What a day! My feet hit the ground in the morning and it was a whirlwind of a day until I made it back to my room late in the afternoon. It was busy but it was awesome and I am glad to be here. Through the entire day, I felt the presence of God through my interactions with other people.
My day began with breakfast with my Brigade Chaplain. We had time to talk about my background and my time in ministry as we planned out our goals for the day to get through some of the in-processing. It was good to have the time to sit down and take a breath and ease into the day rather than hit it at full speed. I will admit this was the calmest part of the day.
After checking out some houses, I had the chance to participate in my first VTC with the division chaplain at Ft. Bliss as well as other brigade chaplains. The VTC came me a bit of time to get a feel for what is going on and what is going to happen within our brigade and beyond.
Then there is the whole adjusting back to the military again. It has been a while but I am slowly getting my military bearing back again so that is helpful. I seem to have a great Chaplain Assistant who is high-speed and squared away.
I am drinking from the fire house today. So where did I feel the presence of God? Everywhere!
Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is theLord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.’ ~Deuteronomy 31:6 (NRSV)
I had my worries and nervousness but I need not fear anything because I felt God everywhere today leading me where I had to be. Chaplains at Fort Hood are respected and given a lot of privilege. Those privileges allow us to breeze through things a bit quicker than normal and things are a bit easier. Along the way, there are people to point you in the right direction and it is awesome.Not because I get the special treatment but because God is in those moments. I am going exactly where I need to be. I am heading on the right path. I am being lead and it is all God. There is nothing to fear or worry about because God will not fail or forsake me.
Do you have the same experiences with God? If not, I challenge you to hand over your life to God and let God take control. You will not be a puppet but you will no longer have to worry about things because they will take care of themselves. God is good and God wants to help. Enjoy life with God!
Today is the day and it has finally arrived. In just a few hours, I will be heading for Fort Hood, TX to report for active duty. In the process, I am leaving my family (temporarily) and Nashville (for a lot longer). I knew it was coming and it came suddenly. Nashville has been home for nearly seven years and now all of that is about to change. I am sad to leave and unsure of what is coming next. There are some thoughts to keep me going today.
I know that my separation from my family is only temporary. I need to report before housing is available so I am heading off today so I can report on Monday. I know my family is just about a month behind me. Last year, I was at Fort Jackson, SC for three months and I went much longer without seeing them. With the technology available to us, I can keep in touch and keep connected until we are together again.
I refuse to say good-bye to anyone. I know paths will cross again at some point. Nashville has been home and I have formed some great friendships along the way. Nashville is also on the trip back to Pennsylvania so we will have to stop here overnight which means visiting with friends. Sometimes we have to say farewell to move on to other things. They are not easy but with friends (and with Christian friends), we never say good-bye. I like this quote I found yesterday:
“A farewell is necessary before we can meet again, and meeting again, after moments or a lifetime is certain for those who are friends.” ~Richard Bach
Finally, I go with God. I know I keep repeating this but it is the truth. I am on this journey because God has called me on this path. I really don’t know what is in store but I know I go with God. That is all that really matters in the end. This morning as I was reading through my devotionals, I came across two verses that jumped out at me.
…do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. ~Isaiah 41:10 (NRSV)
I have nothing to fear because God is right there. Countless verses in Scripture allude to the fact that following God’s path may not be easy but God will be right there with us each step of the way. I go today knowing this.
What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? ~Romans 8:31-34 (NRSV)
Again, a similar idea to Isaiah. God is with me (and us) so I really have nothing to fear. Instead, as I prepare to leave Nashville, I look back on the friendships and the lessons I learned over the past seven years. I have grown considerably and as I have been saying, I take each of the people I have met with me wherever I go. The lessons they taught me and the love they showed me will go with me always. It is a wonderful idea that a seed planted in a person will grown and blossom and produce fruits – sometimes far away – but you have a part in planting that seed and nurturing it for a time.
Thanks friends, I will miss you but I cherish what you have shared with me.
It’s funny how things work out. A year ago (today), I was at Fort Jackson for the beginning of CH-BOLC class 12-001 as a 2LT (I miss my butter bar). The first hours were tense and I doubted my journey more than once – and all we did was paperwork that first day! It is funny to look back on those early days as we drank from the fire hydrant to take in as much as possible as many of us were civilian ministers coming into the Army with no prior experience. Now, I am about to jump off on another journey with God and a bit of it is unknown. I really don’t know what I am getting into again but I know God is there and I am excited! So what have I learned in the year since I was a “Sacred Warrior” (class motto)?
- Go with God. I know this is obvious but there are times when we are in spots when we forget God is there. Moses, David, Solomon, and even Jesus had moments when they were looking for God’s presence. Each time that I thought I had reached my limit, I found God right there to keep pushing me farther.
- Don’t Doubt Yourself (aka Believe in Yourself). While this goes with my first point, you have to believe in yourself when you go with God. I have found that God puts me where I need to be at the exact moment that I need to be there. I should have no doubts whatsoever because I am where I am supposed to be. I doubted myself at the beginning but learned to believe in myself because I was on God’s path. That lesson has been reinforced so much over the past year and I am ready to see what is next.
- Believe in Others. It was hard to believe in myself but others believed in me and showed me that I had what it took to keep going. I also began to see that in others and encouraged them as well. God speaks to us in many ways including through others (and through us). We need to believe in each other and support them.
- We Are Part of a Team. This is obvious in the Army that we are all part of a team but we are in life as well. We have families. We have churches. We have work. We have so many groups that we belong to and those groups need each person to do their share for the success of the group. It is a cliche but there is no “I” in team.
My time at CH-BOLC was a great experience and a time of growth and learning. I made lifelong friends that I look forward to seeing again in the future. I grew in my faith and relationship with God and I learned to cherish my family even more. I pray that you can all have a CH-BOLC (aka wilderness) experience of your own. They are awesome and make you a stronger person in many ways.
Here is today’s sermon based on Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23 for the 15th Sunday after Pentecost. It is also the last sermon I will preach at my current unit (since this is also my last BTA with my current unit).
While it may seem to be more to you, your name is nothing more than a group of letters that join together to form sounds to make a word. The significance of a name comes from the person behind it.
I want to give you a quick example through a simple word association. What comes to your mind when I say Jesus? What about when I say Adolf? Both names were quite common during their day and both have become associated with a specific person because of the actions of the bearer. One name is associated with all things good and perfect while the other name is associated with all things evil. If that isn’t enough, there are more Jesuses in the world today than there are Adolfs.
What does your name say about you? I want my name to stand for God. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 22 some of the characteristics I want people to see in me when they say my name. Today, I want to talk about three of them.
- I want my name to carry honor (v. 1-2).
It is no surprise that honor and respect are two of the Army values. They help to define who we are what we do when we put on this uniform. There are people who want to join the Army just to be part of that honor and respect but it takes more than just a uniform to make a person. So how do we get it?
The answer is rather simple. IT comes through ethical and moral conduct – also known as integrity. We need to a high standard of justice and responsibility that come through our connection to God. Christianity should not merely be a label we wear but a lifestyle we live daily. When we continue to be faithful to our spouses or significant others, our families and friends, we are earning honor and respect. When we live our lives the same if someone is watching us or not, we are earning honor and respect.
It is interesting to note that the Greek word for honor was also used for “weighty” or “valuable” and a good example is gold. We often describe things of high value and importance as the gold standard. For a Christian there is no higher gold standard than the Golden Rule which offers respect and honor to everyone we meet. This is just one of the ways I want my name to be remembered.
- I want my name to be synonymous with generosity (v. 8-9).
A boy in a small village listened as his teacher explained why Christians give presents to each other on Christmas Day. The teacher explained that the gifts were expressions of joy and friendship for each other. When Christmas Day arrived, the boy stayed after school to give a gift to his teacher. It was a shell of remarkable beauty and the teacher was surprised to receive such a gift. She asked the boy where it came from and he told her that the shells could only be found in a bay that was a long walk from his home. She told the boy it was a wonderful gift but he should not have walked so far to get her a gift. With sparkling eyes, he answered, “Long walk part of gift.”
It is easy to be generous when you have extra money or time but then are you really being generous? When you share what you have – not your extra – then you are truly being generous with one another. Making sacrifices for one another, giving when you have little to give, and sharing when you barely have enough are signs of a true giver. I can remember days in elementary school when I opened my lunch box and found not one but two Oreos – now I had something to share with a friend.
Jesus said whatever we do to the least of these, we do to him. When we are sharing what we have with those around us – whether it be Oreos, time, talents, knowledge, or money – we are sharing with Jesus. Again, the desire to be generous comes from our connection to God. It is a remarkable thing that God’s generosity with us, in the form of blessings and his Son, inspires us to do the same thing. It is through our generosity that we can share our love of and connection to God. It is this connection that allows generosity to be synonymous with our name.
- I want my name to be synonymous with compassion (v. 22-23).
The world lacks compassion. All we have to do is watch the evening news to see one story after another that shows the cruelty we inflict upon each other. It seems like we are all shoving each other and stomping on each other to get to the front of the line. It’s a dog eat dog world. As long as I don’t finish last, who cares, right? The problem is everyone has this same attitude so we all end up being last in the end.
Here is another Greek lesson for you. The Greek work for sympathy means “to feel or suffer with”. When we have sympathy and compassion for one another, we share in their pain rather than contribute to it. We walk with then and we listen to them. This is not acting as Job’s friends and offering solutions to the pain but rather offering a shoulder to the pain.
You may notice that generosity is the response to people’s needs while compassion is the reason. Compassion arises in us because, get ready, we have a connection to God and we see other people as children of God. When we begin to look at the world through the eyes of Jesus, we see pain and suffering and we feel a desire to go and help those who need it.
Have you noticed how everything is really just a circle? With the eyes of Jesus, we see others with compassion which leads us to a desire to share and be generous. Sharing and generosity give honor and respect to those who need it most. It becomes a never-ending circle of glory to God.
I find myself ending where I started this sermon – what’s in a name? I want my name to mean something to people but then I realize it is not about me at all. It is all about God. It doesn’t matter if my name has honor and respect, generosity, or compassion attached it. What really matters is whether my name has God attached to it. When I live for God and live as God leads me, amazing things happen – my name becomes associated with respect/honor, generosity, and compassion – not for me but for God. When I live for God’s glory, it shows in all aspects of my life. After all, it’s not about me, it’s not you, it’s about God. Amen.
Here is today’s worship bulletin.
This weekend, I will be preaching for the Soldiers of my unit during our monthly BTA. I am focusing on what our names mean to others but this morning I was thinking of one line in my sermon in particular – that Christianity should not be a label we wear but rather a lifestyle we live.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul. Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge. ~1 Peter 2:9-12 (NRSV)
I think that when we accept Christ, we live for Christ and it becomes part of who we are in the deepest sense. Our actions, our words, and our very lives point to Christ and there is no doubt that we are Christians. I think if we are fully in Christ and living out Christ in our lives, we need not tell another person that we are Christian – it should be plainly obvious!
Today (and everyday), I want to challenge you to live out Christ in all that you do. Make your actions, your words, and you very life honorable in Christ’s name and live in such way as to bring glory to God. I don’t know about you but today I will carry Christ wherever I go.
I have been reading protocols on caring for the dying and military funerals. There is a lot of heavy stuff Chaplains have to deal with in the course of a day. Granted, not every day involves death and dying but it is part of the job. There is also the counseling and the general problems that come up in day to day ministry. Chaplains care for a lot of people as do mothers and fathers.
This morning as I was reading my Bible, I was reminded that we need to be sure to take care of ourselves as well. I focused on a familiar text from Matthew:
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” ~Matthew 11:28-30 (NRSV)
It is a beautiful scripture to think and reflect upon. In the midst of everything around us, we can simply come to Jesus and give up our cares and worries and take his yoke upon us. There is rest in the Lord and it is gratifying that we can depend on Jesus for rest. But what does that rest look like and how do we find it?
- Reading the Bible: I know this is an obvious answer but sometimes, you just need to get away from everything. A good way to do it is to find your Bible, open it, and spend some time reading the word of God. Many of us have a favorite passage or two and this is a good place to start. Using a study Bible may lead you to other passages that can speak to you as well. It’s like a coffee break for your soul.
- Spending Time in Prayer: It may not always be possible to stop in the midst of chaos and read your Bible but it is always possible to pray. It doesn’t have to be anything formal or long but just a simple prayer from deep inside your soul expressing your longing and your need. Peace and rest will come even if it just lasts a moment or two – you can find rest to keep going.
- Go for a Walk or Run: Sometimes we just need to go away and get away from everything for a time. Go for a walk (or run). Spend time in nature and looking for God’s presence in nature. You will be distracted and find some rest for a time. It is a good thing to get away.
These are just a few ideas and I am sure there are other ways. Sometimes we just need to throw our hands up and say “Jesus, I can’t do this. Please help!” It is not a bad thing to admit we need help from time to time. When we admit it, we find peace and rest and strength to keep going.
Do you have ways that you find Jesus’ rest? Please share them in the comments.
When I say “joy-stealers”, I am sure an image of a person pops into you head. I know several people that as soon as they walk into a room, they seem to suck the joy right out of the place (if this were Hogwarts – they would be dementors).
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. ~John 15:9-11 (ESV)
I bring this up and share this verse with you for several reasons. First, I want you to be aware that we cannot choose our situation but we can choose how we deal with it. There are going to be moments when everything seems to be crumbling all around us and we can react in anger, anguish, pain, or remember that God is with us and so we can react in joy. I am slowly learning this in my own life (sometimes the hard way).
As I am embarking, with my family, on a new journey in the world of military ministry, I want to enjoy the journey. I want to savor each moment and find God in each moment – even during the stresses. I am reminded by the scripture that as I abide in Jesus’ love, I abide in his joy as well. There is joy in all things – sometimes we just have to look for it.
The second reason I share this is to tell you that you never know when you will be reminded of things. This message began this morning with an email from the senior chaplain assistant for the 3rd MDSC of which my unit is part. He sent out a spiritual fitness booster and it was just the message I needed to hear. God is awesome!
Life is hard and we can approach with anticipation or dread. I am going to enjoy the journey with God knowing that I abide in God’s love.
Life’s a climb but the view is worth it. ~Hannah Montana
Change is never easy but it is part of life. All we have to do is look around us and we see change occurring by the second. The weather. The time. The neighborhood. Our bodies. Some changes are bigger than others – marriage or the birth of a child. Some changes are exciting and bring joy. Other changes bring sadness and loss. Today, I am going through the beginning of a major change that has a combination of many things.
Today was my last Sunday with the congregation of Mt. Denson Cumberland Presbyterian Church. It was planned and I knew today would be my last day since I have BTA next weekend and I would like a weekend off before I go to Fort Hood. I knew it was coming but it doesn’t make it easy.
They are a good group of people who deeply love God and want to bring God to their community. They care about each other and that love comes through every thing they do. They are welcoming and to be honest, the first Sunday I preached at the church, I felt like I was home.
What makes it hard is that I fell in love with the church (as in the people) but God has called me to a different ministry. While I am excited to head to Fort Hood and serve as an Army chaplain, it is not easy to say good-bye and face a bit of the unknown. Would I have been happy if I stayed with the Mt Denson Church? Absolutely!
So what do I take from this time with this church?
- A renewed/restored faith in local congregations. I came to this church burned out and hurt from a rough experience with one congregation and an unexpected ending with another one. I vowed I would never serve in a local church again and worked hard to avoid it. However, God had other plans and I found myself called to this church. The result is a renewed faith.
- I will take their love into the world and to everyone I meet. Mt. Denson CP Church knows no strangers. Anyone who walks in the front door is quickly welcomed and finds a place. They are not oppressively loving but their love (an extension of God’s love) shines through. I take that love with me.
- I will take their passion with me. They are in a good position both financially and with the size of the congregation. If they kept at this size and pace, they will do fine but it is not enough. They are on fire for God and want to show that passion to the community. They are sharing their gifts with the congregation to grow and show God’s love.
Change is never easy but it does come. We can either embrace change or fight it but in the end change always wins. I shed some tears tonight as I was walking and reflecting on my time with this church. They were not tears of sadness but tears of joy and happiness knowing that God worked through me to minister to this church and through this church to minister to me. We were a good combination while we were together. It is okay to shed tears and reflect on change.
“I will not say, do not weep, for not all tears are an evil.” ~Gandalf (J.R.R. Tolkien)
Not all tears are an evil but I cannot dwell on this change. God is sending me to a new place and a new ministry and while I am sad that one has ended, I am excited that a new one soon begins. With God, every day is a joy, a blessing, and adventure. I am looking forward to what is coming next!
Here is today’s sermon based on 1 Kings 3:1-15 for the 12th Sunday after Pentecost:
During my seminary journeys, I had the chance to enjoy plenty of bumper stickers. One of my favorites said, “I took an IQ test and the results were negative!” There are times when very intelligent people can get negative results on an IQ test. If you need proof, read the packaging at the local supermarket. Here is a sampling:
- On a bag of Fritos: You could be a winner! No purchase necessary! Details inside.
- On a clothes iron: Do not iron clothes on the body.
- On a bottle of children’s cough medicine: Do not operate car or use machinery after use.
- On my a bottle of Nyquil: Warning. May cause drowsiness.
There is a name for this: sophomore. It comes from two Greek words – sophos meaning wise and moros meaning fool. In other words, a sophomore is a “wise fool” or a person who is just wise enough to be dangerous. They don’t realize how much they don’t know yet. Solomon was a wise fool. He was the wisest man on earth but failed to realize how much he didn’t know. How can such a smart person be so dumb?
We have to wonder if Solomon was too smart for his own good. For as a wise as he was, he made several mistakes that we will try to learn from today. The first mistake is that he started out well but finished so poorly. We can watch runners take off with a burst of speed only to sputter and stagger later in the race. The world is filled with people who were full of so much potential but crashed and burned. There a great many people who start things and even more people who do not finish. The Bible, not surprisingly, has something to say about the importance of finishing well:
- 1 Kings 20:11: The king of Israel answered, ‘Tell him: One who puts on armor should not brag like one who takes it off.’
- Matthew 24:13: But anyone who endures to the end will be saved.
- 2 Timothy 4:7-8: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
Think of what Solomon was like in the beginning. God came to him in a dream and offered him his heart’s desire. Solomon chose wisdom over all else because he wanted to be a good king for his people. Because of his wise choice, God also gave him riches and fame as well. Solomon had a lot to say about living wisely but he never followed his own advice. He encouraged fear of the Lord but he stopped fearing the Lord. He was a wise fool.
The secret of finishing well is careful preparation. Go over the basics again and again until you have them down. Solomon forgot all about the basics as he became involved in the more spectacular of life. He wanted to grow his own wisdom rather than rely on God’s wisdom. He built a magnificent temple for God and then built an even grander palace for his 700 wives and 300 concubines. Solomon worshiped God alone at first but then started to worship the gods of his wives and neighbors. Instead of influencing others about God, he was seduced by other gods. His wisdom became foolishness. That was his first mistake.
The second mistake was that Solomon was a minimalist in everything he did. He did just enough to survive. He stopped growing in God. In fact, when it came to things of God, he less and less until he did nothing at all.
Solomon’s original name was Jedidiah which means “loved of the Lord.” It did fit him well as first. He was going to the be the king that David failed to be. Then Solomon was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force and no longer wished to use his power for good. He only worshiped God in public.
If the life of Solomon teaches us anything, it is ignoring God is the road to foolishness and despair. All we have to do is read Ecclesiastes to see this or compare Solomon to Jesus. One wallowed in shame and despair in the presence of God while the other grew in stature the more time he spent in the presence of God.
The problem in America today is not the immorality of the media, it is not the unethical behavior of our leaders, it is not our courtrooms or our schools; the problem in America is the church. The people of God are failing to be what we need to be. We sit down when we need to stand up. We are salt that has lost its saltiness. We are a light under a basket. We are not doing bad things but we are not doing the things we should be doing. We are simply letting ourselves be seduced by the Dark Side of the Force as we walk down a slippery slope.
This leads to the final mistake – Solomon let his strength become his weakness. His strength was his wisdom and he spent more time thinking than praying. Solomon was so impressed by his knowledge that he questioned everything and believed nothing. There was no avenue of knowledge he did not pursue but it did not lead to understanding but rather to confusion. It can be summed up by Romans 1:22-23 which says: “Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.” That clearly describes Solomon, and often many of us. Solomon valued the gift more than the Giver.
Your weaknesses are the exaggeration of your strengths. If you are a laid back, even tempered person who never gets upset over much, it is a tremendous strength. But carried too far, you may not get anything done, or you may fail to stand up for something when you need to. Perhaps you are a go-getter. Your strength is that you can get more done in a day than most people can accomplish in a week. It is a great strength, but if it goes too far you may be so overly committed that you neglect your family or your own need for spiritual reflection. You may be so driven that you take no time for your relationship with God or others. You may try to push others to the same level that you are driven. Someone’s strength may be that they are very practical and have clear goals. The shadow side of that is that you carry it too far and forget people’s feelings in your attempts to arrive at those goals. Your strength may be your humor, but carried too far you fail to take even important things seriously. What is your strength? Are you financially astute? Does your strength become weakness as it leads you to base your security in money rather than God? Is your strength intelligence? Does it lead you to ask so many questions that you never find any answers? Don’t let your strength become a weakness. Don’t take it too far. Don’t forget your dependence on God.
Robert Fulghum reminds us that real wisdom is found in the simple lessons of life. He wrote, “Most of what I really need to know about how to live, and what to do, and how to be, I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand box at nursery school. These are the things I learned: Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody…. When you go out into the world, watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.”
What Fulghum was saying was that you can make life too complicated. Real wisdom means loving God and loving others. That is pretty much it. My grandmother used to tell me not to get too smart for my own britches. That is still good advice.
Here is today’s worship bulletin.
Here is today’s sermon based on Ephesians 4:25-5:2:
Do you remember the old children’s verse that began with “sticks and stones may break my bones”? We would often say this tom someone who said something mean or hurtful to us. The rest, of course, says, “but words will never hurt me!” The older we get, the more we realize that words do hurt us. There may be no scars on the outside but many times the scars from the words of others leaving last scars deep inside of us.
In our world here it is easy to get wrapped up in Army Strong and hooah when we put on this uniform. The pride that comes with this uniform and the purpose behind wearing it can often shade our better judgment when speaking to those around us. We have a mission to fulfill and it’s okay if we stomp on some toes or come across as being abrupt in our communication. No one was hurt and they know it’s our focus on the mission that dictates our words, right? Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.
In our text today, Paul tells us as Christians to encourage one another through our words and through our deeds. In our text we have six ways to encourage others as leaders, as Christians, and as Soldiers.
- We can speak the truth in love. The first way we can encourage one another is by removing falsehood and speaking the truth in love. On one side we must stop lying to each other, while on the other side we must speak the truth in a loving manner. Many times we try to avoid conflicts by fudging on the truth (does this dress make me look fat?). We do not want to hurt the other person’s feelings, or so we tell ourselves. Actually, we probably don’t want to get involved to the point that we put ourselves at risk. Loving relationships, though, mean that we do put ourselves in the place where we can be hurt for another’s welfare. At the same time we must not be blunt to the extent that we needlessly offend. Love must be our guide. We must ask ourselves what is the most loving way to express the truth. If you honestly care about another person, you can find ways to temper the truth through love so it is not harsh or blunt but rather the honest truth.
- We Encourage Others by Not Allowing Our Anger to Become Sin I have a temper that can get the best of me from time to time. There are certain triggers that just set me off (Memphis story). While anger is an emotion that arises in any relationship, we must not allow our anger to become sin. Biblical anger always involves a righteous reaction to sinfulness. But biblical anger is always seasoned by love and redemption. Sinful anger wants to hurt and get revenge. As Major Jackson said yesterday, we need to focus our anger and challenge ourselves. It is one of those cases where we have to decide whether it is ourselves or the other people that are making us angry.
- We Encourage Others by Working Hard Paul expresses a third manner in which we can encourage other people, and that is through sharing the goods we have gained through hard work. In verse 28 we are admonished not to steal but to work hard in order to have something to share with those who are in need. Sometimes the best thing we can do for someone is to supply a material need. Providing food or clothes or paying a medical bill can build others up in ways we could never imagine. The only way we can meet such a need is to be in a position financially to do so. Consequently, our income through gainful employment becomes a means for encouraging others. Hear me – I did not say you should only work so you can give it all away. I am saying that when we find ourselves with abundance and extra to share, we can encourage others by sharing what we have earned through our hard work.
- We Encourage Others by Speaking Positive Words Verse 29 is a verse that seems to tower over the rest of the passage. Words are not neutral. The words we say are either positive, which means they build up other people, or they are negative, which means they tear down other people. Evaluating our words as to whether they are positive or negative is one of the most difficult things for us to do. We need to be concerned with more than what we say and why we say it. We must be mindful of the way the other person hears and receives what we say. Perhaps the most encouraging thing we can do for others is to use our words to build them up.
- We Encourage Others by Forgiving Them The fifth way our passage teaches us to build up others is by forgiving them. Forgiveness means not taking into account wrongs we suffer. Forgiveness also involves treating the one who has sinned against us as though he or she has not done anything to us. We can forgive others even if they do not ask for our forgiveness, but full reconciliation takes place only when they admit their wrongs and ask our forgiveness. Think of the times in your life when you have had to ask for forgiveness. Can you remember how encouraging it was when you received forgiveness? So we need to be “tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”
- We Encourage Others by Walking in Love Paul’s final exhortation on how we can encourage others is to walk in love. Our whole attitude and demeanor should be characterized by love. Such a character trait includes putting others before ourselves, wanting and working for the best for and in others, being patient and kind, and hoping and believing in others. Love is an action and not soupy sentimentality. We can encourage others best when we love them most.
The apostle Paul has given us practical instruction into exactly how we can encourage other people. The hard part for us is to apply what we know is right. The best application I can give you is to quote St. Francis of Assisi: “It’s no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.” Amen.
Here is today’s worship bulletin.
Here is today’s sermon based on John 6:21-34:
I want to invite you to a celebration and an adventure. You are invited to join a growing number of people all over this planet in celebrating the good news that the new age of God is literally transforming this present age! You are invited to join them in the unprecedented adventure of allowing God to use your life to change this world. You are invited to dare to believe that God is conspiring through your life and the lives of others like you to make a difference in his world. Quite simply, you are invited to live out your Christian faith among the rest of the world.
God calls us to hope and to action. Our hope is based on the biblical faith that God is very much alive and is very much the Lord of history. God is, even now, working to bring God’s new future into being in this place and this time. God is here!
Our action is made possible by the power of God’s spirit working in our lives to change this world. We are part of that mysterious work that uses the small, the insignificant, the invisible, and the incomprehensible to change the world.
Now, to accept this invitation, you have to do something. First of all, you have to tune your ear so that you can hear the gospel. For example, in the text for today there are two levels of communication going on. This is characteristic of the Gospel of John, where there is always the message of the surface and then the message of the deeper level of the spirit. New Testament theologian Sandra Schneiders says this about the Gospel of John: “The Fourth Gospel has been described as a body of water in which a child can wade and an elephant can swim.”
In today’s lesson we read about the “bread of life.” We know this is a message for the deeper part of us. Jesus is not talking about literal bread, because if he was, one of the disciples would have to ask what kind of bread Jesus wanted. No. He is talking about that which satisfies the hunger of a soul. And aren’t our souls hungry? Our souls hunger for something that we long to provide and often struggle to satisfy. It is this hungering that Jesus is speaking of in today’s gospel.
I need to give you a little background and context for today’s gospel reading. The people have followed Jesus across the lake which was no small feat. If we go back a few verses, we read the familiar story of the feeding of the five thousand or the feeding of the multitude – though that just counts the men so we have to assume the number is probably closer to 20 thousand or more. Jesus is sharing his eternal message with the crowd when his disciples realize it is dinner time (aren’t they always worried about something other than what Jesus is teaching!) and come to Jesus and ask how they are going to feed this crowd. While the disciples are puzzling this, a young boy comes forward and shares all he has – five loaves and two fishes. I would like to think the members of the crowd closest to Jesus witnessed this young boy sharing all he had and sheepishly, they begin to pull out their own snacks that were hidden away in their clothing to share. After all, if this one boy is willing to share, they can share too. And so it goes through the crowd as people begin to witness the sharing and before anyone realizes it, there is more than enough food for everyone in that crowd. In fact there is left overs for later.
The crowd, with full bellies, follows Jesus wanting more food for later because they are happy and satisfied – for the moment. They want to continue to have enough to eat and to satisfy their needs and keep their bellies full. They are not truly listening to Jesus. He knows this feeling will pass when they are hungry again and he tells the crowd that he can offer a better sort of bread and he begins with “I am the bread of life”
At our home we used to receive a lot of catalogs advertising all sorts of things from jewelry to electronics. I know you get them too. Have you “heard” the message of these catalogs with their attractive models and beautiful wares? Do you know what they are really saying to us? They’re saying, “You’re not happy. And you won’t be happy until you have what we are selling. Look at us. Don’t we look happy? We are happy! But, you’re not, so place your order today!” And our garages and attics fill to the brim with stuff that we think will make us happy, and we numb ourselves with alcohol and drugs to make us forget that we are not happy, and all the while trying to satisfy the hunger of the soul with the very things that cannot do it! We are seeking full bellies.
This reality is what makes the text from the Gospel of John so incredibly relevant to us today. Jesus is the bread of life. Jesus is not magic and neither is Jesus some form of insurance to buy into for a rainy day. Jesus is the bread of life that satisfies the hungry soul today. Right now. In this moment.
While preparing for this message, I found myself singing familiar communion hymns that I grew up. I pulled one of the hymnals from my shelf and looked up the hymns listed under “Holy Communion.” I found these lines that keep playing in my mind: “You satisfy the hungry heart with gift of finest wheat. Come, give to us, O saving Lord, the bread of life to eat”.
The spirit of those lines is captured in a little parable about a holy man who rested beneath a tree at the outskirts of a city. One day he was interrupted by a man who ran to him saying, “The stone! The stone! Please give me the stone!” He told how in a dream an angel had spoken to him of a man outside the city who would give him a stone and make him rich forever.
The holy man reached into his pocket and pulled out a large diamond. “Here,” he said, “the angel probably spoke of this. I found it on my journey here. If you want it, you may have it.”
The diamond was as big as his fist and perfect in every way. The man marveled at its beauty, clutched it eagerly, and walked away from the holy man. But that night he could not sleep, and before dawn he ran to the holy man and woke him up saying, “The wealth! The wealth! Give me the wealth that lets you so easily give away the diamond!”
Jesus is the bread of life and in him we satisfy the hungry heart. Why do we come here for worship? Not to simply serve God. That is a pagan idea. We do not have to cajole God to be bounteous to us. God already is bounteous to us, because Jesus is the bread of life. We come to be served; to have Jesus put on the apron and spread a table before us. We come to be sensitized to what God has already given. We come to receive the wealth that lets us give away all our riches. We come for the bread of life.
Here is today’s worship bulletin.
Dear Fellow Christians (and others who read):
While I have shared some thoughts over the controversy surrounding same-sex marriage and especially Chick-Fil-a in the past few weeks, I want to share something with you specifically. Please note that I am an ordained minister in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and an Army Chaplain, however, the opinions expressed in this letter are mine and mine alone.
To begin, I want to encourage all of you to open your minds and your souls to new possibilities. Personally, I am wrestling with same-sex marriage and the Biblical definition of marriage and what this means to myself as a minister and as a Christian. I do not have any clear answers. I cannot sit here right now and say what I believe because I do not know. I pray to God to show me answers as I read Scripture. For those who point to Leviticus and Romans as clear answers, I wonder if you follow the entire book of Leviticus to the letter. I don’t so I choose not to judge. In the meantime, I continue to wrestle knowing I have good company since Abraham, Moses, Jacob, and even the Apostles all wrestled with faith (and one wrestled with God literally). So I encourage you to open your minds and to wrestle with what this means to you and to your faith. If at the end of the day, and after honest, deep soul-searching wrestling, you find that you are truly opposed to same-sex marriage because God has shown you it is wrong, so be it. But be open to wrestling and not because someone in a pulpit tells you it is wrong (remember ministers are wrestling humans as well).
Second, I want to share the fact that even though I went to Chick-Fil-a on Wednesday, it did not make me a Christian. It made me a consumer and nothing more. I chose where to spend my money but I still spent money and I most certainly did not engage in worship at Chick-Fil-a. Instead, I spent money to eat a meal even though I had food at home. I could have used the money for a better purpose or to share with someone else in need. I chose not to do that and so did you. Instead, we made some local franchise owners have a very good day. If I want to live out my Christian faith, there are better ways to do it like waiting in line to serve at a food bank, reach out to those who are homeless, or even lend a shoulder to someone in need. Jesus would have gone where people were in need and I should do the same. I encourage you to do the same as well. I will eat at Chick-Fil-a again, I do enjoy their chicken sandwiches and waffle fries, but because I choose to eat there, I am not a Christian. I am not proud that I ate there and I am not ashamed either.
Finally, I want to encourage you to put people first. I have admitted that I am wrestling with same-sex marriage and the biblical definition of marriage but I keep in my mind that it involves people. We all have humanity in common. I want to encourage you to remember that we are people who are Christian, there are people who are LGBT, there are people who are Muslim, there are people who are atheist, but most most importantly there are people. When we lose sight of the people and focus on the label, it is easy to dwell in hatred and condemn people. I am amazed at my fellow Christians who say that God will send gays to hell and they appear happy about that. What does God think of you attitude. When you stop and remember that each of these people you are condemning were also “ fearfully and wonderfully made” by the same God we profess to love. I do not understand how you can hate others but yet claim to love a loving God.
It all comes back to honestly wrestling with these questions and keeping an open mind. I don’t know what to believe, yet, but I will continue to love all people and reach out to them. I will not hate and I will not condemn. Jesus may not have agreed with everyone (ie the Sanhedrin) but he still loved them and tried to find common ground. With the example of my Savior, I will do the same. I will love in the name of Jesus.
Please know that I pray daily for all people and for God to show us the truth. I hope one day to know what God wants me to do and believe. I am sure some will take the time to tell me what they think God wants me to know and I encourage you to do so. I believe God speaks through others and perhaps one of you will be the voice of God to me.
In the meantime, remember the words of Mother Teresa: If you judge people, you have no time to love them.
The Rev. Timothy Baranoski
This morning as I watching the Olympics, a commercial came on highlighting the dedication of the athletes towards their training. Many of them work at their training every day and one even said he skipped dessert for the last two years. I am amazed at their dedication to the sport and they set a standard for many of us. Of course, as I thinking about this dedication, I cannot help but think what would happen if many of us did the same thing with our walk of faith.
Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable garland, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified. ~1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NRSV)
I know this scripture verse was probably preached in a lot of churches this past weekend and I am sure it is showing up on church signs as well. It is one that we can relate to, especially in this country, since it deals with sports and athletes. As I mentioned above, many Olympic athletes dedicate themselves to working at their sports to achieve a gold medal. It is a worthy cause.
We as Christians should also dedicate ourselves to working at our faith and our relationship with God. Not for a gold medal but for eternal life. Of course, I am one of those people who believes that while eternal life is a great thing, it should not be our total motivation. Our relationship with God should come out in our relationship with others. People should be able to see God in us and through our actions and even through our words. The harder we work at it, the easier it will become and the more evident it will be.
I watched several world records fall in swimming and the athletes make it look so easy but I know there is hours and hours of training behind that one race. They didn’t get up that morning and go swim. In the same manner, we should spend hours and hours in God’s presence through study of Scripture and prayer. In fact, everything we do should be focused on God – including work and training.
If we follow the example of the athletes’ we can grow stronger in our faith and in our relationship with God.
So just in case you missed the big news from Monday, my family and I are heading to Fort Hood for a PCS (permanent change of station) move this September. Of all the possibilities of places the Army could place me, I wasn’t expecting Fort Hood. Not that I am upset, just surprised. I have spent this week reflecting and thinking on what this means and what is next.
After the initial excitement wore off, I began to think about the distance (even farther) from family and heading into the unknown. While I have some idea of what I am getting myself into, in other ways, I have absolutely no idea. But nonetheless, we are heading off in this direction as God is leading us. Then I stop and read and reflect on Psalm 121 which happens to be my favorite:
I lift up my eyes to the hills— from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and for evermore. (NRSV)
We are going off into the unknown of Texas but we are not going alone. We have God with us each moment of this journey (and all journeys for that matter). My family and I are exactly where God wants us to be and I have no doubt all things will work out according to God’s will for Scripture says:
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. ~Romans 8:28 (NRSV).
This morning as I was running, I had to laugh as I thought back over the past seven years of my life. Right before my 30th birthday, my life took an unexpected turn and I found myself floundering and lost. I had no clue what to do or what was next except that God was calling me to ministry. If I fast forward seven years, I can look back and see God’s work every day over the past few years.
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. ~Jeremiah 29:11 (NRSV)
This was the verse that I was reflecting on this morning. It is true. I may not have been able to see God’s work in the moment but as I look back, I see that God was pushing me and leading me where I needed to go. Here’s a few examples.
God lead me to a church and denomination that had just 1 seminary but as a member of that denomination, I could go to seminary at no cost to me. If you didn’t know, I refused to pay for seminary and made a deal with God that I would go to seminary but only if I didn’t have to pay for it. I know you shouldn’t make deals with God but I did and I held up my end of the deal as well.
Before I started seminary, I had a call from a Chaplain recruiter with the US Army. I listened respectfully but didn’t want to join the Army as a chaplain or otherwise. However, God planted the seed and it took root and a few years later, I am heading off to Fort Hood to serve as an active duty chaplain with the US Army.
As I sit here this morning and write this reflection, I can look back and see where God has guided my steps. I went from having my world turned upside down and having no place to turn to realizing I needed to turn to God and listen – and I mean really listen – to God. As I turned to God, things fell into place as I followed God’s path. Now I don’t mean my life has been perfect but my life has been in God’s will which means my worries and cares are truly minor because God is in control. I know God is in control of the next stage as well. I pray that I will be able to see God’s presence in the moment at hand rather than looking back and seeing it.
I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.’ ~Joshua 1:9 (NRSV)
It has been a challenging week with the ever unfolding scandal at Penn State and the aftermath of the mass shootings in Aurora, CO. It is difficult enough to try to wrap your head around it without people spouting off and making silly comments.
I have heard (and I am paraphrasing these) some of the following comments:
- God is punishing the US because of abortion/homosexuality/same sex marriage
- God was there to save the victims (what about those who died?)
- God hates _____ (fill in the blank)
- God loved enough to save people
- The victims are in a better place now
All of this begs the question: “Where is God?” People have been asking this question this weekend as we come to grips with another loss of innocence from a shooting or the fallout of a major child-molestation case. Where was God? Why didn’t God do something about this?
I believe that in many cases we have done this to ourselves. Now, I am not saying that God punished the people in Colorado or the children at PSU but I believe we have made decisions along the way that laid the groundwork for these things to happen. Over the years, we have allowed the morality of our country to slide and what was immoral a decade ago is now perfectly accepted today. We look the other way for one thing and pretty soon we look the other way for other things as well. It is not long before we realize how far we have drifted and well it is easier to stay adrift than come back.
So where is God? God is there all the time. Scripture tells us that God is ever present as the 1st verse of Psalm 46 indicates:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
The problem is we only turn to God when there is trouble. I offered prayers for the victims in Aurora, CO and I continue to pray for the PSU community but I am reacting to the events rather than working to prevent them. We turn to God when troubles come but not before. I know Psalm 46 begins with God being our help in trouble but the 10th verse of Psalm 46 is better advice:
‘Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.’
How often are we still and pray to God? How often do we pause when things are going well and acknowledge God? I am guilty of it too. We react when troubles come and cry out to God (and yes even blame God) but God is still there to provide refuge and strength.
Imagine, for just a minute, what would if we cry out to God all the time? In good times and in troubles. Would this mean that our lives would be trouble free? Of course not, we live in a fallen world but if we begin to acknowledge God in all things, we are no longer drifting in our morals and we are beginning to turn back to God. We may realize the potential horror of our decisions and begin to work, together as a people, we can stop our immoral slide and make things better for all people.
It sounds hard but it begins with one person – me. I can do this by choosing to acknowledge God and follow God in all things. As I do it, I can influence the people around me – quietly and without confrontation – to follow my example. Slowly, we can make the world a better place for all people as we acknowledge the presence of God in our lives. It begins with me.
Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. ~1 John 3:18 (NRSV)
I have a confession to make. I visit the Westboro Baptist Church’s website from time to time. Why? I want to know the message they are putting out to the world. I am not calling them the enemy but I think it is important to know what messages they are sharing in the event that other people ask. Another confession related to the WBC – I have to shower when I am done because I always feel so dirty.
I am bringing this up this morning because yesterday as the events of the theater shooting unfolded, I was reading messages on Twitter that people were saying that God hated America, God hates________ (fill in the blanks), or God is punishing people for sin. I was troubled (and still am) but these statements because (1) they are insensitive and (2) I believe they go against the Bible.
God is love. The Bible shows this time and time again. God is a being of love and therefore is incapable of hate. If God hated, then God couldn’t be God. The most commonly quoted scripture verse is John 3:16 which says (in case you forgot):
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. ~John 3:16-17 (NRSV)
Read those words and concentrate on loved and saved. God desires a relationship with every person and sent Jesus to show the way to God and God did it out of love. There is no hatred in that statement. There is not condemnation. God loved.
Another passage that many people are quite familiar with (mainly because it is read at weddings) is 1 Corinthians 13. Paul talks about love and what it may look like. To me, the first verse sums up what sharing a message of love is all about: If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (13:1 NRSV) Yup. I can preach the Gospel and share God but if I do not do out of love, I might as well not bother. Those churches and people who go out (and in some cases gleefully do so) and share that God hates and God is punishing are nothing more than noisy gongs. They are making a whole lot of noise but doing little more than driving people away from God.
In my mind, I would rather love someone to God than scare them there. I would rather show someone the love of God through my actions towards them and how I treat them then to use words and scripture and hateful messages to scare them into accepting God. I would rather serve a God out of loving devotion than to accept a God out of a fear.
Any God that I have to fear (and I am talking fear and not a healthy awestruck trembling) because if I don’t accept God I will be punished is not a God for me nor is it a true relationship. I am in it out of fear. Rather, I would prefer to serve a God who despite my stubborn, flawed, sinful, arrogant, and imperfect nature still loves me and wants me to know him better.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. ~1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NRSV)
This morning, I was at the YMCA working out on the elliptical machine. I am not a person who can use the little television attached to the machine so as I was listening to music, my eyes caught a verse of scripture on the wall:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. ~Psalm:46:1 (NRSV)
The scripture is the source of the title of this post but as I thought about it and reflected, a few thoughts came to my mind. The first, and probably most obvious, is that God is our source. God is, as the title implies, refuge, strength, and help. For regular readers of my blog, you know that I have been on a journey for some time. You will also know that I was in anguish from time to time out of worry and dread and doubt. It was in those moments, that I felt God’s refuge and strength the most. I certainly did not have the strength or will to make it without God.
The second part of this is that God is very present. I will admit that there are times when I am not consciously aware of God’s presence. I am so wrapped up in myself or focused on something that I am not sensing God. However, in hind sight, when I pause and reflect, I am aware that God is there and has been there the entire time even when I didn’t realize it or focus on God.
It’s funny how you reflect on things. Today, I was simply working out and had the time to reflect on God and God’s presence in my life. I am blessed not only to have God but to have the time to reflect.
This morning, while my daughter and I were visiting my wife in Clarksville (she is working for the state as a trainer this summer), we walked over to the Public Square to look at the monuments. Along the way, we passed a Soldier and I quickly realized he was a Chaplain. I am not sure if I am more aware of Chaplain insignia now or not, but it was noticeable to me. Of course, my five year old daughter thinks every person in an Army uniform is a Chaplain.
As I write this, I am looking at my minister’s robe hanging nearby. I tend to wear my robe (and stoles) every time I preach for several reasons. First, it was a gift from my Presbytery and I know it was fairly expensive so I do wear it rather than let it gather dust (though I don’t think I will be wearing it often over the next few years). Second, like the Chaplain insignia, I wear my robe to remind myself that I have been set aside for a specific ministry within the Church. Everyone has been called but some have been called to a specific purpose within the Church. I have been called to preach and teach and as such I wear my robe on Sunday. It shows the badge of my office not unlike my rank or my cross on my uniform.
So while I am sharing this, a well-known quote from St. Francis comes to mind: Preach Jesus always and when necessary use words. You see my insignia and my robe make it obvious that I am a chaplain/minister but I do not wear my robe all the time nor do I have my uniform on all the time. Therefore, I have to show/share my faith in other ways such as my actions and deeds. It should be obvious to anyone who meets me or sees me that I am a chaplain and most definitely a Christian. I should not need insignia, robes, or words to share this with others – the light of Christ should shine through me and into the world.
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. ~Matthew 5:14-16 (NRSV)
We do not need a sign or a symbol to share with others what we believe. Sometimes it may be easier but it should not be necessary. May our actions be our insignia and may our words simply be the added punctuation to what we do in this world.
Gen. George S. Patton’s 10 Commandments:
- Do everything that you ask of those you command.
- Say what you mean, and mean what you say.
- Do not fear failure.
- Do more than is required of you.
- Do not take counsel of your fears.
- Always go forward.
- Take calculated risks.
- Give credit where it is due.
- Accept full responsibility for the actions of yourself and your men.
- Never leave a man behind.