Thursday, September 28, 2006

I'm back from the field...

I have lots of stories to tell but no time at the moment. I also have a camera full of photos to share. I took a water-proof camera instead of the digital into the field and so I have to wait until I can get the pictures processed before I post any. If I have an opportunity...I'll try to swing into a one-hour place tonight or tomorrow and get it done. Let me just say that I am very tired and I have some rather rank clothing to get cleaned. I'll get back to you after my nap...

Sunday, September 24, 2006

I worshipped at First Baptist--Jacksonville today...

FBC, Jacksonville has three Sunday morning worship services--two that are more contemporary and one that is more traditional. I attended the 9:45 service which is one of the contemporary services. I arrived at exactly 9:45 and had a little bit of trouble finding a parking space. The church is fairly large for this Colorado boy and I had to drive around a bit before I discovered where I was supposed to be. I didn't see any designated guest parking spaces and chose a spot towards the back of the lot. No outside greeters were visible but there was a steady stream of people going in a side door and I chose to follow them. Walking towards the open door I could hear that the service had already begun. A worship folder was handed to me and I followed the line into the worship center. The Worship Center was pretty full and I didn't immediately see any open seats. I stood still for a moment and then walked across the back of the sanctuary before starting down the center isle towards the front. About halfway to the front a smiling man held up one finger...I nodded yes...and he showed me to a seat on the second row. The worship music was very good. They had about five vocalists on the stage with a band back behind and to the side. The band consisted of drums, bass, and three acoustic guitars. No piano was used. They had a really good sound and I was able to follow their lead into worship very easily. The songs did not flow into each other--there was a clear break between each song. Overall the music was very good. There was a greeting time included in the service and all of those seated around me took the time to speak to me. The pastor is Dr. Mike Turner and he did a good job presenting the message. He had a great introduction and the points in the message were relevant and tied to the biblical text. He referenced the military and the war in Iraq several times which is the right thing to do when you're in Jacksonville, NC. The bulletin listed the names of 61 individuals related to the church who are currently deployed! Pastor Turner was friendly and clearly communicated the message. The invitation struck me as formal and primarily an opportunity to join the church. Several came forward to join and those who came for baptism were celebrated as "desiring baptism into the fellowship". Nothing was said of their salvation, their relationship with Christ, their life-change, or potential decision-counseling that they would be receiving. This, of course, is just my impression on this one Sunday. Overall, it was a good experience and I was certainly able to worship. I felt very comfortable with the environment and did not feel out of place in my blue jeans. I did not get my guest slip turned in--the offering was taken in the middle of the service and I had not actually even opened my worship folder at that point. I did fill it out, intending to hand it to a greeter or someone on my way out but I did not see anyone.

you can check out FBC's website here.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Letter from a Marine

I received this heart-stirring letter, from what must be a North Carolina Marine, detailing the experiences of bootcamp. My good friend David Peterson made sure that I received a copy of the letter. It is moving enough that I thought I would share it with you.

Dear Ma and Pa,

I am well. Hope you are. Tell Brother Walt and Brother Elmer, themarine Corps beats working for old man Chester by a mile. Tell them to join upquick before all of the places are filled. I was restless at first because you got to stay in bed till nearly 6a.m. but I am getting so I like to sleep late. Tell Walt and Elmer all youdo before breakfast is smooth your cot, and shine some things. No hogs to slop, feed to pitch, mash to mix, wood to split, fire to lay.Practically nothing. Men got to shave but it is not so bad, there's warm water. Breakfast isstrong on trimmings like fruit juice, cereal, eggs, bacon, etc., butkind of weak on chops, potatoes, ham, steak, fried eggplant, pie and other regular food, but tell Walt and Elmer you can always sit by the twocity boys that live on coffee. Their food plus yours holds you until noonwhen you get fed again. It's no wonder these city boys can't walk much. We go on "route marches," which the platoon sergeant says are longwalks to harden us. If he thinks so, it's not my place to tell him different. A "route march" is about as far as to our mailbox at home. Then the cityguys get sore feet and we all ride back in trucks. The country is nice but awful flat The sergeant is like a schoolteacher. He nags a lot. The Captain is like the school board. Majors andcolonels just ride around and frown. They don't bother you none. This next will kill Walt and Elmer with laughing. I keep getting medalsfor shooting. I don't know why. The bulls-eye is near as big as a chipmunkhead and don't move, and it ain't shooting at you like the Higgett boys athome. All you got to do is lie there all comfortable and hit it. You don'teven load your own cartridges. They come in boxes. Then we have what they call hand-to-hand combat training. You get to wrestle with them city boys. I have to be real careful though, theybreak real easy. It ain't like fighting with that ole bull at home. I'm about the best they got in this except for that Tug Jordan fromover in Sibley I only beat him once. He joined up the same time as me, butI'm only 5'6" and 130 pounds and he's 6'8" and near 300 pounds dry. Be sure to tell Walt and Elmer to hurry and join before other fellersget onto this setup and come stampeding in.

Your loving daughter,


Thursday, September 21, 2006

I'm back at Camp Lejeune

I flew back to Camp Lejeune yesterday and resumed my training today. I've missed a few things that I will need to catch up on. We went out into the woods today to do "land navigation". I didn't have a clue what we were doing. We did successfully traverse the thick underbrush to find 1 of 2 checkpoints. The five chaplains were teamed together for this exercise. We will get another shot at it next week out in the field.

I don't remember if I've shared anything about the four other chaplains that are training with me. There is one other Southern Baptist, one affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, one independent Baptist, and a Roman Catholic Priest. We all are getting along very well as a team and I will miss these friendships when we go our separate ways at the end of training.

Friday, September 15, 2006

My Father-in-law's Homegoing

I received word this afternoon that my father-in-law had passed away. He had been in poor health for sometime. My wife was able to travel to be with him for the final days of his life. We are thankful for that blessing. Tina and her mom filled the hospital room with the sound of their voices singing hymns in his final hours. I will travel tomorrow to be with them.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Gas Chamber...

Today, I went to the gas chamber! The chamber itself is a simple block building with a very elementary system of creating gas. Small gas canisters are exposed to heat (burner) and "poof", CS gas begins to fill the room. You can read all about CS gas here. We were transported by 7-ton trucks to the Lejeune gas chamber where we divided into groups of 25. MOPP Gear (like a chemical suit) was distributed and we were given a safety brief. When our turn came, we ran in formation to the gas chamber, put our masks on and entered the chamber single file, lining the four walls of the chamber. We were instructed to make sure that our masks were on correctly and then the training began. Gas was released into the room and the fun began. Even with the mask, I could sense the gas. It was kind of hot (peppery) and my eyes were watering slightly. The back of my neck was burning like a real good sunburn. Once the gas filled the room we instructed to close our eyes, take a deep breath, hold it, and break the seal of the mask allowing gas into our mask. Maybe 10 seconds later we were allowed to clear our masks and breath again. Clearing the mask is a simple step of opening a vent in the mask and blowing air out. You then reseal the mask and continue breathing. My eyes watered a little more and my nose began to run. Next, we took our masks off entirely for about 10 seconds and put them back on again. I was tempted to panic not knowing how long I would have to hold my breath but it went pretty quick. I struggled to get my mask on again and sucked in a little gas but was able to get my mask sealed and cleared it a few times and was still ok (eyes burning quite a bit and nose running a lot). Finally, the door was opened and we were told to file out single file like we came in. One difference--we were instructed to take off our masks, open our eyes, and breath in the gas before we left. I couldn't get out quick enough. Back outside, I could hardly keep my eyes open and my nose was running like water. It took about five minutes and then I was pretty much ok. it wasn't fun--but it was a great experience!

Monday, September 11, 2006

I've never been this dirty before...

I've been pretty dirty at various times in my life but nothing like today! I did two different obstacle courses today. Both of them involved stinky swamp water, mud, and me right in the middle. I was up early again today, as is my custom, and was in formation by 6:00am. We marched two miles to the "Litter O Course". This is a series of obstacles that a team of four converses while carrying a litter (gurney) containing a 175 pound medical dummy. The course begins mildly enough with some small waist-high walls to climb over. It quickly becomes a series of water obtacles that involes crawling through mud, swimming through stagnant swamp water, and climbing muddy embankments. All of this while keeping a 175 pound dummy safely out of the water. I was absolutely exhausted while at the same time soaked and saturted with mud and muck. The second course was just as challenging only without the litter and the dummy. There was just as much muddy water! I couldn't take my camera along but here is a picture that sort of represents the idea.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

A Little Bit of History...

I received a deep love for history from my mother and my grandmother. I love to see and experience historical sites. I find myself in the middle of Camp Lejeune's rich history. In September of 1941, the 1st Marine Division set up camp in the middle of a sandy pine forest along the Atlantic coast of North Carolina. Lejeune now encompasses 246 square miles of Marine training ground. It's huge!

I am doing my training at one of many smaller camps that make up the Lejeune complex. Camp Johnson or Montford Point, was begun in 1941 as the primary Marine boot camp for black marines. The nations military was still segregated at that time and would remain so for another decade.

More than 10,000 students are trained at the various schools that are located at Camp Johnson each year--of which I am one.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A Tribute to My Bride

It was 21 years ago today that Tina and I stood at the altar of the Woodland Baptist Church in Jackson, Tennessee and pledged our lives to each other. Without hesitation I would do it again a thousand times! My wife is stunning in her beauty and endless in her talent. She is far more than I deserve and I glory in the grace that has allowed us to share a life together. We are partners in life, partners in parenting, and partners in ministry. Tina is the wife of my youth and the love of my life! 21 is just the beginning!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Marine Corps Leadership Traits

The Marine Corps has identified fourteen leadership traits that they wish to develop within Marines.
  • Justice--to administer rewards & punishments impartially and consistently.
  • Judgment--to make sound decisions based on the known facts.
  • Dependability--to properly perform according to expectations.
  • Initiative--to take action in the absence of orders.
  • Decisiveness--to make prompt decisions with confidence.
  • Tact--to deal with others in a way that avoids offense.
  • Integrity--to demonstrate upright character.
  • Enthusiasm--to perform duty with sincerity and exuberance.
  • Bearing--to create a favorable impression in appearance and conduct.
  • Unselfishness--to deny one's own personal advancement and comfort.
  • Courage--to calmly proceed in the face of danger or criticism.
  • Knowledge--to maintain proficiency in the scope of one's understanding.
  • Loyalty--to remain faithful to country, corps, unit, seniors, subordinates, and peers.
  • Endurance--to maintain physical and mental stamina never quitting.

The church would do well to encourage these same standards. Most of the problems that churches and denominations experience could be eliminated with just a little Marine Corps training.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Worship at Blue Creek Baptist Church

I worshipped at Blue Creek Baptist Church this morning. I located Blue Creek on the internet and chose to worship there because it was the first Baptist church listed and they have a very nice website. You can view it here. I pulled into the parking lot about twenty minutes early (I have a hard time showing up on time). I waited just a few minutes and then made way across the parking lot to the open door. I noticed "visitor parking" places were available right up front. There were plenty of other spaces available and so I bypassed the "special" parking. No one was outside yet and so I made my way in and began looking around a bit. Without too much trouble, I found the worship center and found a good seat. There were a few people already seated and several folks came over and introduced themselves to me. I found the church to be extremely friendly. More than one person came over and began to converse with me as well as others who just said, "hello". Blue Creek has a very nice facility and it is very comfortable. My first impression was good and I'm sure that had I come in closer to ontime I would have been greeted outside as well.

The worship service was a classic traditional/contemporary blend. The style was traditional with clear breaks between every song. The hymns were sung with piano only. The contemporary selections featured the full band (They were very good). I'm not sure why the band did not play on the hymns...perhaps an attempt not to offend "hymn purists". The congregation did not really sing out as a whole and seemed more in the observing mode. Overall, it was pretty well done and I had no problem worshipping God. They used overhead projection for the song lyrics and announcements. The screen disappeared for the sermon.

Pastor Terry Hinson is a very good communicator. He spoke from John 5:16-20. The sermon was based on Henry Blackaby's, Experiencing God. Pastor Hinson is working through the 7 Realities of Experiencing God and was speaking on Reality 3--"God invites you to join Him in what He is doing". It was an excellent message!

I felt very uncomfortable twice during the service. Early on, the church had a time of greeting. I was asked to remain seated as a guest while everyone else stood to look at me. All churches should do away with this form of guest torture. I hate looking at everyone's "eye-level" behinds while they look around for these strange aliens called, "visitors". The other moment of discomfort was at the conclusion of the service when the pastor took the guest cards and read the names of the guests and asked for a hand to be raised in response. I understand the purpose--I just don't like being singled out in that fashion.

Overall--Blue Creek is a great church with their eye on the ball! They have some very innovative ministries designed to reach their community for Christ.

"For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel" (John 5:20).

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Here's What I'm Learning...

In addition to the physical training that I'm experiencing, there is a whole lot of academic instruction going on as well. Here are the classes that I have taken so far:

Marine Corps History and Traditions
Organizational Structure/Chain of Command
Principles of Marine Corps Leadership
Ministry in Military Operations Other Than War
Develop and Implement a Command Religious Program
Facilitate Ministry in Combat
Law of Armed Conflict/Ministry to Enemy Prisoners of War
Mortuary Affairs
Prepare Area Religious Brief for Commander
Pastoral Care to Casualty with Combat Stress

I am tested once a week on the content of the instruction and so quite a bit of study time is required. I'll go into detail on the content of some of the classes in the future.