fallout from my spiritual failings."

This book resonates with me because his uses his Army experience to weave stories throughout the book.

But it also resonates with my experience here. From a temporary, mortal perspective, I'm in danger here. God doesn't promise I'll survive. I think about that when I fly. Tonight I flew to another base and back, and we were moving and grooving. Up and down like a roller coaster, over power lines and back down, sharp turns and all kinds of fun stuff. :) Before I fly I have to make peace with the possibility of death. After that I enjoy the flight.

That isn't bravery by the way! It's just believing that Jesus has a placed prepared for me in heaven (John 14:1-7). I take God at His word that death isn't the end. It's on Him.

Real danger is walking outside of God's will. If I falter spiritually or fall into gross sin... that is true danger. It is the type of danger that brings down families, churches and communities.

The point? We have a short time on earth, and we're called to step out in faithful service to God. As long as our mission is unfinished, we are physically invincible. Once the mission is done, the reward is heaven.

Those are two pretty good options if you think about it. If a mortar hits my room while I type this, I go into the presence of God. If not, I get to preach next weekend.

God is good!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Proud of My Nation and Thankful to God

It's the 4th of July today!

Right now patriotism has sort of gone out of fashion. I just finished watching the NBC Nightly News (from last night) and I was struck by the sheer negativity of the vast majority of the news.

But I don't care. I still want to express why I'm thankful to God to be an American.

Before I do that, I want to explain the proper Christian attitude toward government. On the one hand, we don't worship our nation! We may love it, but our eternal king is God. Martin Luther spoke about the idea of "two kingdoms." We're citizens of the United States, but also citizens of heaven. So Christians should keep the finite nature of this world in mind.

On the other hand, the Bible teaches that governments are instituted by God, and we owe them proper respect (for example: Romans 13:1-7). We are called to pray for those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-2). And many of you remember Jesus saying "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's."

So it's ok to thank God for good government, security, peace and prosperity. In fact, it's necessary. We ought to thank God for blessing us. With that said, I'm thankful to be an American for these reasons:

-I can practice my Christian faith without interference from the government.

-I'm free to express and exercise my political and civic opinions.

-People from all ethnic and racial groups can become Americans by subscribing to an ideal- that is, the American concept of freedom. Being the son of an immigrant, this is even more important to me. We are not a nation defined by an ethnic group, but by ideas and values.

-My kids can go to school, for free, and receive an excellent education.

-We can go to the mall, to sporting events, to museums, to youth activities, and be reasonably certain that there will be no violence or civil strife.

-Our nation was founded by the idea that human beings have certain inalienable rights, endowed by our Creator.

-I can own property, and be a steward of what God actually owns, with a minimal amount of interference from the government.

-We have a powerful military that is ready to defend our nation from attack.

-We live in prosperity unheard of in 99.9% of human history.

-When the leadership of our Congress or Presidency changes, it is always a peaceful transition.

I'm also thankful for more "superficial" things such as football, shopping malls, fast food, road trips, having a beer with friends, or a glass of wine with my wife, and all the other little luxuries we have.

We Americans believe that all people have rights granted to them by God- regardless of their race, religion or gender. The role of the government is not to grant rights, but to protect our God-given rights. These ideals are based on the Bible and have served us well for 231 years.

The United States is not perfect. But you know what? There is not a single other nation, past or present, in which I would rather raise my children.

And for that, I thank God.