December 26, 2007

Great Gift

Laura is good to make me a list of things that she would like for Christmas. This year she wanted the Josh Groban Noel CD. Well, I had not gotten it and it was December 23. She kept going on about it so I knew that I had to get it for her. On the 23 we ventured to Wal-Mart. Laura was off getting a few groceries and Victoria and I were looking for the CD. I thought I was sunk. WE COULD NOT FIND IT!!! OH NO!!!

Finally after about 20 or so minutes of searching Victoria found a copy. PHEW! Now to pay for it and get it out of the store without Laura seeing it. We bought it in the electronics department and then Victoria hid it in her jacket and Laura was none the wiser.

Christmas morning it was the first gift that was opened. We normally listen to Christmas music while unwrapping and so we got started to Josh Groban.

I loved Josh's rendition of the song I'll Be Home For Christmas. It made me think of my friend Chance Mace who is serving God and Country in the Middle East. I was home for Christmas because of the brave women and men like him who willingly serve. Because of their faithful service I got to celebrate Christmas any way I wanted to.

I was home for Christmas because you all were not! I pray that next year you will be home for Christmas.

God Bless our troops! Thanks for all you do; I appreciate it! Thank you for the great Christmas gift!

Our Last

As we have been marching toward the Military Chaplaincy, we have been marking our journey with our last (everything) here. It is such a bitter sweet journey. We are so excited about the certainty of God's call into the Military Chaplaincy, but we understand that we have to leave this place, a place we love, to answer that call.

Sunday morning we had a church wide breakfast and a visit from "Santa!" (Thanks Ralph) Santa hands our gifts to all the little children and the church gives us a gift as well. This year we received a beautiful pewter server and a monetary gift also. All the gifts they have given us in our almost six years here have been wonderful. We use these gifts regularly and will use them for many more years to come. Following our time of food, fellowship and gift giving we had a short Sunday School lesson and were off to get a good seat for worship.

For worship, the children of the church presented their Christmas presentation. They did a FANTASTIC job!!! Just as FANTASTIC was the choir cantata that was the second part of our worship. What a great day of worship, fellowship and food!

Monday we had our last Christmas Eve Service here. Laura sang Breath of Heaven by Amy Grant and I spoke from Isaiah 52:7. I will remember this service for a very long time.

Laura and I thank God for allowing us to be here. We have had many great experiences here and that is why we are marking our journey and enjoying every "last." We realize that our journey leads us away from the warm embrace of those who love us here. This personal journey has made me ponder the reality for Jesus. He left the warm embrace of his Father and all the Heavenly beings to live among people, to love all people and to give himself fully to the call of God.

I am so glad that Jesus was willing to journey from the warm embrace of the Father to the warm embrace of Mary, Joseph, Simeon and all the others who have loved and accepted him.

I pray that God has experienced the warm embrace of your heart. May God bless your journey of faith as you seek to follow God's plan for your life.

I know that wherever we go we will find the warm embrace of others, but we are enjoying a little more time with some good friends. So I leave you with a picture of Victoria, Laura and Me as we were celebrating our last Christmas here.

December 20, 2007

"Répondez s'il-vous-plaît" (RSVP)

When you receive an invitation to an event you are normally asked to respond or RSVP. Recently, I received an invitation to attend the NAMB Missionary/Chaplain Commissioning Service. I responded and reserved my place for the event.

This caused me to think about an invitation we have all received. As you know, some years ago Christ came into our world, and because of his coming, we have been invited to be a part of his family. The invitation requires a response. Have you responded and reserved your spot yet?

God reserved a specific time and place to make himself known in the world, and it was confirmed by the birth of Jesus. God wants to reserve a time and place to make himself known to you personally.

Thank you for inviting us all Lord! I accept! I hope you will accept God's invitation into an unbelievable relationship.


December 19, 2007

I'm Thankful

Thanks to all those who left comments on my last post Ring I appreciate your words and well wishes.

While I am very excited about what is ahead, I am just as excited about the things happening at our church. I am so glad that things have worked out where I will be here until the beginning of summer. The extra time allows us the opportunity to get some things off the ground and running and to finish up some things that we have been working on. God has been working in all our lives and it has been wonderful to see. God is so good!

God has brought some good people into our lives. We have made connections with people in the church, at the local community theatre, and within the general community that will not end once we move from this place. What a wonderful blessing. As if God has not been good enough, He is giving us the opportunity to meet even more people who will undoubtedly impact our lives.

So, I say thanks to God for giving us the opportunity to be in a relationship with Him and man kind. I say a special thanks also to Laura and Victoria who make my life so wonderful, and I say thanks to all of you who have walked with us on our journey.

Now you know why I'm thankful.

December 13, 2007


Ring...(Caller ID 301-677-XXXX)

Last month I received a call from my recruiter telling me my application had been approved but for Reserves not Active Duty. I decided to send my packet before the December Accessioning Board for consideration for Active Duty. The Board was meeting yesterday and today.

Okay, here is the call I have been waiting for. Take a deep breath...Hello...

I must confess it was as though I was dreaming. I do not remember the name of the man I was talking to or exactly what he said, but his reason for calling was to welcome me to the Chaplaincy. Yes, I was approved for Active Duty. Phew! Thank you God! Today, God not only confirmed His call into the Army but a call to Active Duty.

What was the best Christmas present of 2007? A phone call confirming and affirming God's plan for the Dawson family.

December 4, 2007

Financial Hope

I was talking to someone recently and we were discussing my last post My Black Friday Is there hope for those of us who are in the deep red hole (debt)? Yes, there is hope!

My sister-in-law was doing Financial Peace University through her church. She and her children were visiting and she had to do some homework. Part of her homework was to watch one of the video lessons for her class. I happened to be sitting on the couch as she was watching and it peaked my interest. I saw how this course was helping her and I wanted help too. So I bought the course and Laura and I started going through it in April. May was our first month "on the plan".

So what is Dave's plan? The centerpiece is a written budget. Yes, I know the "B" word. I have to confess that I did not like the idea of a budget and was not certain about this zero based budget Dave Ramsey was promoting. Now, I LOVE IT! Basically the written budget is just the plan of action. With the zero based budget you spend every dollar on paper before you ever get it. You make the plan and then work the plan.

For a full explanation of Dave's "plan" you can pickup his books Financial Peace Revisited or The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan For Financial Fitness Both resources will help you no matter what your financial situation may be. For a wealth of resources and helps you can also go to Dave Ramsey's web site

God has blessed Laura and me through Dave's Financial Peace University. I believe God is using him, his life story and his ministry to give hope to all who will listen. Dave gives good sound financial advice based on Biblical understanding.

Can you have hope in the midst of debt? Yes! How? Make a plan and then work it. We personally have about $17,000 more dollars in debt to pay off, but we have a plan and we are working it every day, every week, and every month. You may think that you have too much debt and not enough income. Read Joel Maxwell's Story and you will be encouraged on your journey! There is HOPE!

December 1, 2007

My Black Friday

It has become a yearly ritual that Laura, Victoria and I go shopping on Black Friday. We live about an hour away from Richmond so we have to get up really early!! This year the alarm clock went off at 3:15 a.m. Of course the early wake up call was worsened by the fact that we did not go to bed until after midnight. We did decide to sleep another hour and then get up. So by 4:30 we were on our way!

Normally there are "have to get" things on our list but not so much this year. Because of upcoming expenses related to our call into the Army, we are having a "small" Christmas. Our shopping plan for Christmas: to buy Victoria one nice gift, three small gifts from Santa, modeled after the gifts the three wise men brought to Jesus (Yes, Victoria knows about "Santa" :-), and stocking stuffers. To buy Laura a few small gifts and stocking stuffers. To buy me stocking stuffers.

Stores on our list to visit while in Richmond: JCPenny, Target, Michael's, Pier One, Circuit City, Kohls, and breakfast at Chick-fil-A. Yummy!!

Here are a couple of differences about this Black Friday.

1. This year we were not standing in line for me. Usually we have to stand in line at Circuit City or Best Buy for something that I wanted. Not this year! It was great; I loved it!

2. I noticed that retailers were getting into the black while others were going into the red. So many people were using credit cards. We spent cash that we had been saving for Christmas. Wow! Cash, what a concept! (Dave Ramsey would be proud!)

Overall, Black Friday was a wonderful day despite the lack of sleep. Blessing to you and yours, and I hope your Black Friday was written in black not red!

November 29, 2007


Since we have Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve services at our church, it makes it hard to go home for the holidays. Since we were going to be in town for Thanksgiving, we were invited to Glenn and Joy Evans' home. We know Glenn and Joy through the Westmoreland Players, our local community theatre. Joy's brother, Mike, and sister-in-law, Missie, were also there.

We got to their house about 2:00. They live right on the Potomac River, so their home is in a very picturesque location. We walked along the grounds admiring the flowers, trees, and waterfront. After returning to their home, we sat on the back deck enjoying the beautiful, unseasonaly warm weather, a family of swans, getting to know each other better, and lite appetizers consisting of crackers with a mild bleu cheese spread, hummus, and a garlic and herb spread. Yummy!

After enjoying appetizers and each other's company, we gathered at the dining room table and had our second course, soup. Missie had made Butternut Squash and Cheese Soup. Okay, so maybe it does not sound so good, but it was DELICIOUS!

For our third course, we had a green salad with dried cranberries and walnuts. For those who know me well enough, you know that I do not like cranberries. However, I have to admit that I really liked them on my salad. I used a light cranberry and walnut vinaigrette to add the final touches to my salad. There was also a choice of a poppyseed dressing. Is your mouth watering yet?

Our fourth course was filled with other wonderful dishes. Glenn and Joy had brined the turkey giving it a wonderful flavor and then spread herbs under the skin for even more flavor. It was nice and juicy. We also had sweet potato souffle topped with marshmallows, cranberry fruit salad, cranberry sauce, sweet corn, green bean casserole, dressing made with apples and roasted chestnuts, fresh broccoli out of Missie's garden, and rolls. I hope I am not forgetting anything.

For our fifth and final course, we had a choice between Missie's pumpkin pie or Laura's apple crisp. I chose a little of both. Don't forget the whipped topping on the pumpkin pie!

It may sound as though we stuffed ourselves. We did not. Since we took about 5 hours to do all this eating, we did not leave feeling like we were the stuffed turkey. Yes, I did say 5 hours. Laura and I agreed that we will have Thanksgiving meals like that in the future. We were able to enjoy each course, enjoy the fellowship and not worry about the time. It was a Thanksgiving memory for the books.

What am I thankful for this Thanksgiving? I am thankful for family, for friends who treat you like family, for good food, for good fellowship, for salvation, for having a life of purpose, for God bringing to mind all that I have to be thankful for. Thank you God for all the blessings you bestow on me and my family!

November 19, 2007

I Bless Your Name

Laura sang this song yesterday at church. WOW! These words really struck me.

In prisoners' chains
With bleeding stripes
Paul and Silas prayed that night
And in their pain began to sing
Their chains were loosed
And they were free
I bless Your name
I bless Your name
I give You honor, give You praise
You are the Life, the Truth, the Way
I bless Your name
I bless Your name

Some midnight hour
If you should find
You're in a prison in your mind
Reach out and praise
Defy those chains
And they will fall
In Jesus' Name

We bless Your Name
We bless Your Name
We give You honor, give You praise
You are the Life, the Truth, the Way
We bless Your Name
We bless Your Name

You are the Life, the Truth, the Way
We bless Your Name
We bless Your Name

I think it is safe to say that we have all felt bound by the situations of daily living. What chains are binding you? Do you long for freedom? I do! Recently I have felt so bound. How can I/we have freedom? Reach out and praise God through prayer and singing; remember He is the Life, the Truth and the Way; defy the chains in Jesus' Name.

Note to self: Bless the Name of the Lord! Focus on the God , the key to loosing the chains, not the chains themselves.

November 10, 2007

Great Quotes

I wanted to share some great quotes that I have come across recently. I hope you enjoy!

"I do not understand everything about Christ and Christianity. I also do not understand everything about electricity, but I do not intend to sit in the dark until I do."~Unknown

"Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape." ~Michael McGriff

"Ordinary people with commitment can make an extraordinary impact on their world." ~John C. Maxwell

"Most of us plateau when we lose the tension between where we are and where we ought to be." ~John Gardiner

"Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Relationships help us to define who we are and what we can become. Most of us can trace our successes to pivotal relationships." ~Donald O. Clifton and Paula Nelson

"Perfection is what you're striving for, but perfection is an impossibility. However, striving for perfection is not am impossibility. Do the best you can under the conditions that exist. That is what counts." ~John Wooden

"Don't find fault, find a remedy." ~Henry Ford

“In humility we acknowledge God’s majesty, in contentment His grace, and in thankfulness His goodness. Thankfulness to God is a recognition that God in His goodness and faithfulness has provided for us and cared for us, both physically and spiritually. It is a recognition that we are totally dependent upon Him; that all that we are and have comes from God.” ~Unknown

November 9, 2007

Good News/Bad News

Well, I have some good news and some bad news. Which do you want to hear first? Okay, good news it is. My file went before the Army Chaplaincy Board on November 7-8, and I was approved!

Okay, now for the bad news. I was approved for Army Reserves not the Active Duty Army. OOF! So what does this mean? Well, it means that my file will be resubmitted and go before the Army Chaplaincy Board in December. When my file goes before them again I could be approved for Active Duty.

My recruiter is trying to figure out why I was not approved for Active Duty since I have a strong file. Anyway, we are back to the hurry up and wait game.

If we are still only approved for Reserves I could accept that appointment. We feel like we are supposed to be Active Duty, so we will keep praying.

Thank you all for your prayers and support.

November 8, 2007


These videos are wonderfully outrageous. While they are a little over the top they raise a good question. What expectations do you bring to church?

Me Church

Drive Through Church

How different would worship be if we all came with the sole expectation of communing with God with a disregard for the style of music, the children's programs, the length of the sermon, the speaker, etc.? Good question to ponder.

Do you expect to go to "ME CHURCH" where it is all about you? What expectations do you bring to church?

November 2, 2007

Victoria's Birthday Dance

So, where do all the years go? It is hard to believe that Victoria is a teenager. She is really making me old. Last year we had her biggest birthday surprise, a trip to Disneyland. Even though we normally take a trip to Disney World in the Fall, we had never been to Disney for her birthday. It was a magical birthday surprise, Disneyland style. She was really surprised, and we were able to make great memories together. This year her birthday was a little more low key. Laura and Victoria are acting in a local production of The Matchmaker so our schedules are worked around the play.

Since we are getting ready for the Army, we said that we were going to get Victoria one nice gift for her birthday and one for Christmas. I have attached a short video of her opening her gift from us. Do you think she likes it?

Yes, Victoria is more technologically advanced than her parents. She now has an iPod. She has been listening to her music practically non-stop. I am glad that she likes it. Was that a hip-hop routine we saw her do?

October 26, 2007

Cartoon Perspective

Great cartoons with a little perspective. I hope you enjoy them.


Matthew 6:26-27 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?


1 Peter 5:7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.


Mark 11:22-23 So Jesus answered and said to them, "Have faith in God. "For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.

All cartoons created by Mike Waters

Interview With God

This was sent to me, and I wanted to share it with you. Enjoy!

October 25, 2007

More Prayer Needed

Thanks for your prayers. When I went before the judge this morning all charges were dropped. Thank you God! God is so awesome!

I was scheduled for court this morning at 9:30, but I thought I was scheduled for 9:00. After getting there, I realized I was super early. So, along with many others, I waited. All the cases that were scheduled for 9:30 were finally let into the courtroom at 10:20. Many of us had been standing in the hallway the whole time. So, I was glad to be able to sit and wait. I thought I would have to wait a while for my case to be called, however, my case was the first on the 9:30 docket. WOW! God is so good! My day was starting off well; what else would this day hold?

How quickly things change, one minute on the mountain top and the next in the valley of shadows. By 10:35, I was on my way to the Medical College of Virginia to check on a young man from our community. Before I got out of downtown Hopewell, I received news that this young man died. He had been fighting for his life since a head on collision on October 13. He had just turned 19 in September.

Will you pray for the family and friends of Joe Beasley? They really need it! Prayer works, and I know your prayers will make a difference as all grieve and mourn the loss of this young man. Thanks!

October 22, 2007

Good Grief!

I got a call from my insurance company last week. The guy that "I hit" has gotten a lawyer and is suing my insurance company. GOOD GRIEF! It is obvious that this guy is trying to get something for nothing. I am so glad that I have good insurance. I am glad that I do not have to deal with these people directly. I would love to give him something to see the doctor about, but that is not very Christian. It is just so frustrating! I want to make sure that his car is repaired and his visit to the hospital is paid for. I am not trying to shaft him but he is trying to shaft me through my insurance company. I guess we will see where this goes over time.

This coming Thursday, October 25, I go to court about the accident and the ticket. The policeman who covered the accident was so nice, and he told me that he would try to help me out in court. I will take all the pictures of the accident and a written account accident. The officer told me that I may be able to get the charges dropped since I have a clean record. We will see.

Please pray if the Holy Spirit brings me to your mind on Thursday morning, around 9:00. I appreciate it.

File Is Complete

I got a message at the end of last week from CH (Col) James Walker, my interviewer. He has finished reviewing all my information, and he has given me his blessing for Active Duty Chaplaincy. He wrote up his recommendation and has forwarded that on to the Chief of Chaplain's office. My file is finally ready for the November board. The board will meet on November 7-8.

So, now it is back to hurry up and wait.

Let Us Pray

Let us pray! I have a friend who is serving our country as an Army Chaplain, in Iraq. Because of my friend, I am aware of the need for more Chaplains. I am glad to see that others are being made aware of the need. Will you pray daily for our troops and the men and women who minister to them? Will you pray that God will provide more Chaplains? Let us pray!

This video is from the ABC World News

October 2, 2007

The Good, Bad & Ugly

The Good: Paperwork done, again; my face to face interview is done.
The Bad: I had to do most of my Army Application again!
The Ugly: I was in a small accident.
Well that is the summation of my week.

I got a call this week from my recruiter and I had to redo a big portion of my application. The Army application process is in transition. Since I am on the cusp of the changes I had to submit my application under the new format. OOF! Oh Well. I Fed-Exed the paperwork today. So, what now? Hurry up and wait!

Yesterday, I had my interview with a Colonel Chaplain at Fort Lee, VA. I was with Chaplain James Walker (different from my recruiter who is Chaplain Dallas Walker) for about an hour and a half. We talked about things from why I wanted to be an Army Chaplain to what if I am not accepted as a Chaplain. He has been a Chaplain for 22 years and he gave me an opportunity to ask him questions. I asked him his advise for a new Chaplain. He said, "Be true to thyself." He went on to explain how important it is to stick to your beliefs and convictions. He indicated that most ministers are people pleasers and it is important to remember who we are to be pleasing, our Lord. Great interview. I do have something to do while I wait. Colonel James Walker asked me to submit a resume, a mini-bio and a written sermon. I will work on that while I wait.

Once I left the interview I went to the on base Uniform and Sales store to price all the clothing and equipment that I will be needing. I am trying to find some of the stuff on EBay and wanted to know prices before purchasing anything. I was trying on sizes etc. I have found some things on EBay that I will probably end up getting because they are cheaper. Buying it a little at a time is easier than having to buy it all when I get to basic. I hope to have all I need when I arrive at basic and to save a little money along the way. We will see.

Well, no need to prolong the ugly of the day/week. After I left the Uniform and Sales store I went looking for off base sales of Army equipment. Usually around the bases are stores that sell the same things and I wanted to price things there. I pulled through one strip mall and did not find anything. I was going to look at another strip mall, but before I could get there I was in an accident. I had stopped at a stop sign. To my right was an Army bus that was turning into a gas station. I looked and did not see anyone coming so I started through the intersection. Before I knew it there was a truck coming from my right and they hit me. It did little damage to either of the vehicles. It dented the bumper and knocked out the headlight on my car. They were in an old truck and it barely bent the bumper. What was crazy was they were both saying their backs were hurting. Before the police and rescue squad got there they were carrying on like nothing was wrong. As soon as the police and squad got there they said they needed to go to the hospital. GOOD GRIEF!!!! As you can tell from the pictures there was not a lot of damage to either vehicle.

The policeman and EMT's did not believe their little act. You can imagine how I felt about it. I did find out last night that they did not have any injuries and were released from the hospital. I am glad to know they were alright. I also found out that the passenger of the truck had a warrant out for his arrest. The policeman indicated that he was no stranger to the law. Not exactly how I wanted to help the police out, but...

My prayer is that they do not try to take me to court etc. Based on their actions yesterday, I bet that they have already contacted a lawyer. Time will tell.

September 29, 2007

Hurry Up and Wait

September was a month in which some more things came together.

I finally was able to schedule my MEPS examination for September 6 at Fort Lee, VA. I had to be there at 06:00. Good Grief! I left the house at 04:00. I got there early and had to wait. A little after 06:00 someone came out to instruct us on how the process would work. I had a vision test, blood pressure check, hearing test, blood test, urine test, physical, body joints check and body measurements (height and weight). I got the passing grade! I did not think MEPS would take as long as it did. I did not leave there until 11:30. As soon as I left the base I called my recruiter and set up an appointment with him for September 14.

When I got together with my recruiter, Chaplain Walker, we put my Army application together. He told us that the fastest he had gotten through this process was about four hours. So when he got to our house at 10:00 we quickly got started. We got him set up in the dining room where he could spread out and we could knock out the application. There were many parts to the application. Slowly but surely we moved from one section to another. Within four hours we had finished the application except for the the FBI Security Clearance Application. By the way, I think we set a new record for finishing the application because we had lunch in that time also. Laura was a great help. Thanks Laura!

Wow! I did not realize there was so much to do for the FBI Security Clearance Application. I had to list all my jobs back to the age of 16. I also had to list all the places that I have lived for the last ten years with names of people who could verify that I had lived there when I did...and so much more. CRAZY! I do not know why they needed all the information, but I got it all together and sent in the application. YAY!

So, am I ready to go before the Army Chaplaincy Board yet? NO! I have to have an interview with a Colonel Chaplain. I was able to schedule that interview for October 4. I look forward to getting that done and having completed everything possible before going before the Army Chaplaincy Board.

Now it is a matter of hurrying up and waiting. The hurdles before us are less than they were!

So while I wait I will continue to work hard preparing myself for the PT test at basic.

September 27, 2007

Time For Some R&R

August was busy and restful. Laura drove our daughter Victoria to a Children's Theatre Camp in Montana. Yes, it was a long drive, but Laura did it. They were both troopers. After dropping Victoria off Laura drove back to Minnesota to stay with a friend for two weeks. On August 15 I flew to Minnesota to meet up with Laura. The next day we began our track back out to Montana.

Before this trip none of us had been to this part of the country. It was nice to visit but so different from the East. We missed seeing all the trees. We did most of our sight seeing on the way home. We went to Yellowstone in WY, Mount Rushmore in SD, Crazyhorse in SD, Wall Drugs in SD, Walnut Grove in MN, Kalamazoo in MI, Niagara Falls in Canada and finally home sweet home.

From the time the car left until it returned we covered 8290.5 miles! It was a lot of driving, but we created great memories together.

Fortunately, even though I ate out a lot on the trip I lost weight. When I knew God was calling me into the Military I was 250lbs. To meet the the height weight chart I need to get below 206. I still need to loose some weight so I continue to eat salad, run, do sit ups and push ups. This regiment will help me get ready for MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) and PT (Physical Training).

Some Financial Hurdles Crossed

It seemed that every door we came to was open. I told in one of the previous posts that my father-in-law had been accepted for Medicaid. As the months went by I did not receive a bill for his stay in the nursing facility. I would call them about it and they would tell me we would get a bill once he got moved off the skilled nursing wing. So we waited. Now he was moved to a different facility and I still had not gotten a bill. When I finally contacted the facility I was told that the bill had been paid by Medicare and Medicaid. Therefore, the money that would have been his copay was his. The money was enough to pay back all the debt that he owed us. I could not believe it. God will take care of things if we allow him too.

When Dad moved back to Alabama they needed thousands of dollars to take him. We were not sure where that money was going to come from but we soon found out. The one month he was in Richmond finished off his 90 days of benefits where Medicare paid 80% and Medicaid paid 20%. The amount of his copay was enough to cover the money he needed for the facility in Alabama. In a matter of a week God had provided close to $10,000. To God be the glory for the great things He has done.

September 22, 2007

Big Strides

In July we would make some major strides in our journey into the Army. We awaited news about Dad's application,we shared our journey with the church and with my parents .

On July 1, I told Laura that we had gotten so much confirmation in the beginning that it would be nice to have a little more, as if we needed more confirmation. Victoria was gone to Youth Camp and Laura and I were camping out in the back yard. Laura went into the house and I asked her to bring back the latest edition of the Religious Herald. We had gotten it in the mail a few days before, but I had not looked at it. I always read from the back to the front. I had made it all most all the way through the paper before stumbling upon this article.

On July 3, we got a call from the nursing facility in Alabama. They had received Dad's application and we were told that they were moving Dad to the top of the waiting list. From what I understood the waiting list was a year long. WOW! We were shocked. This was further confirmation that we would be going into the Army. It is not by human hands that all these things came about but instead by the hands of God. Thank you God! Time to wait again.

On July 8, we shared out journey with our church. I was excited to share and also nervous. Of sorts it was a load off my shoulders. I struggled with God's call, on Sunday's following church, since things were going so well at the church. Why now God? Yet, once I told the church it seemed like the pressure valve was released. I think it is safe to say that there were mixed feelings in reaction to our news. One of the comforts was that they knew me well enough to know I was following God's call and I was not leaving because of other reasons. So many in the church have continued to be supportive of us and our ministry in light of the impending changing of the guard. I am so blessed to be the pastor to some of the greatest people in the world.

On July 10, we were supposed to meet with Chaplain Walker, my Chaplain Recruiter. However, on July 9, the Army came in and told him that he was being moved. We finally got to meet Chaplain Walker in September.

I waited until July 13, to call my parents. I was not looking forward to telling them. I could only image their reaction to my news. Rarely do parents want their child(ren) to join the Armed Forces with the reality or war. Note to self: Take a deep breath! When I called my folks, mom was not home from work yet. I told my dad first and he was shocked! If my dad took the news this way how would my mother react? Finally, my mother got home from work and it was time to tell her. As I shared she attentively listened. After I had told her she said, "Okay." Okay? Wow! I wondered if she was sick. She took the news better than my dad did. She was supportive and assured me of her knowledge that I was in God's hands. I know that God will help us all as we go through this process together. Thanks for being supportive Mom!

July 23, we got an unanticipated call. The nursing facility in Alabama called to ask when we could have Dad there. In less than a month God had done what was humanly impossible. It reminds me of Revelation 3:7 from the Contemporary English Version: "When I open a door, no one can close it. And when I close a door, no one can open it." Without a doubt God had worked all this out. We had Dad back in Alabama on July 25.

God gave confirmation on top of confirmation. There are hurdles behind us and before us. I thank God for His faithfulness through this process.


September 5, 2007

A Look Back

I actually need to tell a little back story to continue showing God's graciousness and moving during our process of joining the Army.

My father-in-law has had mini strokes for years. He had one in the summer of 2006 but it really only affected his math skills. Otherwise he seemed to do fine. As you may or may not know back in December of 2006 my father-in-law had a stroke that made him unable to live by himself. Just days before the stroke he had been teaching at Troy Dothan and driving around town. Oh at the difference of a few days. He was very fortunate that the stroke did not cause more damage than it did. With the news that he would not be able to live by himself Laura and I made the decision to move him to live with us. We had to clean out his home and get it sold, we had to divide his belonging into five different categories: Dad's, Della's, Laura's, yard sale and eBay. Laura stayed in Alabama to get Dad's affairs in order and she worked tirelessly while Dad was in rehab. Victoria and I had returned to Virginia with a U-Haul trailer full of stuff for Dad, us and eBay.

At the very end of January we moved Dad and another trailer full of stuff from Alabama to Virginia. It was a difficult transition for the whole family, but we made it. Dad was walking around the house slowly with his walker and feeding himself. We were grateful for these little steps of progress. I remember riding down the road and feeling like God was telling me that he was taking us to the next level in our faith journey. I remember thinking that I was happy right where I was.

Within the first six weeks at our house Dad went to the hospital six times and he was admitted five. The last time he was admitted to the hospital the doctor's told us that we would not be able to take care of all his needs at home. They suggested he go to a nursing facility to get rehab and after rehab he might be able to come back and live with us. Not long after he got into the nursing facility we realized that he was not progressing as we had hoped he would.

Back at the end of summer 2006 we had taken on some of Dad's debts. We had two credit cards that had nothing on them and offered a better interest rate than the accounts that he had. While he was living with us he had enough money to pay his bills and to pay us back as well. Once he went into the nursing home, however, we were left with the remainder of that debt. We knew from the beginning that this outcome was a possibility, but we knew that we had done the right thing.

Since Dad could not afford the nursing facility with his retirement and Social Security he applied for Medicaid. God is so good, he was accepted for Medicaid. He only got $30 per month for any person expenses etc. We were so excited for dad even though he would not be able to repay the debt to us.

Just before Memorial Day Weekend Dad was sent to the hospital from the nursing facility. He had gotten dehydrated and he just needed some fluids. Once they got him hydrated they were ready to send him back to the nursing facility. They would not accept him! We could not believe it. They tried to put it off on us saying it was because we did not pay to hold the room for him. They ended up telling us that they would not have taken him back even if we had of held the room. Great what now? As if our plates were not full enough with the impending upheaval now this situation with Dad. So, even though Dad was well enough to leave the hospital, he couldn't. It took close to two weeks to find a place for him but he ended up in Richmond. At first we did not like him being that far away from us, but in the end it was a blessing in more than one way.

At the new facility they really worked with Dad to get him mobile. WOW! They had given up on him at the facility in Warsaw. Dad really liked the place and we were thankful that the situation had worked out the way that it did.

We were now headed toward the end of June and we were certain God wanted us in the Army so we began to look for a place back in Alabama for Dad. At the end of June we submitted an application to the same facility he had been at before coming to Virginia. Then we waited.

August 28, 2007

A Long Journey

To get into the Army as a Chaplain is not necessarily an easy task. As a Chaplain I have to be endorsed by a denominational body. Since our church is affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) I knew that I would go with one of the two agencies. I had a feeling that we would go thorough the CBF since Laura had been divorced and since I did not attend and graduate from a Southern Baptist Seminary. I contacted the CBF and was waiting to hear back from them. I talked to a missionary friend of ours and he told me I should at least check with the the North American Mission Board (NAMB is the SBC endorsement agency). I called the NAMB and the stated issues would not keep me from being endorsed through the NAMB. I still waited to hear something from the CBF. I sent an email to the CBF, no response. I called and left a message, no response. I finally talked to the coordinator and he told me that he would call me back the next day. He finally responded, three months later. After waiting for more than a week I took this as a sign that God had closed the door to the endorsement through the CBF. I prayed that God would shut doors that he wanted shut and I saw this as a door that He had shut. We began the process of being endorsed by the NAMB.

There was a lot of work that had to be put into the application to be endorsed. One of the things that worried me the most was when it asked for references. These references would have to be from people within the church. I had only shared our story with the Mace and Thompson families. Take a deep breath. One by one I sat down and told those that I needed references from. All were very supportive. I asked that they would keep this to themselves until I shared it with the church. I wanted the news to come from me and no one else. They respected my wishes. Now I had to wait for the complete application to be assembled and presented to the NAMB Chaplaincy Board.

We also officially began the application process for the Army. There was not a real big hurry since it was only June, I needed to loose weight and the first opportunity for me to go to basic would not be until January 2008.

Confirmation continued to come.

Maxine Shockley, who is a member of our church and a good friend, bought this card for us. She felt as though God had guided her to get it for us. After she purchased the card it was misplaced. Later, she found it and then sent it on to us. I am amazed at the words of the card and its timing. At another time it would not have had the meaning that it did. I had prayed for confirmation and this is another confirmation of God's calling in our lives. Maxine sent this to us not knowing what God was doing in our lives. She was not one of the few who knew.

As from the beginning, Laura, Victoria and I were all on the same page. We knew God was calling us and we were responding. I had struggled with the issue of the possibility of death while deployed but God had put me at ease. I knew that no matter what I was in God's hands. If I was supposed to die there I would and if not I would not. God is in control.

However, my concern for Laura and Victoria was present. Who would help them while I am gone? It did not take long to get the answer to that question. We were headed to the Home School Convention in Richmond and I felt God urging me to take the current edition of On Mission to read. The main topic of the issue was for come back churches. I wondered what God had for me in the edition. We had some free time that afternoon and I got out my reading material and turned to the table of contents. Then I realized that before me was the answer to my prayers and concerns. If you would like to read the complete article click on the following link.

God heard my prayers and concerns for Laura and Victoria. I knew that God was assuring me by letting me know that there are churches that have ministries specifically for those left behind. I believe we will be close to such a church while I am deployed.

We have come so far, yet, we have so far to go.

Wind Blowing in Storm of Confirmation

As I stated in my last blog, the winds of change were blowing. Through the homeschooling group and the local Baptist Association we met the Mace family. The Maces had come to our area of Virginia when Katrina ran them out of Louisiana, where Chance was getting his seminary education. Chance is a United States Army Reserve Chaplain. I remember a couple of conversations that Chance and I had about his ministry in the military. He told me about the ministry and I thought it was a wonderful ministry. On another occasion he asked if I wanted to become a Chaplain and I laughed, it may have been nervous laughter, and told him that I was not interested. If I had to be in the Armed Services I told him I would want to be on a ship. That way I could send missiles into combat zones from many miles away. It was these conversations "seeds" that God used to change my heart and steer us toward the military.

It is hard to explain how God began to transform our hearts and minds. It becomes even more difficult if you try to explain it to someone who has not experienced God moving mountains in their own lives. I will do my best to explain it and hope that the Spirit of God will help you to understand.

Resonating in my mind was the fact that in the military about 80% of our time is spent in counseling. I love the counseling setting. Then a crazy thought passed through my mind. It sounded to me that the military was a perfect fit for who I am as a person. But, I have a family and I do not want to die young and leave my family. For at least a few days there was an internal struggle...the battle was being waged in me. How would I tell Laura? How would I tell my mother? What about my daughter? So many questions and so few answers.

Laura being my best friend, I had to find a way to tell her. I do not really remember the initial conversation, but I do remember it's outcome. Surprisingly she was not shocked by what I told her. She agreed that the military ministry sounds like me. God was working in her life just as he was working in mine. After we had this conversation I told her and God that I needed confirmation. We were not ready to leave Menokin. We still have five more years here, right?

The next day Laura picked up the mail from the post office and I got a copy of the Religious Herald. Splashed across the front page was this picture entitled Front Line Ministry. Remember to be careful when asking God for something. I had asked for confirmation and here it was in my hands. I have attached links to a number of articles from the paper.

The winds of change had blown in a storm of confirmations. All of the above articles God used to confirm His calling upon our lives. About two days later we got our copy of the Northern Neck Electric Cooperative magazine. Here is a picture of the cover. I did not take these things as a coincidence. I had asked for confirmation and here it was, again. I know that many got and read these publications and they did not decipher anything from them. Yet, God had prepared us to receive these articles. Amazingly the confirmations are not over yet.

Now began the difficult task of figuring out what branch to serve in. We did not feel like God cared what branch we were to go into. Our first option was the Navy. That should not be a surprise based on previous statements. Laura went to school with someone who has been in the Navy for years and we communicated with him and his wife. After talking to them we did not think that was what we wanted. I was sure that I did not want to be a Marine. That left the Army and the Air Force. We first looked into the Army and felt like that may be the right branch but we were not certain. I got in touch with the Air Force and the deployments were easier for the family. The Air Force has 4 month deployments while the Army has 15 month deployments. Okay, lets go Air Force, yes? No. When I looked at the differences in the ministry I knew that it was the Army but how do I tell Laura? I asked God to help me and He did.

About a day or so later I asked her what she was thinking and she said her gut feeling was Army. Phew, thank you God, we were on the same page. Now was the question of Active Duty or Reserves.

Laura in here daily Bible reading read Luke 14:26-27; 33 and shared it with me.
Luke 14:26-27; 33 "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters-- yes, even his own life-- he cannot be my disciple. 27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

We were now both certain that we were to join the Active Duty Army. Why is that? Because our hearts greatest desire is to be Christ's disciples. From the text we discerned that if we loved anything or anyone more than we love Christ we cannot be his disciple. Were we willing to give up life as we knew it to follow Christ in obedience? Yes Lord, here we go! What now?

From the Beginning

"God called you into the Army," rolled off their lips before they had time to process my story. I know that it may sound odd or like I am psychotic, but God did call me into the Army. I am blogging this story so that family and friends can take the journey with us as we set out on the adventures God has before us.

I am a 34 year old Baptist Minister serving in a rural church in Eastern Virginia. Right before graduating from Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, May 2002, I accepted the pastorate position at Menokin Baptist Church, Warsaw, Virginia. From the time we arrived at Menokin we had wanted to stay ten years. Part of our desire to stay that long was to be able to give our daughter stability throughout her years in school. One of the other reasons was our church had a decades old pattern of retaining a minister for five years and then going through the months long process to secure another one. I wanted to break the pattern. I wanted to make the most of the ministry God had given me and I felt like things would not really start happening until we passed the five year mark. Throughout my ministry there had been times that it would have been nice to leave because we were going through difficult times. However, I never felt like God had released me from the ministry at Menokin. May 1, 2007 marked five years of ministry at Menokin. In the beginning of May my wife said, "The winds of change are blowing." I laughed and said, "Yeah, right!" I had underestimated the power of a woman's intuition. By the end of May we were aware that the winds of change were gaining momentum.