Final Year of Enlistment – Video Log 027-20150313

I am overseas in a middle eastern country on active duty orders, if I have not already made that known.  I volunteered and  it was a fight to get on the deployment to start.  Even literally getting here was a fight.  While those challenges have come and gone, it was surprising to me to have faced difficulty every step of the way, as I reflect upon the last six months.  The volunteer process began a year ago this month.

Yet, when I think back farther, it was not with ease that I enlisted into the United States Army Reserve either.  I’ve chronicled five of my six contracted years in the military through intermittent blog posts and videos on godavidstrong.com.  A fair portion of my life has been lived out publicly with people I do not know personally for reasons I make clear on the about page of my blog.  This “project” was to serve as a catharsis along this period of my life for myself and others.  Perpetuity, legacy and teaching are important to me.  And I believe that the best teacher is experience with living examples.  So I made a choice to expose this part of my life, and thus share my strengths and weaknesses for people to see and make a decision for their own lives about becoming and being a soldier.

February 5th, 2015 marked the start of a new year for me as a soldier, and also the last of a journey for which I could never have been fully prepared.  Although I know I could have prepared and maintained myself in far better ways up until now.  There is a sort of bittersweet emotion to all of this.  I think it is only true because of what I’ve gone through.

I grant that I hold no merit from combat and subsequent trauma to bemoan, or even great excess of accomplishment in might or courage that would rally the troops and move the American people.  What I have done was wholly a personal endeavor of relative challenge to me to do what I once thought I would never do because I once believed, far prior to enlisting, that I could never accomplish a military career.

By joining, I wanted to face fear and overcome it.  That is the truth.  I wanted to face evil and danger and say to it with my actions, “May you never harm another again,” and then watch it drown in the depths of the ocean.  I wanted to see myself stand in some of the world’s harshest environments to aid the cause of liberation from evil and suffering.  And in doing all of these things look to see how God is transforming me into more of the champion of his heart, that I know I was prophesied to be by my mother.

But what I realize today are at least two things that are uppermost in mind:  A.  My whole career was more about the inward life, as opposed to my outward fulfillments in the military.  B.  In a general outlook on my life as a whole, there has not been one profession to which I have been assigned to take up permanent occupation for the cause of Jesus Christ–not one thing so far.  (Mind you I know that I’d never allow myself to ever stay with anything beyond a ten-year period of time anyhow.  I do what I do and then I move on, maybe to come back later to do a little more of what I started.  This is good and yet sometimes happens to a fault.)

And so I am in a place of loud silence that requires me to arrest my efforts at doing, and surrender my heart to what feels like reckless abandon to the unknown.  This is what I fail at doing.  I know that if God says stay still, then what comes thereafter is only good.  In fact all his words are trustworthy, of course.  But I am a human being.  So I need his strength to help me stay put and not devise a plan of my own.

In the past year alone, I have repeatedly, written, added and amended two journals full of my fears, hopes, desires, iniquities, pains, and rejoicings, only to be told this year, “be still and wait.”  Since having arrived to another middle eastern desert, I have made no decision to do anything about my future–nothing permanent and in the form of career change, seeking higher education, or toward relationship and marriage.  I have done nothing because I have been told to do nothing but listen and wait.  The question that I would naturally raise to this kind of instructional command, I have stymied so that I gain no satisfaction from trying to regain control of my life.  Coming here was a step toward surrender.  I am being still.  And I am waiting.

What have I accomplished for the kingdom of God through this enlistment?  And what would be gained by re-enlisting? I do not know and it scares me.

This is my personal reason for having frozen in my tracks. I have joy underneath it all.  But I confess, I am somewhat listless, and do not want to be. Yet, I will seek the face of the Lord and wait on him while I lean on him to wait even longer.  I will take joy, even in the dryness of this discipline and acknowledge his goodness and mercy.  I will not complain.

My name is David, and I will live up to the legacy of my name and the calling of God therein.

A New Heart: Yearning For God

The year 2014 was a challenging year.  Every year before that was challenging too.  But what’s important for me to recall and never forget, is a question.  Did I make my year challenging through disobedience to God all year, or did I remain obedient and thereby see waves of overflowing grace, power and success in the wake of obstacles?  An honest assessment would yield that I experienced both.

This year and for all the rest of my days I choose to commune with God better and more than I ever have by choice and surrender to him.  I recognize the longing to see Jesus face-to-face all of the time.  I have hope to see his unimaginable glory in light and truth that surrounds me.

In this world, I stand in a unique place, with a unique opportunity, with a unique vision, with a unique call, and a unique power that comes not from anything in or about me, but Jesus Christ.  And I know without a doubt, as all other Christians should know for their own callings, is that what I am to be and do will rock my world and that of others.  I pray I am ready for that.

Before, and perhaps even as this begins to take place, I have a spiritual regimen of diet and exercise prescribed for me this year.  In order to do my call, I must understand my growth as it relates to what I hear from God daily, and use it wisely, aggressively, and decisively.  And, what I yearn for is God, but in so doing there will be growth in waves of glory to him through obedience for things that honestly and truly appear extremely scary to me.  But I think this is normal, and I believe that I will come through in powerfully moving success for the sake of many, many lives!

The comfort I have is this:

“I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and new the anguish of my soul.”  -Psalm 31:7

This is important coming out of 2014, the present and moving deeper into God’s intent.

To know that I am not estranged from God means heaven to me.  To know that the creator of the universe thinks of me and knows my everything about me makes me want to know him more.  It’s a beautiful interaction made possible through the most tragic, yet hope-inspiring exchange ever made:  the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  I know to whom I should and can address my hungers, desires, hopes and hurts, without whom I see no other eternal refuge.  Although, it is true that there are many mere finite places, people and things in which to seek pleasure, and around which one can build a way of life that even seems right.

I see countless human beings run into destructive ways of life, but come away empty-handed.  I have been among them to make such an attempt, and more than once.  Whereas when I have kept my eyes on Jesus, never have I come up short in my life from calling upon his name.  The only time in which my hands were raw and bare, and bruised and beaten was from realizing that I was holding onto some evil habit that agonized me, so that it might become my destiny, just as it beat the breath of life out of me.  So I know Christ lives and he goes before me to fight for me, sometimes even against me to save me.

As for persecution, I know it will come and has already come, particularly over the course of the last four years.  As I’ve stepped more and more, inch by inch into what Jesus wants in my life and how I may live for him now, the wise have never failed to impart many words about God in my ears.  Voices of all my critics–strangers and friends–have all essentially held to the same core message of the age.

Jesus is no God and no savior that you need, David.  Or, Jesus was a good man who did many good things for people.  But Jesus is  not the son of God or an incarnate God.  Organized religion is evil.  Religion is evil.  Spirituality is okay. Jesus is made up.  The bible is made up of plagiarized stories and cannot be trusted.  You just need to be positive and trust in the universe.  Be what you want to be, and God or he or she or the universe will love you anyway.  God is in you and everyone else.  Tap into your karma to change your karma.  Do what your body wants to do.  Love who you want to love.  Its all only natural.

“And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”  -Matthew 27:39-40

“As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”  -Psalm 42:10

My God is here with me now in name.  He has identified himself and he has called me by name.  “David, come away with me and I will be your eternal joy.”  For centuries Christians have attempted to tell the truth of God’s perfect love and sacrifice, if by nothing other than their testimonies.  I testify that Jesus is in control here.  Let no one confuse you.  Taste and see for yourself from what is happening to me.  There is a lot of brokenness in this visage of mine, but there is a being at work in me. I am not doing it, I can promise you this; and his name is Jesus, by his most holy spirit.

For sure the death of Jesus at the time appeared to be utter defeat.  But a pattern has been set.  The cross is a mysterious thing–that is, the crucifixion of Christ.  The plan and act meant to destroy life, brought life, which wasn’t known by the enemies of Christ.  And surely enough, the reality that haters of Christ never seem to understand is that good prevails, while yet they fly headlong into the pit convinced that Christ of the bible is a lie, a liar or a lunatic–to include his followers.  So as I die and am buried with him, and raised to new life in him, I now have the power to break forth into this world to be the salt and light I am called to be to testify to the truth.  The light has come into the world, and he is reflected through his church for all to hear and see and believe.

My heart yearns for others to know him, just as I do.  I love him and I hope others will give their lives for him as I have.

Killing the heart that beats to deify currencies of material and familial wealth, sex, money and notoriety–however little–is difficult, but totally possible with God.  And in order for me to awaken to his presence, I have had to allow him to break me free from the bonds I couldn’t break on my own.  Once he set me free, I realized what the words of John the Baptist and Christ himself really mean:  The Kingdom of God is near.  He is present right in front of me.  And now he lives within me.  How else can I explain this for one to understand.  The reality of sin in my life forced me into hiding in tight dark spaces under the illusion that God could not see what I was doing, and that I have conquered the world with my escapade of finite exploits.  What covering in this world will deflect the searching eyes of God?  And of what exactly can we convince ourselves he will never find?

The extent to which I have come so far in what my calling demands is miraculous in my eyes to be sure, and incredibly strange as much as it is hard to believe, or much less accept, on the part of those who do not share my beliefs.  And so this is that rocking I am talking about, and is going to take place in me and through me, by Christ Jesus, as I am the clay in his hands.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
    the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.  -1 Corinthians 1:18-25

So, I stand ready for whatever this mind, heart and body of mine are being poised to perform.  My strength to write this along with what is to come, is not my own.

Overcoming Fear, Because I Am Brave

I am 32-years old, and soon to be 33.  All of my short years on this earth, I have battled with fear, and consequently anxiety and depression.  None of these mental and emotional states come from God.

“There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”   1 John 4:18

It goes without saying that everything with which I have fumbled throughout my life was due to fear and fear alone.  The chains of terror that have haunted me would entomb me socially into a detached state of being, and distanced me from God’s voice.  I would be frozen in fear and unable to do anything, for myself or with anyone.  Starting in 2012, I began to ask myself how did I get here?  In 2013 I desired a way of escape.  This required facing all of my most pressing and immediate fears.  Fear of fear, fear of failure, fear of real relationship with a woman, fear of myself, fear of people and fear of my sexuality in general–not necessarily in this order.  (The latter is a long and involved story that might fill two novel’s worth of pages.)

Within the last year I started to see breakthrough because of my listening to him more, just before stepping into 2013.  But allow me to start over.

In 2011, I had a Damascus road experience.  I broke off a very troubled relationship after I had a specific dream that was addressed directly to me in vivid clarity of understanding and vision.

In 2012, I was sent to the back of the desert in Afghanistan, literally and spiritually, to commune with God in a way I never had before that time.  He graciously assured me of who he is and what he came into this world to do.

In 2013, the interruption of my path to destruction was clarified as a general call to something, still mostly unclear to me now.  That same year I met the greatest love of my life to date, Dana Render.  I still have immense feelings for her that I cannot explain, because I love her with all my heart.  The sign of fearlessness and perfect love began when I stepped into trusting God and allowing myself to love her after so many years of frigid stoicism.  God now has the reigns on my future with Dana.  (I actually met Dana as an acquaintance in 2012 before I deployed that Spring.  But I met her in 2013, in the sense that she became fully known to me in heart, soul and mind.)

And in 2014, the call was assured in the face of complex battles within me, and unfortunate setbacks.

So, this year, in 2015, I have to walk a path I’ve never experienced before.  It is a path of no control.  Every move I make is only from God. And though I stumble, the command is to get up quickly and do not be afraid.

“Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”   Joshua 1:9

“So do not fear for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”   Isaiah 41:10

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.  Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.”   Psalms 34:4

Each year is a chapter or chapters, I guess.  I don’t want to go into detail about each year right now, but I’ve outlined them to show the experience I have had.

No longer will I allow fear to rule over me and my life.  This year I am brave because Christ Jesus has empowered me to be brave.

I know who I am

Finding my identity has been one of the most troubling aspects of my life.  I am confident that many people will state that they are assured of their identity if asked.  I don’t, however, believe that most people ever think on such a thing without prompting.  To focus on what one’s identity is would require a level of self-examination that by the nature of the practice will cause personal pain in realization.  We are not what we think we are.  Within each of us is hubris, lust and a drive for self-propagation.  Even the humblest among us is guilty of the former.  For humbling oneself is only necessary in one with the predisposition to arrogance.  Therefore, we are inherently weak moral beings.  As it is written, God cannot be tempted, and thus commit evil (James 1:13).

However, I have come to learn that the place from which strength can be found is in my weakness and suffering.  But not just in my suffering and weakness alone do I transcend lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life.  It is in my trust that Jesus Christ has taken me into himself, stripped away my faults, failures, guilt, sin and shame, and has given me a new identity.

How enlivened I am by his word that his mercies are new each morning (Lamentations 3:23).  Though undeserved, he is there to comfort me and show me aright.

Coming to grips with this fact is probably the most important personal road of study a believer can embark upon.  To say to myself, I am strong though I am weak because Christ’s grace is sufficient for me, is ever a revivifying feeling and a reassuring fact.  It is true in spite of all my present turmoil or even most acrid unexpected feelings of doubt, fear, dread, anxiety, stress, and so on.

I will not be shaken by my opposition, for I know that opposition is real.  It comes in all forms, with some being the most insidiously benign.  The strength that I need I have never found in anything or any place I have been in this world.  There have been certain opportunities and experiences that in themselves did not propel me into peace, but merely pointed me to the peace-giver, my great creator, Jesus.  It is in the acknowledgement of Jesus as the source of my life that I remain in tact–I begin to know who I am.  There are no arbitrary extrinsic qualities by which my worth is determined because the bible explains that we are loved without condition, and that we were created in his good pleasure to have life with him forever.  Eternal joy and life are what I desire above all things.

How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lordmy heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”  (Psalm 84:2)

I need Jesus above all things.  I cannot live without him.  Nothing in this world makes sense without him.

How can I describe my unfathomable vision of the unfathomable God and his kingdom?  I cannot begin to explain to you my resolve to run after God to be transformed into whatever he would deem upon me.  Like beauty from ashes, I will rise as he rose to life.

I am his servant.

I am his ambassador.

I am his friend.

I am redeemed.

I am made in his image.

I am his and he is mine.  

I am found in him.

“Your love is devoted like a ring of solid gold
Like a vow that is tested like a covenant of old
Your love is enduring through the winter rain
And beyond the horizon with mercy for today

Faithful You have been and faithful you will be
You pledge yourself to me and it’s why I sing

Your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips”

Selah