Friday, April 27, 2012
While compiling ideas for this series on what the church can do for our military and their families, God brought Jocelyn Green to my attention (via Pinterest). I asked her if she had stories she could share about soldiers fighting against the emotional wounds of war. She did. The following is an excerpt from a book she co-wrote with Jane Hampton Cook and John Croushorn, entitled Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq & Afghanistan.
Ambush at Roberts Ridge
Capt. Nate Self, Army Ranger, Afghanistan, 2002-2003; Iraq, 2003-2004
Around three o’clock in the morning on March 4, 2002, Army Ranger Nate Self and his thirteen-man Quick Reaction Force were sent to recover a fallen Navy SEAL in Afghanistan, a place teeming with hundreds of al-Qaeda fighters.
“There was no place on earth more hostile to U.S. soldiers and no place my team would rather be,” Self recalled. “We were there because we were Rangers, and we had a creed to uphold: Never leave a fallen comrade . . .”
Self and his team weren’t told that previous helicopters sent to the mountain (later named Roberts Ridge) had come under fire. When the Chinook helicopter was shot down in an ambush, a 15-hour firefight ensued.
Bullets whizzed past Self, rocket-propelled grenades ripped through the air around him. Bleeding from a shrapnel wound in his leg, Self began to plan a counterattack on the high-caliber machine-gun bunker.
Hours of fighting dragged on as Self and his men tried to stabilize the area enough for helicopters to come evacuate the wounded. In the meantime, their fellow soldiers lay bleeding in the snow all around them as they fought off the enemy at such close range they could see their faces.
Self and his men found the fallen SEAL, who had been killed with a shot to the head, and located the body of a dead U.S. serviceman from the first failed rescue attempt. Three of Self’s men were killed in that day's battle on the mountain. But if not for Self’s clear thinking and strong leadership, the casualties would have been even more.
Senior officers back at the base heaped praise upon Self and his team for being able to get off the mountain and kill the enemy without sustaining greater losses—especially since they had been caught unaware.
For Self, the battle resulted in a Silver Star for valor, a Purple Heart, and later, a position of honor as President Bush’s guest for the 2003 State of the Union address. To those watching, Self represented strength, resolve and success of the military.
But Self didn’t want to be honored. In fact, by 2004, he wanted to die.
“How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” (Psalm 13:2).
Prayer: Lord, when I feel ambushed by uncontrollable circumstances, give me wisdom and guidance to make the right decisions.
Severe post-traumatic stress disorder had delivered a near-fatal blow to this war hero; he left the Army in late 2004, cutting short a would-be military career. Vivid nightmares, anxiety, anger and self-destructive behavior took hold of him.
“I just hated myself,” said Self. “I felt like I was somebody different. And since I didn’t feel like I could be who I was before and hated who I was now, I just wanted to kill the new person. I felt like I had messed up everything in my life. The easiest way, the most cowardly way to escape was to just—depart.”
Though he never asked for help or told anyone he was contemplating suicide, Self’s parents intervened to direct him to the help he needed. Christian Army chaplains trained in PTSD provided counseling and he went to group therapy sessions at the VA. But he also joined a small group at his church, First Baptist Church in Belton, Texas, for vets with PTSD. The leader was his chaplain counselor.
“At the VA small group, we talked about symptoms, but we were never allowed to talk about our experiences because they were so afraid it would trigger us. But it was those experiences we needed to talk about the most. At the church, we got in the Word, bathed all sessions in prayer, told our stories, wrote about and shared our experiences. That was extremely therapeutic. We looked at spiritual solutions and examples of warriors in the Bible. Turning my PTSD into Christian service has helped me get past to the other side of it, too.”
The writing that Self began at church developed into his memoir, Two Wars: One Hero’s Fight on Two Fronts—Abroad and Within (Tyndale House, May 2008). Self also helps train churches from New York to San Diego on PTSD by sharing his testimony through Bridges to Healing.
“There’s so many things in life we go through that God allows to happen for a most specific reason,” said Self. “We will be hurt by things we have no control over. That doesn’t mean it’s fair, but neither does it mean the pain associated with it should ever go away. God can use the thorn in the side; that anguish is there for a reason.”
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take [the thorn in my flesh] away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Corinthians 12:8, 9a).
Prayer: Lord, help me allow you to shine through my weaknesses so people will see your glory.
Not in Bondage
Today, Self’s PTSD is much less severe, but some symptoms still remain. He still has haunting dreams almost every night, intrusive thoughts and certain problems with anger. He still feels somewhat emotionally numb. While he used to wonder if complete healing was possible, he has since decided that answer doesn’t matter.
“I don’t know if it’s right to say, ’I want to be healed from all this,’ because it’s a very humbling thing to be in this position and know that you’re being held in grace,” he said. “It equips you for better ministry and service. To wish away this thorn in my side would remove a significant portion of my testimony. It’s not that I have to be in bondage to PTSD. What matters is, now that I have it, what am I going to do with it?”
Self now works as a consultant on officer-training materials for the Army and is active in his own church’s military ministry, which serves 100 military families in their 3000-member church.
When Self was experiencing darker days with PTSD, members of his church reached out and listened to him. Now, he’s passing it along. “When soldiers come home, I’ll take them to breakfast or lunch as soon as I can,” he says. “They need people to be interested, to show that they care. If people think that the VA hospital will solve all the problems, you’ll overlook the greatest source of healing in any situation—Jesus. The majority component for recovery is a spiritual solution, more than any secular clinical answer.”
Even as Self works toward healing, he realizes that his symptoms may never go away, and he has a peace about that. “Look at Job,” he said. “All that stuff happened that he didn’t deserve. He kept asking God why until God said, ‘Look, don’t ask me why until you understand why I laid the foundations of the earth. You need to be comfortable with my sovereignty.’”
“Then Job replied to the Lord: ‘I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted’” (Job 42:1, 2).
Prayer: Lord, teach me to be more interested in your character and sovereignty than I am in securing comfort for myself.
Excerpt from Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq & Afghanistan (AMG Publishers 2009) by Jane Hampton Cook, Jocelyn Green, and John Croushorn. Used by permission.
Broken by War, Saved by Grace
Ronie Kendig—Inspiring Military Ministry
Jocelyn Green is an award-winning author, freelance writer and editor. While her husband served in the Coast Guard, Jocelyn realized the need for encouragement for those left behind. Along with contributing writers, she authored Faith Deployed, a 2010 Bronze Medal Award winner from the Military Writers Society of America (MWSA). Jocelyn is also co-author for Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq & Afghanistan (AMG Publishers 2009), which took the Gold Medal from MWSA in 2010. She also edited and contributed to Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from World War 2 by Larkin Spivey, a 2009 Military Writers Society of America Silver Medal Winner. She’s a member of the Evangelical Press Association, the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and the Christian Authors Network. She and her husband have two children, a dog and a cat.
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Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Check out this video from Military Ministries
Do you ever feel that Holy Spirit nudging, tugging—yanking, dragging—that tells you to do something? Well I’m feeling that now. As someone who is trained in mental health counseling, I’ve been educated in the needs of those who come home from war with very real scars—inside and out. However, over the past two years, this knowledge included experiences my sisters have shared, professionally and through volunteer work, with wounded warriors. As I listened to them sharing their personal stories, I began to read the Discarded Heroes series, by Ronie Kendig, which brought an even deeper sense of what the veteran may experience coming home from war with injuries unseen by the naked eye. And I am overwhelmed—not just by the enormity of what these people have given for me, but by my powerlessness to help.
God is not powerless!
The following are statistics listed in Ilario Pantano’s book, Warlord: Broken by War, Saved by Grace:
- One in four of America’s homeless are veterans.
- Five soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines attempt suicide every day.
- 58,000 troops died in Vietnam, but more than 100,000 Vietnam veterans came home and committed suicide.
They’re soldiers. They should be bigger than this.
No. Only God is bigger than this. But someone needs to introduce them to God.
The above mentioned book by Ilario Pantano, when originally released in 2006, was entitled “Warlord: No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy.” It was an account of a soldier’s experience in the Iraq war and his subsequent trial and acquittal of murder charges when he killed terrorists in self-defense. A very moving story. But not nearly as moving as what happened afterward … when God finally got His hands on the man and brought sense to the turnings of his varied life. He has since re-released the book, under the new title “Warlord: Broken by War, Saved by Grace” with a Foreword and Afterward describing his transformation and why others who’ve experienced the trials of war so desperately need this same type of healing. After all, how can you reconcile the kind of death experienced in war until you are given a glimpse from God’s eye? How can you put into perspective your buddy’s bloody sacrifice until you trust the Sovereign Will of God?
As I’ve watched the news since the beginning of our latest efforts in the Gulf to root out evil, I’ve seen mothers and wives interviewed about the needs of our soldiers “over there.” They need equipment, emotional support, care packages and medical care. When they come home they need understanding, jobs, homes and prosthetic limbs. All very important, so they should not be neglected. Many groups, including the government, are scrambling to provide these items. And we should help. But there’s more …
Mr. Pantano describes his own battle with both pride and guilt as he attempted to transition from active duty life on a foreign battle field, to civilian life in an office. He struggled with the knowledge that his “brothers” were still dying even though he’d promised to always be there for them and promised their families he’d bring them home alive. A big promise. One only God can make. Pantano knows this now, because he knows God. This knowledge of God is something that cannot be given at the VA. It can only be done through the church. That’s you and me folks!
I highly recommend Christians who want to help members of the military read this book to better understand the experience of one who has encountered war on a personal level. And if you are not one of those Christians, I highly recommend you become one. Pantano points out that these are not just the men and women who’ve sacrificed their lives for our freedom, they are also often ones whose time here on earth is very limited. The time to heal is now.
So I’ve decided to do a series of posts, on Wednesdays and Fridays through May 9th, about what the church can do for members of our military and their families. These will include examples of what other churches have done, resources for churches, and one woman’s account of what God gave her through her church’s ministry to wounded soldiers. I hope you will join me.
Before I begin this journey, I want to thank those who were used as God’s mighty empty vessels in bringing this ministry to my mind:
Ronie Kendig, for so beautifully displaying the emotional wounds of war and how Christ is the ultimate salve (and so much more).
Ilario Pantano, for re-writing his book, further illustrating that Ms. Kendig’s novels are not just fiction.
My sisters, for sharing with me what God is showing them.
And as always, thank You, Holy Spirit.
If your church is engaged in a ministry for our military, please share in the comments so others may be inspired.
My Interview of Ronie Kendig
My Review of Ronie Kendig’s “Firethorn”
He Enters Our Pain
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Friday, April 20, 2012
Did Moses really speak to Pharaoh? Did a booming Charlton Heston voice rumble from his broad chest, bellowing, “Let my people go?”
Or was it Aaron?
Though I have no idea if either man spoke in a bass or a baritone, or whether or not their pectoral muscles were pronounced, one could almost guarantee, Moses didn’t sound like the big C.H. In fact, he describes himself to God as a man slow of speech with faltering lips. He was so uncertain of his ability to persuade the mighty Egyptian king, even after God reminded him who made his mouth, God gave him Aaron, who was a gifted speaker, to do it for him.
God made use of this relationship, telling Moses (Exodus 7:1), “I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet.” God knew the image of a silent leader flanked by a mouthpiece would give the impression of great authority.
So, did Moses ever speak to Pharaoh himself? Many of the exchanges in the Bible state, “Moses and Aaron said …” Does that mean they stood side by side, speaking the words in unison, or is it just shorthand for “God told Moses, who told Aaron what to say,” as God describes He will do earlier in scripture. My guess is the latter. Yet further into Exodus we do read “Moses said to Pharaoh.” So, evidently, Moses eventually spoke on his own.
This relationship is a great example of how we can step out in our calling, even when we lack ability. If God calls you to do something you feel you can’t, first know, He doesn’t make mistakes. He’s chosen you for a reason. But if you’re feeling a little shaky, find someone with the skill you need and align yourself with him. We don’t have to do it alone. This new relationship will have two benefits. First, it will give you that person who has the skill you lack, therefore, using the Body of Christ as it was meant to be used. Second, it provides you with the source of learning how to develop the skill yourself, as Moses obviously did. He complained about his faltering lip on more than one occasion. Yet he eventually is able to speak on his own. God told him he could. And so he did.
Please note, I am not recommending you go out and do that thing you are least skilled in, just for the sake of doing it. God created you for a purpose and your gifting will play a part. However, when He calls, He knows what you can and cannot do. And He will make use of both, either through the working of that extraordinary gift, or attaining the goal despite the deficit. Sometimes that’s the most powerful!
Tell us, in the comments below, what God is calling YOU to do.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
If you don’t see the video imbed above, try this link to Steven Curtis Chapman’s Only Natural.
How often have we heard someone excuse their faults saying things like, “I’m only human,” or “That’s only natural?” The implication is that it’s fine to settle for “only.” But God didn’t make us to be “only,” yet without Him that’s all we are.
Instead, He made us to be filled with His Holy Spirit for His purposes. There’s no ONLY about it.
One of the reasons I love this song so much is that it gave me the words to use with my daughter. When she has a “natural” moment, she wonders if she’s an awful person. I tell her, it’s natural. We all do it on occasion. But God wants more both from us and for us, so we should strive to be better. And she does.
So my question to you is, do you want to be ONLY natural?
Nothing Good Comes Easy … Easy
Let Him Who Boasts, Boast in the Lord
Good Jesus Cardio
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
If you don’t see the video imbed, try this link to David Crowder’s How He Loves.
Listen carefully to these words. They are the words of the beloved for his lover, about a passionate love which embodies sacrifice and salvation. A Great Romance!
Not just a sweet affection, a compromising partnership or even attraction because, well, we think someone’s hot. This is LOVE. Agape love. All powerful, consuming love. But not a consumption that leaves one bare. More like the burning bush—on fire, yet leaving the tree intact, allowing it to light the way for those who come near.
That kind of love.
The love of our Creator for His created. The love of our Savior for His saved. Surpassing any expectation we can imagine from that of a spouse.
While preparing to write this devotion, I bypassed the highly produced video created by professionals with cool special effects. Why? Because something spoke to me in the picture of two guys humbly playing guitar and singing while the crowd around them joined in. They all knew the truth. He loves us. And what a truth it is!
What does this love mean to you?
He Enters Our Pain
Lord of All Creation
Friday, April 6, 2012
A while back a Facebook friend suggested a story idea. I loved it! But decided to put it off–relegate it to third place on my “must-write” list. God had other plans and sparked a passion and a swirl of plot ideas. Knowing this would be a tough story to write, one that would take intensive research to do well, I prayed for confirmation. I received it, along with help. Extensive help. And on Wednesday I spent almost four hours picking the brain of a medical professional with the same job as my heroine.
While she began to share her story and experiences, I began to see why God wanted me to write this novel. If done well, it will be a powerful tale of grace during extreme suffering, of hope amidst despair, and of good brought out of evil.
If done poorly ….
Last night, after watching a sitcom on a topic relevant to my story, pen in hand, spiral notebook quickly filling, I got frustrated. The phrase, “Write what you know,” wouldn’t leave me alone. What do I know about medicine and hospital rooms? Why dive into a story that could very well take over a year to research? One that could easily lead to failure if God doesn’t provide continual understanding and aid?
Because I believe God’s in it, and although He promises to lead us, I don’t believe the journey’s always easy.
But He ALWAYS provides people to help us along the way. That’s the part that continues to amaze me. In June I wrote a duel-setting story about a news anchor, an El Salvador orphan, and an El Salvador English teacher/translator. Three subjects I know very little about. Two chapters in, I considered dropping it. Too much research, and what if I got it wrong? But God was faithful. He connected me with a news anchor, with people living in El Salvador who could answer questions, with a critique partner knowledgeable on foreign settings, with another critique partner knowledgeable on medicine. (My hero’s father had a medical issue.) And He carried me through.
So now I’m embarking on another, and this one’s my hardest yet, but I’ve got the memory of God’s help with my past novel to spur me on. I’m also beginning to see sprinklings of help, of the body of Christ coming beside me to offer information, to do beta-reads, all those necessary things we writers hate to ask for but need to find. Which reminds me, even in a solitary career like writing, God still wants us connected, as a body. Interdependent, working together to make Him known.
I’m starting to see Proverbs 11:25 in action. “… he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” It’s a beautiful cycle only God could work out. One author helps another, who helps another, who helps another.
Where are you in the cycle? At any given moment, you should occupy two positions—that of helper and helpee. Are you letting God surround you with helpers? Who are you leaning on? Are you letting Him use you to bless someone else? Who are you helping? Writing must be a give-and-take, a community effort. Because the body extends beyond the walls of our church.
Join God’s circle, friend!
How have others helped you in your career?
Posts you might like:
Jennifer Slattery lives in the Midwest with her husband
of sixteen years and their fourteen year old daughter. She’s
passionate about seeing lives changed by the radical love of Christ
and prays to be a grace and truth filled ambassador for Christ. She
writes for Christ to the World Ministries, the ACFW Journal, Internet
Café Devotions, Jewels of Encouragement, and maintains a devotional
blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud
She’s also written for
numerous publications and has placed in numerous writing contests.
Connect with her on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte) or by
email at jenniferslattery(at)gmail(dot)com to find out more.
Her other websites:
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
It was one of those divinely appointed moments only the Holy Spirit can design. I told my daughter not to speak while the song “Surrender,” by Third Day, played from the car stereo. But does she listen? Sometimes she actually does, having heard this request from me in the past as I absorb the words to that song. But on this day, like Esther before King Xerxes, she boldly opened her mouth.
“Mom, what does it mean to surrender?” she dared, fear wobbling in her eyes from the boldness of her actions (not really).
It was on the tip of my tongue to remind her of the rule … but … She wanted to know why a single word could reduce me to tears. And I needed to tell her.
Then I thought about it. What does “surrender” mean? To most it’s a bad thing. The act of giving up, giving over control to one’s enemy. But the surrender mentioned in the song is different. Why? Because the One I am relinquishing control to is not only not my enemy, He is my Savior. He is all powerful, He loves me and … He’s good.
For this reason my surrendering to Him brings peace, strength and hope for the future. It means life.
So I told my daughter this. Now she longs to surrender, too.
What does surrender mean to you?
Let Him Who Boasts, Boast in the Lord
His Power is Made Perfect in My Weakness
The Great and the Small, Part 3—God