Friday, May 27, 2011
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
I’ve been catching up reading some back issues of the The Wall Street Journal, and came across the article, “Meanwhile, in the War in Afghanistan…” by Bing West. Straightforward and dispassionately written, this essay takes a look at the “grunts” of the Third Platoon of Kilo Company, Fifth Marine Regiment.
From the article:
“Back in the U.S., the news was dominated by events in Libya, the start of March Madness in college basketball and the latest court appearance of Lindsay Lohan. The fighting season in Afghanistan had begun, too, but in the U.S., the decade-old war is now largely ignored.”
“'That’s a different world,'” replied Capt. Johnson, who is on his third combat tour. 'In the States, a bad day for a guy on his way to the office is a flat tire. A bad day out here is a double amputee. The public pays attention to Charlie Sheen. No one’s heard of Sgt. Abate.'”
The article goes on to explain how, after a patrol hit a minefield in late October, Sgt. Abate “had left his safe position and run to apply tourniquets and carry out the screaming, grievously wounded men. He was killed in action five weeks later, but only the platoon remembers his name.”
And for all those who think that the end of collective bargaining is the end of the world, West points out that these men “have volunteered to serve, and most of them will leave the military after four years, with no pension or benefits. They endure the mud, heat, stench, blood, fatigue and terror of lost limbs and lost lives.”
“The grunts chose their profession,” West writes, “and they draw satisfaction from their Spartan existence. Almost every member of the Third Platoon said he wanted to be right where he was, living in a cave on the most dangerous battlefield in Afghanistan.”
Folks, this is integrity. And although it’s obvious that, to these men, recognition back home would be nice, it doesn’t determine their actions and it certainly isn’t what motivates them.
Today, as we read the latest headlines and find ourselves enamored with the divorce of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, maybe it’s time we exit the internet and write a letter of thanks to a soldier, say a prayer for their safety and pay more attention in general to what really matters in life, and less to what never mattered to begin with.
Please take time to read the entire article here:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
Saturday, May 7, 2011
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
This past September I was asked by a youth pastor to give my testimony to about 40 high school students. I had never given my testimony in front of a large public group before, but I’d heard many testimonies, most of them rather dramatic. I was conflicted about how much to share with the youth, fearing too much information might glorify my past alcohol use or cause the youth to conclude one of two things: “See, she drank and turned out okay,” or “So I have to hit an alcoholic bottom in order to really feel the need for Christ?”
There had been previous “hitting bottom” testimonies in youth group, and I was concerned that these testimonies might imply that a “true” testimony is one that involves past criminal, drug, alcohol or sexual activity. So when it came time to share, I gave the Reader’s Digest version, leaving out my past alcohol use altogether and only talking about my secular humanist upbringing and how my independent self-reliance was a stumbling block to God.
Needless to say, the testimony was terrible. My son, who was in the audience, said I sounded extremely nervous, which I was, and that he couldn’t really hear me (which, in hindsight, is probably a good thing!)
As I look back on the experience, which soured me on testimonies in general, I am positive that I was not led by the Holy Spirit that night and that it was me deciding what to say and why. The more I tried to choreograph my testimony, the more it backfired.
God has used this experience to show me where strong pockets of pride exist and that I’m still way too self-conscious (another form of pride). And after all these months, He finally brought closure to the whole debacle in the form of another man’s testimony given at the recent Good News Jail and Prison Ministry Banquet. There, Rick Sweenie, a former inmate who has been involved in the Good News Jail and Prison Ministry for 35 years and is now a regional director, taught me what true testimony is when he said, “I’m not going to stand here and tell you how bad I was. I’m going to tell you how good God is.”
As I’ve read my Bible in the days since the prison banquet, God has shown me how Mr. Sweenie’s words are Biblical. In Matthew 9:35-36 especially, we learn that Jesus spoke out of compassion for the lost. Jesus’ focus was on the needs of his listeners. His heart broke for them. He wasn’t trying to wow them with an amazing testimony. He was trying to point them to the Gospel of the Kingdom of God where they could find healing. What point is testimony if it doesn’t do the same?
The risk of testimony is that we get too specific with our personal experience and lose people. The listener may not be able to relate, thinking they are either not as bad as us, dismissing their need for God, or are much worse and conclude God cannot redeem them. But when most of what we share is focused on the answer, regardless of the sins committed, that’s where the harvest is. The facts of broken lives are many and varied, but the answer for all of it is God through Jesus Christ.
I know now where I went wrong in my testimony. It was in thinking of it as mine and not God’s.
“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:35-36