Ten Year Itch Part 2: Calling

Army, Chaplaincy, Theology, Two Pastor Family

When I was in college, it was always a mystery to me how other “preacher boys” (always boys of course) just knew God’s exact will for their lives. I mean they KNEW it. There was this whole ritual that included finding a verse in the Bible (the more obscure the better) that spoke to them in “just that way” and somehow pinpointed on a map the exact location, job title, and sometimes the woman who would accompany them and bear their children…. sometimes the woman knew too…

Then there was passive-aggressive breakup move (might have used it myself a time or two *rolls head in shame*) where the guy would ask out a girl because he was following God’s leading, rejoice in God’s bounty as the relationship progressed, experience a “check in their spirit” as the relationship started to be, oh I don’t know, normal and finally, once again following the leading of God, break-up with the girl. God’s will all the way.

23 years old. Visiting my Dad in Pensacola. Pre-Army.

23 years old. Visiting my Dad in Pensacola. Pre-Army.

So what then is a call?

Maybe it would be better to ask, what is NOT a call? I knew that whatever clear guidance the other guys I went to school with were feeling, I was not getting it. I knew it wasn’t some kind of warm feeling. Turns out, that Scripture means whatever you want it to mean so that wasn’t helpful. I never had a “burning in the bosom.” All my campfire decisions were exactly that. As an adult looking back, I can see my family of origin issues in every life altering declaration of God’s leading.

For many years, I put hope in that tired axiom, “if you can do anything else in life, you probably should. If you are called to preach, you won’t be able to do anything else.” But then, I love to preach. I mean, I really enjoy preparing and delivering sermons. I get meaning the purpose from preaching. I am more myself there than about anywhere but… there are many ways I can earn a living and not preach. Typing this blog post, as an Active Duty Army Chaplain, I have not preached a sermon in 9 months.

9 months.

In 15 years of full time Christian ministry, I’ve never made my living as a preacher. Ever. I’ve been a teacher, worship leader, chaplain etc. But paid as a preacher – not so much. And I’m ok with that. I came to terms years ago with working a meaningful, fulfilling job to finance my preaching habit. Often, it seems the best ministry I’ve done has been on my time, voluntarily given.

As a young man, I declared that I was “called to preach” and I believe that I was even if I’m not sure as an adult, what that means.

What is a call?

Direction. Meaning. Purpose. Fulfillment. Opportunity.

It’s that moment in a believers life when she or he experiences the intersection of what they love and a real human need. It’s getting on board with the plan the Divine has for the world. It’s knowing that what you are about is what God is about.

I experienced it in the classroom at New Life Christian School in Dunellen, NJ. I loved being a teacher. Not every day, but most days.
I experienced it downrange, in Iraq, serving the Soldiers of 2-121 Infantry Battalion and the 603d Aviation Support Battalion.
I experienced it teaching ethics to the medical hold Soldiers of the 832d Ordinance Battalion.
I experienced it, deeply, in my Clinical Pastoral Education group.
I experienced it teaching Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) to civilians who volunteered at a homeless shelter in Huntsville, AL
The day I walked into a prison, I knew I was where I needed to be. It’s existential, it’s mystical, it’s spiritual – and it was clear. I experienced it throughout my time both at the Joint Regional Correctional Facility and the United States Disciplinary Barracks.

I experience it every single time and get behind a pulpit and preach. It’s what I’m here for.

A calling is sacred. A calling is personal. It is fundamental to my journey as a Christian.

But does it change?

I’m not sure. I know I have changed. I have grown. I’ve become a different person than I was ten years ago when I started this journey.

Was I called in the Army?
I have a journal that I kept while teaching that first year at New Life. In it, close to the front, bookended by one of those “God’s leading” relationships – 9/11 happened. Jesse Gardner and I sat in a room that included kids who parents worked down at/by the Towers and watched them collapse. We gathered on that Wednesday night service the next day as traumatized Christians gathered, prayed and told their stories. At the end of the week, I wrote, “This week the Towers went down. We’re going to war. I don’t know how or when but I’m going to be a part of this.”

I tried to join the Army that fall but medical issues kept me out.

I came in several years later after completing seminary. Deployments defined the first 5 years, then a year interlude at an Advanced Individual Training unit, and then CPE, then the prison. My time in the Army has been one of constant engagement in the lives of Christians and non-Christians alike. It’s been amazing.

Me, meeting my new Daughter after my second deployment in 2008. Sophie was a year old.

Me, meeting my new Daughter after my second deployment in 2008. Sophie was a year old.

But was I called?
Not sure. I know I wanted an adventure. I knew I wanted an opportunity to prove my manhood. I knew I wanted to go to war. I knew I wanted to fulfill a childhood dream.

I did all that. Checked those blocks. I finally arrived at Ft. Campbell and now, I just don’t like any of it. The possibility of going to Air Assault school just pains me and the talk of war saddens me. The man who came into the Army a decade ago joined to go to war. He had no children and no real future plans. He just had a passion and needed to accomplish something.

Does calling change?
I still love preaching. I still love teaching. I still love work in which there is a clear line connecting the work I do with changed lives and the visible working of God in other’s lives. That has not changed.

You know, it occurs to me that I’ve never believed that the specific location really mattered in terms of exercising a call to ministry. Just do the work and the location/job title/congregation will take care of itself.

During my time at CPE, I developed this pattern of call, it’s not for everyone but it’s how I work with God’s call in my life:

There are human needs, there is the Divine plan to meet those needs, there are my hopes/desires/skills/gifts and they intersect. This vocation is then confirmed by others who, themselves, follow close to God’s voice. Calling/confirmation. It’s what works in my life.

I’m interested in what others have experienced in relationship to ” the call.

The Ten Year Itch. Part One.

Army, Chaplaincy

In which I ask the question, “should I stay or should I go now?” And for introducing that ear-worm of a song into your head, you’re welcome.

When I started blogging… ten years ago… I did so with the intent of extroverting the new, exciting adventure I was undertaking – becoming an Army Chaplain.

The journey took many forms and at one point, I stopped blogging for 4 years while I figured out who I was theologically. I’ve been committed to saying out loud things that are often just questions asked internally. I’ve discovered, by extroverting those thoughts, that others are feeling them, experiencing them, asking them. I’ve enjoyed the community of questioning.

Side note: I don’t have all my blog posts any more so I am not sure if I ever told this story – the time I quit blogging was because after that second deployment, I knew that I wasn’t an evangelical anymore. I had stopped calling myself a fundamentalist years before but was holding out on the notion of being an “evangelical.” I explored some of my questioning internally and was reading a great deal at the time. I posted how I was more “ecumenical and open” than I had ever been before and how central the Lord’s Table had become to my expression of Christianity. My endorser at the time was a fundamentalist group who had endorsed me since coming into the Army (they charged me $160 a month for the privilege – but that’s another story). This group had not interacted with me at all. They didn’t call, they didn’t write – as long as I submitted my monthly report of numbers saved, baptized, coming to church, Bible study etc. I was good.

Until I posted that on my blog.

Two weeks. That’s all it took. Two weeks later, I sat in a Golden Coral in Savannah, GA convincing them that I had not strayed from the fold and was a good chaplain still. I knew then that I needed to get out and into something that was a better expression of who I was. After moving to Huntsville, AL and meeting the wonderful folks at First Christian Church, Huntsville and Pastor Guy McCombs, I knew I was home.

That’s why I needed to stop blogging for awhile. I knew that if they pulled my endorsement, I’d have to leave the Army and I was not ready to do that at the time.

I was thinking about that story this morning while reading this post on becoming a disciple. Or at least why you should think about becoming one… we’d never just ask you to be one or certainly tell you that it’s better than anyone else. We’re a bit too polite for all that…

I love being in the Disciples because there is room for me and there is room for everyone else at the Table. There are room for the questions. Isn’t community like that what Christianity is at it’s best?

This post is part one of a series I’m going to do on midlife career changes.

Yup, you heard that correctly, I’m thinking of a career change.

Not too drastic but certainly not Active Duty Army any more.

Or, maybe I’ll stay. That’s the thing, over the years, I’ve wanted to shine a light on the journey of a chaplain and these questions are a part of that journey.

Questions:

  1. What is a calling and does that calling change as we change?
  2. What role should finances play in pursuing a call?
  3. Is personal happiness and fulfillment more important that taking care of your family as best you can?
  4. What about suffering in the now to reap the greater reward in the future?
  5. How does a couple, who both are pursuing careers, balance all of the above and still develop those careers? What responsibility do I have to my wife’s career?
  6. Where does serving God and making good money intersect?
  7. What would God have me do?

The answers might end up being that I need to stay in the Active rolls, continue my journey and end in 10-20 more years.

The answer might be that it’s time to take my talents/abilities/calling to another field and work there.

Either way, I want to be certain that I am leaving to pursue a calling deeper and fuller than the one that brought me into the Corps in the first place.

Hope

Chaplaincy, Sermon

This last week, during counseling, one of my inmates made a profound observation about his life,

 “I know I’m going to make it, but right now really sucks.”

What a resilient statement. It’s a life-giving, hopeful statement. It’s based in reality. It is a recognition that he is full of sorrow and discouraged but, based on his past journeys through similar terrain, he knows that he’ll make it.

On the same day, Good Friday, I served Communion in the SHU. The SHU is the “specialized housing unit” 23 hour lockdown, solitary. Inmates end up there because they are having a difficult time getting along with others or obeying the rules. It is, by it’s nature, a depressing place. Inmates struggle back there. It is not a pleasant place to be. I put on my stole, filled individual communion cups, and took the trays into the SHU. The inmates are usually very respectful of my presence in there. They’ll stop their conversations and, particularly if I’m bringing communion, they’ll quietly prepare themselves for their turn.

The SHU becomes a sacred place. A place where God is present.

I move from cell to cell. The small feed tray is opened and I kneel down outside of it. Because of the low height of the open slot both myself and the inmate inside are in the kneeling position. Though a massive steel door separates us from one another, our faces are inches apart which creates a very intimate experience. Behind us, radios squawk, correctional specialist discuss what needs to be discussed, other inmates talk through their doors to one another, but in that sacred space between me and the inmate, God is there. I invite the inmate to confess whatever they need to God and then say amen out loud so I know to pray. When they are done (this can take a few seconds or even minutes as we kneel on the hard cement floor), I pray for them, myself, and the correctional staff. I thank God for the forgiveness promised in 1 John 1:9 and praise God for mercy and unmerited favor. I speak the words of institution:

“I will tell you the story as it was told to me, that the same night Jesus was betrayed, he took bread…”

We partake of communion together and end with the Lord’s prayer. Some of us have known each other so long now that they could recite the entire liturgy with me. When I finish, it is not uncommon for the inmate to have tears in their eyes. Yesterday, I ended with, “My friend and brother, it is Good Friday. Easter is Sunday. I’m so sorry that this will be your Easter.”

Over and over, they would say something like, “your right Chaplain, but God is here.”

Hope is so powerful. It can carry us though such hard times. It can give us strength to make it. It can endow us with the courage we need to see life as it is – tough, but we’ll make it. Hope is the very stuff of life.

When I hear hopeful statements like that, I am encouraged that growth is taking place. I am convinced that though it may be hard for them to experience it, they can see it in the Gospel. For that moment, that sacred moment, it’s going to work out.

Life is bigger than their suffering. 

Coming Out as Inclusive.

Army, Chaplaincy, Open and Affirming

It would seem that a post about this would be completely unnecessary in the pluralistic world of the Army Chaplain Corps. It would seem that the directive to perform one’s own faith and provide for all the others would make such a statement redundant.

Only it’s not.

Somehow, this needs be said.

So, I am going to say it: I am a chaplain for ALL my Soldiers. All of them. The gay ones. The straight ones. The fat ones. The skinny ones. The conservative ones. The liberal ones. The religious ones. The non religious ones. The connected to church and the far away. The reason driven and the faith-based. The agnostic and the Christian. The pagan, the Muslim, the Hindu, the Buddhist, the whatever-you-happen-to-believe right now. Everyone I can think to mention and everyone else.

All means all.

This last summer, the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) voted to call all Disciples Congregations to be a welcoming people of grace to ALL God’s children. All is given as “race, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, ethnicity, marital status, physical or mental ability, political stance or theological perspective.” Seems patently obvious but then, if we were all doing this already, such a statement would be unnecessary. This is my answer to that call.

A call given by my church but heard by me as a call from God.

I’ve been ministering in this way for well over two years now. I thought it sufficient to just ignore it and not really say anything. I thought it best to let people believe what they wanted about my ministry and be pleasantly surprised when they found out that I didn’t judge them (this is after they got the courage to come into the office for counseling). Over and over I heard my Soldiers, inmates, and family members vocalize that they didn’t expect me to be understanding. They would say something like, “frankly, I was worried about coming but you are different from other chaplains…” Still, I didn’t want to “put it all out there.”

“After all,” I reasoned, “if I make it too well known, I’ll just be labeled as the one who is “ok with the gays” and it’ll be all anyone thinks about when my name comes up. It’s just not that big a deal to me. I minister to everyone but surely, that’s a given.

Here’s the thing: I’ve met those with HIV because there was no safe place to identify as gay so they went to where they could and it was not safe. I have met those who ran from the church only to come to the Army for a sense of community and get rejected yet again. I’ve cried with those who finally say the words out loud, “I’m gay and I can’t tell anyone.” I’ve heard the stories about walking past the Chapel and in isolation, thinking about suicide but thinking there was no one inside who would help them.

It is not enough to just minister by word of mouth.

In a world where state legislators are literally passing laws that would allow them to refuse service to my fellow Soldiers (and everyone else) simply because of their orientation – it is not enough to be silent.

As a chaplain, I do not have a church to challenge with the Open and Affirming process, but I certainly can be exactly that – Open and Affirming.

I’m not saying this to be reactionary or a contrarian. I do not speak for anyone else but me.

I am saying this for the Soldier who is alone and thinks the world has rejected her because of who she is.

I am saying this for the Soldier walking by the chapel thinking that there is no one in there who can hear his pain and not judge him.

I am saying this for the spouse who, in shame, does not feel like he has anyone to turn to because of what he thinks about himself.

I am saying this for the parent whose gay child has just joined the Army and they are so worried that he’ll be abused for who he is.

I am saying this for the chaplains who also are “in the closet.” Truth is, they feel as I do but do not want to say it out loud and experience other chaplains reject them for interpreting Scripture differently from them.

I’m saying this for me. I’m saying this because if one of my children came out and was in the Army, I hope they would have a chaplain that would help them process what they are going through without judgment or condemnation.

I’m saying this for all those I have known, closeted and not, who have experienced great pain because the God they know and love is represented as doing the opposite.

From now on, this sign will hang on my door as a message to all the Soldiers, family members, and other chaplains I run across in my career – You are welcome.

Sign

Thanksgiving

Army, Chaplaincy, thought of the day

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s all the excitement, family, food, and joy of Christmas without the presents and all the special services. Yes, when you grow up a pastor’s kid and serve as clergy, all those special Christmas services are exhausting. My “relaxing Christmas holiday” starts about 26 December. This year, as the last couple years, I’ll be on duty so my holidays will start even later.

But not Thanksgiving. This weekend will be filled with all the fun traditions that are a part of the Army and our family.

Prior to 1863, Thanksgiving was a local holiday. It was primarily celebrated in New England. Where it was celebrated elsewhere, when it happened was driven by the States or local counties. Sometimes, it was celebrated as early as July and as late as January. Thanksgiving, as a holiday, was largely unknown in the American South. Sarah Hale, the influential editor of a popular woman’s journal and the one responsible for raising the money to build the Bunker Hill Memorial, had been unsuccessfully campaigning for it to become a national holiday since 1846. Her work came to fruition when Abraham Lincoln, probably looking for something to brighten the country as 1863 was the year of Vicksburg and Gettysburg. A year that thousands upon thousands of Americans died in the Civil War. Lincoln instituted a day of thanksgiving as an effort to unify the country. Prior to thanksgiving, the only other national holidays were Washington’s birthday and Independence Day.

“The year which is drawing to it’s close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies… I do therefore, invite my fellow citizens… to set apart and observe the last Thursday in November as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent father who dwelleth in the heavens.” Abraham Lincoln, 3 October 1863

Whatever your reason for celebrating, may your thanksgiving be filled with joy!

Disciples come out of the closet…

Army, Chaplaincy

… and say, minister to everyone and own your theology.

This why I’m a disciple.

In the midst of all of the hullabaloo about who is going to minister to whom in the Army, I’m one of those guys that thinks the whole thing is just a little ridiculous. I mean, I’ve been an Army chaplain for 9 years and no one has ever told me who or what I can or cannot marry. No. One. Ever.

Essentially, we’re talking about a theological interpretation of a few passages of Scripture. A hundred years ago, substitute “divorce” for “same sex” and you get the picture.

Eventually, it’ll all blow over like it has is just about every other modern military. Chaplains who are uncomfortable or have theological differences will help the people they disagree with find a minister who is ok with helping them. Perform or provide. It’s what we do.

In the midst of all of this, it seems that endorsers are falling over themselves putting out dissertations dictating to their chaplains exactly who they can minister to and who they need to “pass along…” My denomination finally cleared the air and put out guidance for chaplains in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

I’ll Summarize: Historically, the denomination has never dictated to their chaplains how they should believe. Whatever you believe, serve all of God’s people with love, dignity, and respect. Own your theology and live your faith. Your denomination is behind you. There is room at the table.

Love. It.

DiscipleChaplainsLetter

Love and serve. Everyone.

This is why I’m a Disciple.

Wherein I shake my head….

Chaplaincy

So, this happened.

Seems a pastor that prayed alongside leaders of other religions (to include scary Muslims and Jews) was reprimanded by his church and apologized. I’m guessing because he committed that awful sin of attempting to participate in the communal grief of his hometown.

That’s his journey. My frustration would lie more with the bishop or regional minister rather than the local pastor. He’s trying to keep his job.

Several years ago, I was endorsed by a fundamentalist organization. Fine people. Didn’t actually have much to do with me. I guess as long as I paid my dues, they were happy to take them (to the tune of 160 bucks a month. Yes, I paid this group $160 a month for the privilege of ministering in the military. There’s something wrong with that, but hey, that’s another post when I’m feeling particularly froggy…).

They didn’t call. They sent a card once in a while. They didn’t keep up with me. I sent in reports and heard nothing back.

Till I dared use this phrase in my blog at the time: “I’m becoming more open and ecumenical.” Within weeks, this group, who had not interacted with me for years in a real way, sent two men (there would only be men in leadership of this group) to meet with me to test my orthodoxy. We sat at in a Golden Coral and they asked me questions relating to the substitutionary atonement. I gave them the answers they needed to assuage their conscience. After all, if I answered wrongly, they could pull my endorsement and I’d be a civilian again. When your jobs on the line…

They left telling me that no chaplain in their organization should ever “share the stage” with a Mormon and Catholics should be understood to be kind but hell-bound.

I started searching for a new endorser that day.

At a time when Christianity itself is losing relevancy; when in a 200 member demographic, 60+ will be “No Religious Preference,” we’re still going back and forth over whose the “real Christians” among us.

So, I shake my head…

Tapped Out

Chaplaincy

I did an unthinkable thing today – I told my boss that I was “tapped out.” I didn’t have more to give.

This is a first for me, at least for as long as I can remember. “Stick-to-it-tivness” was a theme in my family. You work until the job is done. This, of course, has about killed me on several occasions. I just don’t have good boundaries. I have a terrible time saying no.

It’s not that I don’t WANT to do it (whatever “it” is) – I very often do! In fact, most times, I could do it better than it’s being done and I want to help. But, there are only so many hours in a day and I only have so much time to give.

Self-care. It’s never been a strong suite with me. I’m something of an “on or off” person. For the last ten years or so in ministry, the spiral works something like this:

Get the new job or assignment. 

Work like a mad fiend. 

Be very impressive because I just don’t ever go home. 

Get lots of kudos for my workaholism. 

Feed on the kudos and work more. 

Start to feel the burn. 

Work harder. 

Crash. Burn. Let the ball drop. Depression. 

Recover. 

Repeat. 

Now, the thing is, my career path has not helped this natural tendency in me. Since I joined the Army, I have had a change, move, PCS EVERY year! Every year, I would go through my patterned cycle and every year about the time I was at my worst (always hidden from my leadership and Soldiers through secret ninja skills I learned growing up a pastor’s kid) I could recover because I knew there was a change coming. There was a moment on it’s way that would give me an artificial shift in my circumstances and I knew that I’d be able to take some time off and recover from my woes.

Until this year.

This year has been the first time I’ve started a new OER (Annual Evaluation) in the same unit and NOT be deployed/coming back from a deployment. This has highlighted the need in my life to actually do something about my spiral. I had never identified this pattern in my life. During my year of CPE, I identified something through group work and this year, my wife and I nailed it – this pattern of exhaustion that torpedos my ministry.

So. I. Made. Change. I broke the spiral. I felt coming on and I owned it. It was the first step. I had to own that I was overwhelmed and starting to spiral downward. Then, I had to do what actually hurt: say no to programs.

Here’s the thing, when you are a minister, saying “no” not only means that you personally will not do something or give up time it also means that OTHERS will not get to have the event because you turned it down. So, as a prison chaplain, it means that my inmates will not get to have a service because I can’t handle doing it and remain healthy. That’s where it gets tough. That’s where the rub turns into a burn. Having to face your commander and your congregation and tell them that you just don’t have more to give goes against everything I have ever experienced for a Soldier AND a pastor.

I’ve heard and read a great deal about “Self-Care,” the idea that we pastors have to take care of our selves in order to properly minister. I have experienced others and myself sighing and affirming that reality. Then, we all go back to work, head into the same meetings and carry on with the business of wearing the hats of “staff officer” and “chaplain.”

Too often, the ones who pay the steepest price are the kiddos, spouses, and families of the minister. I’ve certainly done ministry on the back of my family. This last Christmas season, I made a commitment to NOT do that. This does not mean that I didn’t work on Christmas – I did – however, it DOES mean that when I am home, I am home. When I am playing with my kids, there is nothing taking me from that. When it’s my wife’s time, it’s hers and she does not have to share me with my smart phone or email.

It’s been challenging. It’s been stressful. It’s also been life-giving!

Who knew that embracing my own limitations would be so… liberating?!!

Relevancy. A rant. Well, sort of…

Army, Chaplaincy

Warning. There is a mid-western, moderate, reserved rant ahead.

You’ve been warned.

Apparently, I’m an old codger. Not the “Dennis the Menace Mr. Wilson yell-at-everything-he-hates” codger, just a, “I’m not sure how relevant I am and how relevant I need to be” codger.

I try to keep up with what my faith (Christianity) is doing, what is popular, what is moving – call it a professional awareness. Mostly, it’s discouraging. Clearly, I’m not very relevant and am not a part of main stream. Of course, reading “Christianity Today” and “Relevant” magazines as well as a host of blogs and websites might not actually be the clearest of pictures but at least I’m giving it a shot.

Christianity Today tells me I am not nearly conservative enough.

Relevant tells me I am not nearly cool enough.

“But, but” I sputter, “but I’m only 33! (soon to be 34 so, if you want to say happy birthday, I’ll take that…) I read. ALOT. My influences are people like NT Wright, Rob Bell, Greg Boyd, Mclaren, Compolo, Tickle… those people! I’m surrounded by the 18-24 age group. I’m daily getting blasted by cultural references I don’t get and literally have to google just to know what’s going on! I use google as a verb! I sometimes watch tv shows for the very purpose of being able to know what people are talking about. I vote *progressively*. I’m so down with change. Resiliency is my middle name. I’m up for whatever works. Pragmatic…..

Why do I feel so uncool when I read “Relevant?”

Maybe its my church. I’m a chaplain. My congregation changes. I have two at the moment. One is a congregation of 50 or so inmates at a military prison. Actually, I consider myself the pastor to them all but weekly, services range between 40-55 (out of 200+) on a regular basis. So, after writing that, I’ll own the 40 number. My other congregation is the Liturgical Service on Ft. Leavenworth. We meet in a historic chapel that literally has memorial markers (ok, they are like gravestones attached to the wall) surrounding the pews. We use the old Lutheran Book of Worship, setting Two for the service. I preach through the Revised Common Lectionary. Maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s all the old school stuff.

Problem is. I like it. In fact, I really like it. It feeds me. It feeds my closeness to God. I feel more at home in that setting then the last time I was at Mars Hill (though I really like the podcast).

Maybe it’s that I wear a clerical collar on Sundays. I would wear it daily but really, in the Army, it’s a weekend thing. My uniform throughout the week has a cross on it highlighting my role as chaplain, pastor. I didn’t grow up with the clerical collar, I certainly didn’t experience that in my clerical training but here I am anyway. Of course, the business suit is as much clerical garb in my experience as the collar is in my current ministry. Maybe its the Army. Because of my uniform, I am accustomed to people recognizing me as clergy and therefore, I might be (in a neurotic sort of way) in need of that even on the weekends. Hmm. I’ll look into that. Either way, for all my progressive tendencies, I find myself actually quite conservative when it comes to worship, preaching, teaching etc. My style keeps getting more old school.

I should probably chalk it up to my need to be a contrarian. Whatever is cool and hip I find myself emphatically NOT wanting to do. So, I suppose, if what I’m doing became the hip thing, than I would probably start wearing slim-fit suits.

What is relevancy anyway?

Last Sunday, I preached about Colossians 3:12-17. It’s all about wearing the love of Christ. It’s the Church at it’s best. It’s about NOT wearing our pride, violence, anger, and consumption and instead being very intentional about wearing compassion, kindness, humility, and patience. It’s about forgiveness.

I think that’s relevant. It’s always relevant.

When I became a chaplain in the Army, I was very taken with getting to the “hooah schools” where I would get badges and tabs to wear on my uniform highlighting how awesome I was as a Soldier. I was consumed with it actually. I, very much, attached worth and honor to those external symbols of achievement in the Army. I grew out of it. Now, I’m not sure I want to even do those schools – I’d have to really up my physical training and who wants to do that – I also understand that, as cool as those symbols are (and they are cool), they are not the marks of a Chaplain, the are the marks of a Soldier.

A retiring chaplain said to my CHOBC class, “when it hits the fan, when people are dying and suffering, they do not call for an Airborne Ranger, they call for you. Chaplain. Servant of God.” That’s relevancy.

I think I’ll just keep putting on love every day. I’ll keep being intentional about being vulnerable and as authentic as I can. It’ll keep my humble. It’ll keep me authentic. It’ll keep me relevant I think.

Hindu Army Chaplain

Army, Chaplaincy

In this world of changing times and culture, I love how this video highlights how there are no boxes. The Army Chaplaincy does have many evangelical protestants but it also has a Hindu Chaplain. The Army has always been a micorcasm of the greater society and the chaplaincy is a microcasm of the greater clerical world. Religion exists in the same marketplace that everything does in this country. Thats what the “free exercise of religion” is all about.