true faith and allegiance

I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

Oath of Enlistment (1960), US Code Title 10, Sect 502

The military oath of enlistment began what might well be my longest relationship. It’s how I identified myself for years. Who am I?  I’m a Sailor. My service in the military was less of what I did, and more of who I was. I spent a total of 26 years in a Navy uniform, in stages between 1977 and 2010.   I enlisted while in high school and, after graduation, went to bootcamp in San Diego. I traveled the world and eventually ended up back in San Diego which is, apparently, where God wanted me.

Navy, San Diego, RTC, recruit
Seaman Recruit, RTC San Diego, 1977

support and defend

The first half of my military career, which encompassed the first twenty years of my adulthood, were spent fighting for recognition, and getting frustrated when I didn’t seem to get any. I had many brushes with greatness that never seemed to pan out: a Congressional nomination to the Naval Academy in the last year of my first enlistment but had some medical issues that disqualified me. Ten years later, enlisting after a break in service, I initially qualified for enrollment to the Defense Intelligence College but they never enrolled a junior enlisted man before. And nearly ten years later, I was THIRD FLEET Sailor Of the Year (SOY) (1997) but I didn’t make the Selection Board for Chief.

Looking back at those days, I was working overtime on me, for me, and making it about me. Selfish, self-centered, and trying to compensate for growing up in a dysfunctional family. I poured myself into working hard and being a people-pleaser. I was becoming a very negative person, with my personal life full of problems.   I lost touch with my family. I rushed into a marriage that quickly ended in divorce. Spending money foolishly, I was bored, very unhappy and very lonely. 

true faith and allegiance

Over the years, people had been inviting me to church and I kept saying no,  or saying yes, but then not going. But things changed in 1997. I was invited to church by not only one of the guys on my ship, but also from a couple of singles on a date at a coffee house.  Within a few months I studied the Bible and was baptized at an afternoon devotional service for church members across the San Diego region, much to the surprise of my shipmate. The day I got baptized, he came up to say, “What do you think I’ve been inviting you to all this time!”

Suddenly, life had more meaning. It wasn’t just about me anymore. It was about finding a gratitude for what I’d been given. God surrounded me with great examples of Godly men to help me live for something besides just myself.  I was able to connect to the gift of Jesus’ sacrifice and realize how much more there was to life, when I was able to look beyond myself.  

Senior Chief and family, USN Retired

My career in the Navy took off and I was picked up for Chief and then Senior Chief. I was a better leader because of being a disciple of Jesus. I listened to, and applied, the advice of Godly men, of military mentors, and friends who told me the truth.  I was able to meet the needs of my unit because I could actually see the needs of my unit, not just my own needs. Jesus gave the ultimate example of giving it all for others. The gratitude that I felt for that gift made it easier to give of myself to those around me that needed help.  It continues to motivate me to this day. 

Life changed dramatically after I was baptized. The woman from that coffee house date who shared Jesus with me became my wife. I took on three unruly preteen boys, a task I never would have been up to without God. I completed my Navy career in 2010. And I recently left my civilian job to work alongside my wife. 

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

Romans 5: 1 -2 (NIV)

This scripture in ROMANS, speaks to me as a veteran as I do not have to live for recognition,  but model Jesus for others. It’s the same basic system as the military, in modeling servant-leadership to others and helping them rise to their potential.   As a disciple of Jesus, it is helping others to become better service members, employees, better husbands, wives, fathers, mothers or children, and better people by being more like the example of JESUS. 

so help me God

Being a Veteran is still a large part of who I am.  I’m proud of my military service and everything I learned in the Navy.  I’m grateful, however, that God found me while I was still in the service. The military gave me opportunity. Jesus gave me the example of selfless service. God gave me the gift of bringing both of those things together to enable me to have a great second half of my military career. 

Click here to watch/listen to veterans of the Gulf War, combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a military spouse share about challenges during deployment and offer encouragement during our Veterans Day service. Ed. note: there was some recording noise that periodically interferes with the YouTube video quality.

super Sunday bowl

There’s kind of a Zen aspect to bowling. The pins are either staying up or down before you even throw your arm back. It’s kind of a mind-set. You want to be in this perfect mind-set before you released the ball.  – Jeff Bridges

 

 

My church has started an outreach and special support ministry for Active and former military veterans and their families.  Supporting the deployed Sailors and Marines,  serving their families in the area,  and sharing the Word of God with others is a privilege.  Cutting up at the bowling alley on the Naval Base  is just pure family fun.

There are things I thought about when we first talked about going bowling as a first “activity” for our growing group. An odd cult movie I watched twenty years ago, “the Big Lebowski”,  which starred Jeff Bridges and among many inappropriate themes in that film was a lot of bowling.  Just thinking about it,  I have to repent again!

But bowling or pool or darts were a few of the activities that I could join and never get overly concerned about my lack of skill and just enjoy the friendship.   Probably a couple dozen times over forty years I’ve been to bowling alleys, half of the time while in the Navy and the other half,  as a teen,  or as a post-forty year old adult family man with other families in our church fellowship.   However, this was the first time we gathered to bowl as part of a “military ministry”.

Most, well all,  of us absolutely stunk as bowlers.  But  we know from scripture, where two or more followers of Jesus are gathered,  He is with us.  So I have some hope that Jesus will help us with our game.  Whether knocking down pins or gaining new friends and saving a few souls in the process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rise and shine

28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those (A)who are the called according to His purpose.  –Romans 8:28  (NKJV)

army authority drill instructor group
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

No Company Commander, nor Drill Sergeant ever whispered a gentle wake-up to new recruits in basic training or boot camp during my time in the service.   The whole point of basic training for recruits is to completely change mindsets and hearts to hear and obey, instantly, the calling.   It isn’t the Lord’s voice that one responds to the best of their ability,  but to His representative on Earth during that time: the Drill Sergeant or Company Commander.    The “encouragement” that a recruit, fresh off the farm, the beach, or the street  receives during the first several weeks of military service, instills instinctive responses, physical prowess, self-discipline, and a basic knowledge of the traditions, responsibilities and expectations of each member of a team.  At a certain point,  each military member makes the decision to embrace that way of  life,  engage fully, remain devoted, and give one’s best efforts to the team.   Or they part company, either expeditiously before the end of recruit training, or after three, four or more years.

 11 Light shines[a] on the righteous
    and joy on the upright in heart.
12 Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous,
    and praise his holy name.   –Psalm 97: 11 -12

For those who have been through the maturation process of military training,  and thrived,  the recognition of authority, wielding it,  and being instilled with a single-focused purpose of a spiritual life, is more natural.   I think that is why a lot of the imagery in the Bible, Old Testament and New, involves soldiers.  As a disciple of Jesus,  in my own life experience I understand rigorous training, discipline, and obedience to authority.  We have the tools, the teamwork, and the mission to execute.  But I am grateful that my christian missteps do not result in “marching parties”,  “demerits”,  or being found in the receiving end of some  “fan-room counseling”.

Thank God that Jesus speaks Truth in Love.  If we all respond to that,  the hurled trash can “attention-getter” in the barracks hall might not be a wake-up tool anymore.

Pos-Mo

Every day, people serve their neighbors and our nation in many different ways, from helping a child learn and easing the loneliness of those without a family to defending our freedom overseas. It is in this spirit of dedication to others and to our country that I believe service should be broadly and deeply encouraged. John McCain

Forty years ago, when I spent my nine weeks of training in Navy bootcamp,  we were subjected to a process that converted young undisciplined civilians into a military unit.  It was not without some individuals who resisted authority, discipline, and the team-building, but were not unsalvageable.   Bootcamp had a “special” company, the purpose of which was to “help” adjust attitudes and the focus of Recruits who had such difficulties, by a regimen of additional exercise, training, and group motivation separate from their more readily-molded peers.  For those who became humble to the goals of the Recruit Training process,   “Pos-Mo“,  Positive Motivation, was a tool that did not negatively impact their future Navy employment. Many became effective Sailors.

 

If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude. Colin Powell

The United States of America is, if you listen to its critics, pundits, and shrill voices in social media, coming apart at the seams.  But the cloud of negative thinking that thunders out of car radios, social media, and pervades like-minded associations of people, is not universal.   Rather, it is a shadow in an otherwise sunny landscape.   But something negative we are exposed to daily takes a conscious life-change in perspective, a fresh, positive, mental discipline, and as I have learned, a devotion to something greater than the physical world.

This morning, Saturday, a group of friends, members of my church fellowship participated in an class that over the next several weeks will examine the Book of Acts.  Our teacher is a well-known educator and theologian, whose work in apologetics has helped a wide audience.   In a series of lessons we will refresh our appreciation of how faith in the resurrected Jesus, helped a small group of uneducated Aramaic-speaking Israelites, enabled by the Spirit of God, change the course of the world two thousand years ago.  Modeled on the teachings of Jesus, this continues today.   This positive reinforcement bears great dividends to those of us who are working to live out the teachings of Jesus, and for those who are desperately seeking relief from the constant negativity in society.

 

There are plenty of difficult obstacles in your path. Don’t allow yourself to become one of them. Ralph Marston

 

working party

My church sponsored a Women’s workshop this weekend at the former Naval Training Center in San Diego.  It’s now the Liberty Station community.  Asked to help set up, I found myself reminiscing about my recruit and technical training that occurred here 40 years ago.

As the former Senior Chief, I expected to carry a few boxes, direct a couple younger volunteers, and drink a little coffee.  Instead found volunteerism meant an ushering, security and cleanup crewmember for the minister.

20171021_120054But military training never leaves you behind.  Planning, process improvement, kicking “lovingly” a few peers (civilians) in the behind who spent the day “lollygagging” , was all in a day’s work.

20171021_130504

 

 

Tools and their uses

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. -2 Peter 1: 5 -8 (NIV)

 

Academy to so educate train and develop midshipmen 1 That they may have a fine sense of honor,  a wholehearted love for the best traditions of the service,  an enduring love for country,  subordination based on proper initiative of the subordinate,  an appreciation of the humanities,  and a keen sense of responsibility in assuming authority over others

– Report of the Board of Visitors to the United States Naval Academy, p 10, 1910

“What tools are in your toolbox?”. the speaker asked last night at our men’s church devotional service.   tools_and_their_uses_tm_9-243-10He went on to offer several additional scriptures on faith and perseverance, as tools.   As a former Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer,  I understood that  any young Sailor – or young (spiritually) disciple of Jesus,  life is embracing that you do not know what you do not know but then learning the doctrine, spending time with a mentor and persevering through conflicting desires and priorities.  Perhaps it is safe to say that “duty” is the first concept I embraced.   As a Sailor matures,  the life that each voluntarily accepted  on the NAVY’s terms has certain obligations and responsibilities.  So to as a student of Jesus,  voluntarily but without a ‘contract.   Some skills are beneficial as they will potentially save you or a shipmate in times of peril.  Mastering your calling and seeking to help others grow stronger – for a greater good – will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your naval career.

So too, with a spiritual compass.  The Master Mariner, Jesus, sets my course though I voluntarily follow.   But a path voluntarily chosen can build character, endurance, positive outlook and joy that the world desperately needs. (Happiness is a shallow, easily damaged emotion where joy is not.)   Where the military prepares a service member to prepare for war,  it is no less true with even a glimpse of a spiritual life,  war continally rages around us.  For us to rise and help others to rise out of violence,  hatred,  greed, fear, selfishness, loneliness, and misery,  requires faith in a gracious God and the proper tools – faith, perseverance, knowledge, self-discipline, good character, and whole-hearted love.    God’s Word  and the Navy I served for a quarter-century are tools for life.   FB_IMG_1491759647178

heroes aren’t like in the movies

There are things that we remember from our youth ( or while I was still ‘under 30’) that should be left in those musty corners of our mental garage.  Just like the old cassette tape  I found during one ‘Spring Cleaning’ out there,  hearing the Split Endz again – or 38 Special  just doesn’t make me “feel” the same thirty years later.   Same thing tonight. A little casual dinner on the couch while watching the beginning of “Highlander” – the one with Sean Connery and Christopher Lambert.  (I recognized the villain, but I can’t remember his name.)   The effects are so rudimentary and the dialogue is rather lame – Sean Connery sounds a Scot but is supposed to be Spanish; however, Chris Lambert – he’s got one of those Kevin Costner-like non-accents due apparently to limited ability to speak English.

Even the swordplay and beheadings are cheesy.   I am trying to figure out why that movie spawned sequels and a television series.  Men in kilts?  Swords?  Perhaps it is the decades in the Navy that have colored my judgement.  I often let reality get in the way of plot on a lot of alien, superhero, or alien versus battleship dramas.   I should have read Mental Floss ‘s review here before I realized a few minutes in that watering the plants and picking up the dog poop was a better use of my time.

I offer a list of dropped must-have guy movies (or TV collections) of the last 30 years.    Some I don’t get why I liked them in the first place.  I don’t have either on DVD or nor recorded on the DVR:

  1. Top Gun (I still can watch Minority Report – for Max Von Sydow ) Cruise movies annoy me
  2. Die Hard (sequels)  ( the first was a classic, then they just kept coming)
  3. Highlander ( love Connery, but fast-forward 20 years to see how comic book-type movies are made WELL)
  4. Smokey and the Bandit ( Gleason’s last films, but such a dumb plot!)
  5. Battlestar Galactica (1978) (Lorne Greene still Cartwright for me !)
  6. Star Trek (only one of those movies I’ll watch again is Wrath of Khan with Monteban – I saw the original TV episode and loved the movie.)  However, the reboot movies with Chris Pine are great!
  7. Talledega Nights  ( now I wonder why I thought Ferrell was funny)
  8.  X-men after the first one.  I cannot keep up with the comic book plot jumps)
  9. Outlaw Josey Wales ( I prefer the Eastwood movies he’s made since 2000)
  10. Taken.  I liked Liam Neeson’s portrayals in Star Wars, the villain in Batman Begins, and Taken -even Love, Actually.  Then he just annoyed me with his Taken sequels   and his anti-gun off-screen preaching.

I think I need to watch Gladiator,  Lone Survivor,  and any of the movies that Sam Elliott was in. Testosterone, guts, courage and attitude.  What we need now more than ever are heroes: dads who want to raise their children responsibly,  people who recognize the effort and support the work of cops, volunteers to help our senior citizens  and young people who don’t want a hand out, or a “safe space”.