Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Six Thousand Mile Walk

I enjoyed a great walk with families from Ft Stewart's 3rd Infantry Division this morning. A kickoff for the post's "Walk to Afghanistan/Iraq and Back" campaign, it brought out hundreds of Soldiers and Family Members who want to show solidarity for their deployed Soldiers. Deployed Leaders and Soldiers spoke to the participants through large screen video teleconference. Walkers will continue to walk regularly and turn in their mileage to their unit groups until they collectively surpass the distance of more than six thousand miles that marks their goal. This activity will fight depression and loneliness by getting people out of their houses for exercise and interaction with people who share their experience. It's a truly marvelous idea. I am glad that I get to be a part of it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Refuge in Chaos

A deluge of emotions swirled among University of Tennessee athletic fans. Four basketball players, pulled over by police, were found in violation of several laws. An energetic young football coach deserted the university to return to a former employer in a weaker conference. Followers of the Volunteer sports program were stunned. Comments on Facebook, in blogs, and in other media reflected disarray. Yet on the basketball court, under the tutelage of Coach Pearl, the remaining players shocked the nation by defining character and honor as they defeated first the top ranked school in the nation, and then another ranked team from within their own conference. Leaders at the university hired a new football coach with deep roots within the Southeastern Conference and experience working in a winning program. While all this drama played out, a horrible earthquake devastated the nation of Haiti. Hundreds have died; horrible agony persists. Much infrastructure of this already poverty-stricken nation lies in ruins. People from around the world have rushed to help. Yet some of the aid has not reached those who need it. The Haitian experience brings perspective. Athletics can teach us valuable lessons about life. Life sometimes does not wait for those lessons to be learned and rushes in on the unprepared. I stumbled across a paragraph in the rarely read biblical book of Nahum this past week that gives hope in dire circumstances: "The mountains quake before him, and the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who live in it. Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire and by him the rocks are broken in pieces. The Lord is good, a stronghold in a day of trouble; he protects those who take refuge in him"(Nahum 1:5-7 NRSV). When all in life crumbles arounds us, hope remains. In a world in which so much evil and horror exists, good remains. God protects those who take refuge in faith in his goodness rather than those who enjoy their acidic bitterness. Patient faith reveals that life prevails against the darkest and most terrible that life throws at us. A playoff loss by a favorite sports team won't ruin one's life. A hero's fall from favor will not devastate the balance of power among nations. God protects, and because he protects, believers assist and protect those who have for a time lost the ability to care for themselves. University of Tennessee students and fans will survive the recent upheavals in their athletic department. The people of Haiti will emerge from this crisis. Even in the midst of apparent chaos, order remains and hope persists.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Sifting for the Significant

A new year begins even as we sort out the significant from the year before. We reflect on what happened last year. I accomplished some of my goals in 2009. I took my wife to Disneyworld for her first visit. Following up on a suggestion at a seminar for chaplains that I attended, I started reading the Quran (and finished today). Reading it both dismissed and confirmed opinions I had had concerning Islam. Much prejudice is based on ignorance. Security requires knowledge. Understanding demands knowing enough to have a conversation. I reconnected with old friends at the Freed-Hardeman University Bible Lectureship and on Facebook. My work responsibilities shifted during the year in ways that helped me to learn new skills and gain a greater appreciation for the complexity of our national defense. Singing gives me great joy. The Diana Singing for forty years has given Christians the opportunity to stay up all night singing praises to God and having great fellowship. The past two years I have participated in that magnificent celebration of God's love for his people. Patrick Swayze's death from pancreatic cancer reminded me how that horrible disease killed my father. Perhaps someone quickly will find an answer, or at least a way for quicker recognition, for that illness. Each of my children found a way to make me proud during the year. While each may stumble, as is the tendency of people their age, I pray that they will continue to mature and succeed in ways that will bless not only themselves, but the world around them. Faith, family, and friends enrich my life. I pray that my love and my work will return the favor.