Here’s my most recent sermon from the Chapel Next service. I’ve had the opportunity to preach more often these past few months and it has been so wonderful to get to study and to share from God’s Word with the Chapel Next community. Things are going to get busier over these next few months and we will probably add some new Chaplains to our ranks who will be anxious to share what God puts on their heart, but I’m so thankful that I’ve been able to teach as much as I have.
I’ve been a daddy for a bit over four years now. Both boys are old enough now that their personalities are starting to come through. Liam is our firebrand. He’s strong and stubborn and so smart that sometimes it’s a bit scary. Ewan is a little more chill but I’ll often see the same fire in his eyes that I see in Liam’s. We have strong boys. They have strong personalities that challenge Laura and I in ways I certainly never anticipated.
I’ll confess that there are times I see other kids and I find myself saying, “I wish my boys were more compliant.” It’s exacerbated by things like Facebook where pictures of kids doing sweet things and playing nicely with their siblings abound. It’s an attitude that comes all too easy and one I need to repent of. You see, the personalities that my boys have weren’t an accident. Their personalities were given to them by God and God has a plan to use these strong boys for his glory. Maybe having kids who were more compliant would be easier for me but then Liam and Ewan wouldn’t be Liam and Ewan.
I don’t know what the future holds for my boys. Right now I know Liam loves to run and play. He loves to test boundaries and he will persist in it even it comes at personal cost. He will ask Laura and I to read him “Digory” (“The Magician’s Nephew”) over a book more his age. He has many passages of Scripture memorized and is on his way to learning the Catechism. If he sees mommy or daddy hurting he’s quick to come over and pat a leg and say, “It’ll be okay, mommy!”
Ewan’s personality is still coming out so I’m hesitant to write too much at this point. He’s a little more laid back than big brother but we’ve seen some of the same persistence in him that big brother has in spades.
All this to say, it’s really easy to look at strong kids and give them the stink eye as mom and dad wrestle them out to the car after a tantrum in a restaurant. To wonder if their parents just let them run wild and never discipline them. As the parent of two strong boys, I can tell you it’s exactly the opposite. Our strong boys require us to be hands on almost all the time. It’s tough and it’s exhausting. Many days it feels like we are spinning our tires.
But with strong boys we have to remember that this parenting gig is a long game. It’s a couple of decades when they are under your direct care and a lifetime of mentoring and loving. It’s looking at the things that can be so frustrating today and seeing how our boys with their stubborn and high energy personalities have the potential to become men who turn the world upside down.
So I hope this can be an encouragement to other parents with strong kids. You are not alone. There are other parents wrestling with scary smart kids with fierce personalities and stubborn streaks a mile wide. The difference is we don’t just see the kid when he’s being carried out to the car in the throes of a tantrum. We see the potential.
For those of you who see those strong kids and their parents who often seem to be knocked on their heels. Remember that these parents are doing their best to channel the energy of their kids toward a God-honoring future. Maybe instead of giving the stink eye as mom and dad try to wrangle the kids and and the groceries to the car you could offer to get the door or push the cart. You will make the day of those parents because, believe it or not, we feel every stink eye and judgmental stare and we hear those whispered comments. Next time try offering a smile or a helping hand. Mom and dad will be eternally grateful.
Our strong boys are a gift. Don’t pity us. Don’t judge us and assume we don’t parent or discipline. Look at our parenting the same way we look at our boys: a long game. It’s one that will have many successes and many screaming failures along the way but by the grace of God we believe that our labors are not in vain. So thanks in advance for the helping hand and the understanding smile. We need all the help and the encouragement we can get and know that we wouldn’t trade our strong boys for the world!
Awhile back I preached a sermon where I looked at three different passages in Mark where Jesus broke away from everyone in order to spent time alone with the Father. One of the practical points of application I gave to the Chapel Next congregation was for us to look to follow that example.
A few months ago I realized that in order for me to be able to recharge my spiritual and emotional batteries, I was going to need to get away from time to time. Hotels are expensive and can also have a lot of distractions so camping seemed like a good idea. To say I’m not much of a camper or outdoorsman would be an understatement. That said, I got a pretty big boost of confidence after my unit spent the better part of three months in the field during January, February, and March. Yes, I can live in a tent and sleep on the ground for many weeks if necessary.
So this week I finally took the plunge. I had my tent, sleeping mat, cooler with a few food items, and my JetBoil and BioLite stove. Not much is required for one night in a campground that has amenities like showers and toilets.
Well, my experiment ended up being exactly what I needed. When I got home I told Laura, “It was magical! I didn’t have to talk to anyone for an entire day!” Do I even need to mention I’m an introvert? I did a good bit of walking. I brought my camera and indulged in my under used photography hobby. I read a big chunk of the Stonewall Jackson biography I’m working through. I read, in one sitting, two books of the Bible (Hosea and James). I prayed for me, my ministry, my family, my friends, and that God would sharpen me as a husband and father.
I also went to Dairy Queen after I cooked my dinner on my BioLite stove. Because…well…I’m a man and I wanted a Blizzard.
This past week was full of Facebook notification each morning with a new “memory” from past years. Those little pictures and status updates reminded just how much things can change in twelve months. I went from the Guard to Active Duty. From making $10/hour at Best Buy to a job that makes it easy to support my family. From feeling like I had a pretty good handle on what it meant to be a Guard Chaplain to having absolutely no idea what it was going to look like doing it every day.
To say that God has been good to us since May of last year would be an understatement. Sure, we’ve had some stressful times as we tried to figure everything out but on the whole it’s impossible not to see God’s blessing in so much of what we’ve experienced.
I was blessed to come into a unit and be immediately surrounded by a great team of people. I can’t say enough about the current leadership of 6-8 CAV. Having that supportive environment made it easy for me to get my legs underneath me and start figuring out what kind of Chaplain I was going to be. I’m still working on that, but I have a much better picture now than I did a year ago. I’ve learned a lot of my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve learned to play to my strengths (e.g. teaching, maintaining a small circle of close friends, maintaining calm in all circumstances) and recognize that every Chaplain brings something different to the table and that God uses all types, skill sets, and personality types to impact the lives of soldiers.
I spent more time in the field in twelve months than I did in twelve years in the Guard. I learned that some of the best conversations can happen around MREs and during lulls in training. I learned how to manage my personal resources so that I would not burn myself out during high optempo times. I learned that those quiet moments in my tent before I went to sleep were a great time to read, pray, and look out the tent flap at the brilliant stars above the Fort Stewart woods.
I learned that you can’t put a price on family time and that I need to make time for them. That means getting out of the office at a reasonable time each day whenever I can. That means taking trips together to enjoy this beautiful area where we find ourselves at this point in our lives. That means making sure I take a little time for myself so that my tank doesn’t run dry and I end with nothing left to give to my wife and kids.
I learned the importance of connecting with people. Thanks to Chapel Next, I connected with three other Chaplains who have been a great joy to get to know, pray with, complain to, laugh with, and do life with. That God put all of us in the same place and living within blocks of each other on post is a testament to how he has blessed us so tremendously. I dread the day that moving trucks start packing these men and their families away but I’m so grateful that during these formative months on Active Duty that they’ve been here.
The past twelve months have simultaneously been some of the most stressful and most rewarding I’ve ever experienced. Here’s hoping we are blessed with many more years ministering to soldiers and their families.
One major difference about being a Chaplain in my current position and being a civilian pastor is that I don’t preach nearly as often. I’ve only preached in Chapel four times since coming on Active Duty a year ago. I’ve done a number of shorter field services but in terms of the more traditional preaching that you’d see in any given church on a Sunday morning, I’ve only done that four times.
I’ve made a very conscious effort since my difficult experiences pastoring that I want to work to be an engaging preacher in terms of delivery. I’m not a great story teller, I’m not a natural at telling jokes, and pithy sermon illustrations are not my strong suite. But. But. God’s Word deserves to be presented in a compelling manner since it contains the most compelling message ever written. So in my opportunities to preach in Chapel I’ve pulled myself out of my introvert comfort zone and started working to present whatever text I’m preaching in a manner that is engaging.
I think that given time I would have gotten there in the pastorate but the Chaplaincy has forced me to maximize my preaching opportunities and that probably pushed me to hone my craft more quickly than I would have other wise.
Here are my four sermons from Chapel Next this past year: