Category Archives: Army Chaplain


v. to continue a course of action in spite of difficulty, opposition, fear, boredom, apathy, etc.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~Winston Churchill

“The lesson is, the rewards in life don’t always go to the biggest, or the bravest, or the smartest. The rewards go to the dogged; and when your going though hell, to the person who just keeps going.” ~Bear Grylls

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” ~Romans 12:21

In what do you need to persist?

(Word of the Week 01-07FEB) #WOTDseries #Drop13


right-direction“It is a mistake to think moving fast is the same as actually going somewhere.” ~Steve Goodier

“Lack of direction , not lack of time, is the problem.” ~ Zig Ziglar

“Focus is about saying ‘no.'” ~ Steve Jobs

“Give careful thought to the paths of your feet and be steadfast in your ways.” ~ Proverbs 4:26

It’s is easiest to lose focus and sense of direction and purpose during the middle of an endeavor. The halfway point encounters a slump in motivation and enthusiasm. We’re past the excitement of the beginning but not near the thrill of the finish line.

It is during the “middle” in which we must stay focused, stay on azimuth, and keep putting one foot in front of the other without getting distracted. Often this involves saying “no” to those small distractions that lure us off course

(Word of the Week  15-21FEB) #WOTDseries #Drop12


A straight line of hand-placed rocks, each the size of a football, stretched for 9 miles across an ancient desert bowl in Djibouti called the Grand Bara Desert.  I couldn’t see where the rocks ended and the desert continued.

Over 3000 of us rendezvoused at the starting line on a “cold” morning in Djibouti – meaning in the low 70’s. It would soon reach the mid-90’s (in December). We had to race the heat to finish line.

bara2The start line wasn’t spectacular. A few French flags and Djiboutian flags and a white chalk line marked the launch pad of this adventure. I was flanked by many of the Soldiers whom I serve and deeply love. After a few initial comments by the hosts of the race, the French 5th Marine Regiment, we readied ourselves for the start signal. It was inbound…but right on time at 0700 that morning.

Thunder! Three French Mirage fighter jets marked the start, flying about 500 feet above us. We felt the blast of their pass. It took me a moment to realize  I needed to get going.

The pack spread long but were funneled into a narrow alley the width of a 2-lane street. The Djiboutian running team took lead.bara4a

The “sand” was hard-packed for the most part. It was more of a talcum-powder type dirt than sand. It was a good surface for running. I carried a Camelbak just in case I needed water #bigmistake #100ozExtraIdidntNeed  I discovered that there was a water point every 3 miles along this narrow lane.

If you’re familiar with me by now, you realize I’d never waste an opportunity like this. Nine miles of this unique race was going to be a great time for meditation and prayer. But don’t let me sound too “super-spiritual” – I listened to a lot of music and talked to a few Soldiers along the way (grunted more like it, as we passed one another).

#Soundtrack: RUN DMC, Coldplay, R.E.M. (“Everybody Hurts”), Fitz & the Tantrums, Dave Matthews, Fort Minor, Lifehouse, Linkin Park, Muse, Switchfoot, U2, Fall Out Boy, and the Black Keys among others.

But after the distraction of the music got to be too much and its energy wore off, I still had to kick out those last 3 miles. I sensed that nudge…  the tug…  the whispered invitation…  to finish the run with my best running partner.

I looked at the expanse of the desert around me. I thought to myself how I’d never want to be stranded in this desolation…  this isolation. I kept watching each rock in the line pass behind me. I was impressed by how straight the line of rocks was. That was part of the mental obstacle… running in a straight line without seeing the finish line or being able to reckon how far you’ve gone or how far remains. Plus, as I stated before, the lane was narrow. It was narrow because a straight line tends to create that, plus the French Marines and Djiboutian Army were providing security for the race… helicopters flew overhead, personnel carriers patrolled the sides, and Djiboutian soldiers were stretched the length of the course about 100 yards apart #RunningInDjibouti. To run outside the lane meant danger, no matter how appealing it looked.

Straight. Narrow. I recognize these concepts from somewhere else.

I was raised with this toxic impression that God somehow was just waiting for someone to mess up so he could kick them off the path… into desolation…  into destruction… But that’s not correct at all. Unfortunately, that seems like a widespread misconception these days.

God is doing all he can to keep us on the straight and narrow. That is the story of the Hebrew and Christian scripture. God indefinitely pro-acts toward creation and the universe and offers covenant and community. That’s where we find security, not freedom from danger, but security. That’s where we find sustainment, not freedom from hunger, but sustainment.

The straight and narrow is not a campground. It is intended to get us to go where we need to go. It’s our choice whether we stay on it or not. We are free to choose other paths, roads, and highways.

As for me…  I’m aiming for the finish line. bara5

*Many modern translations use the term “small” more commonly than “straight.” However, “straight and narrow” is a term that has been wedged into our vocabulary thanks to the King James version of the Bible.  Although, I do not use “small” instead of “straight” to offer this reflection, I am certain it holds true to the deeper scriptural meaning of Christ’s teaching.

(Word of the Week 15DEC)  #WOTDseries #Drop11

“…like a kid”

Happy New Year!

I read a recent article about Cam Newton and how he is bringing fun to the NFL because he displays a kid-like enthusiasm, or as the article stated it – “joy” – to the game.  In the midst of a bunch of poor sportsmanship and questionable role-models, Cam gives us a glimpse at the simplicity of having fun like a kid. I like the guy, even though I typically cheer against his team (ever since Auburn). I’m inspired by his joy – “flying” like a kid pretending to be a airplane, miming a Superman shirt rip, and jumping side/back bumps. Joy.

Some might comment that they’d be as happy as Cam if they made millions of dollars or got paid to play football, and so on. But, I don’t think so. Joy is a choice. People without joy are people without joy, regardless of their circumstances. There are plenty of wealthy people without joy. And there are plenty of people living in poverty with joy. I’ve discovered this in hills of Appalachia, the villages of Haiti, the mountains of Afghanistan, the roads of Djibouti, the jungle of Kenya, and the streets of inner-city Miami, OKC, and Jacksonville.

Therefore, Cam’s behavior confronts me with a challenging question…I’ll get to it in a second.

Jesus teaches something similar when he says, “Trust me, unless you change and become like little kids, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3, NIV ~ with ‘Lance emphasis’).”

Become like a little kid. Joy. This is what I see when I see Cam’s behavior on the field.

cam supermanThe question I ask myself – “Why don’t I do that too?” “What’s keeping me from expressing joy in the work I’ve put my hands to doing?” “How can I finish each day or each task with a double fist pump or a Superman shirt-rip?” This applies to my role as a husband, dad, friend, and employee.

It is up to each individual to find or make joy in the work of their hands. No amount of money or other people’s behavior toward you will give you joy.

This New Year, I will exercise more fist pumps, high fives, and “Superman shirt rips” as I do my job, love my wife, raise my son, and be a friend.


“Endurance” – Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon and 6k

“Such a large crowd of witnesses is all around us! So we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the brokenness and baggage that just won’t let go. Let’s run with endurance the race that is ahead of us.”  Letter to the Hebrews 12:1

jaxrunA big “THANK YOU” to my hometown race company 1st Place Sports in Jacksonville, FL for making this event possible.  This race has become an annual tradition for me.  When I discovered I would be deployed and would miss this year’s Thanksgiving Day Distance Classic half marathon, I contacted 1PS and asked if I could register for the race in JAX but run it in Djibouti.

I got the thumbs up. Then, I thought that other Soldiers deployed with the battalion would want to run a half marathon also. So I asked 1PS if I could host a remote version of the race. As the Battalion Chaplain, the extra-fun aspect is getting to plan and host this as a ‘Spiritual Fitness Event’ for my battalion. Thumbs up again.

So, we are a few days before the race. We have over 150 runners ready to hit the pavement at 0330 (yes…in the morning). We have runners representing each branch of the US Armed Forces, as well as a number of our beloved French 5th Marine Regiment allies. We will each earn our Thanksgiving Day feast later that day.

The Word of the Week is “Endurance” which I will share as part of the opening ceremonies.


We’re ready.  I sense it in every conversation with each of our Soldiers.  The atmosphere is thick with anticipation.

It feels like pregame of a contest we know we’re fully prepared to win.  There is a razor’s edge to their sharpness.  The farewell’s to our families, friends, and loved ones have only served to fuel our drive to get overseas and begin mission.

I never cease to be inspired by the quality of Soldiers I have served with in times such as this.  The challenge brings out our best.  These Soldiers are confident in their craft.  They are expert warriors…there’s no other way to say it.  Yet they temper their fury until the moment for which it is called.

These are the sons and daughters of a good nation.  If you ever doubt America’s grit, tenacity, integrity, and resilience, spend an hour talking and training with these Millennials and GenXers.  Doubt will be removed.  These Soldiers are the leaders of their generations.  They are high-order thinkers and tireless workers.  If they complain, it is only to each other.  It is their earned privilege which actually serves as fuel for their continued diligence and critical awareness of their missions’ objectives.

Our leaders are ready.  They have scrutinized and vetted multiple strategies, options, and actions for the mission ahead.  They carry a paternal love and burden for each of those in their formations… even the rowdiest ones.  They hunger to be called on to lead the hardest missions, but are faithful and humble to give the same drive and effort to even the smallest of assigned objectives.

We are ready because we are confident.  This confidence is not false motivation that dries up in the face of real adversity.  Rather it is true confidence that seeks to be proven through adversity.

Readiness is not best measured by a checklist of trained tasks. It is best measured by the character, commitment, competence, and grit found in both the individual Soldier and their team here in the Seminole Battalion.

We’re ready. Never surrender.


“Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” GEN Colin Powell

bestieThere is a self-handwritten sign over my desk which states: “You have the best job in the world. Why aren’t you smiling?”

It’s there because I believe this about my job in the Army (and my church).  It’s there in case I ever need reminding.  Most of my daily reminders come from seeing the faces of the Soldiers I serve.  Of all the jobs I’ve had in the Army, I love this one the most.  I realized one day that the best way I would ever serve God and the Army would be as a Chaplain (Colossians 3:23).  It took me 15 years to come to this insight.  What about you?

Do YOU know that YOU have the BEST job?

You have the BEST job you’re going to have for this deployment.  Make the best of it.  You get the privilege that few people out of the billions in our world ever get – you get to lead…  

…you get to lead as part of an Infantry Battalion…

…an Infantry Battalion in the U.S. Army.

You have the BEST calling you are going to have during the next year.

Make the best of it.

(Word of the Day at CUB 23AUG)  #WOTDseries #Drop10



Take one or suffer one.

Combat and Operational Stress Control research shows a commensurate decrease in emotional intelligence, critical thinking, resiliency, and even fine motor skills the longer we go without adequate rest.

Regardless of whether he was a teacher, prophet, holy man or mad man, Jesus was a regionally popular leader in his day. His time was in high demand by hundreds if not thousands of people who were looking for information, wanted him to do something for them or a friend or family member, or wanted his attention.  However, he still made time to break away…which contributed to what may arguably be considered an effective leadership lifestyle.

Some organizational and human resource experts refer to this as “creating margin” between work, rest, and recreation.

Recharge.  Renew.  Whether early in the morning, while it is still dark (Mark 1:35), or late at night after the noise has subsided (Luke 6:12).  Create margin.  Break.

You are each a vital leader to this battalion.  Intentional breaks will ensure this.

(Word of the Day during CUB on 16AUG) #WOTDseries #Drop9


Etymology – Latin “justus” meaning:

“administration of law”

“quality of being fair and reasonable; equitable”

“vindication of the right”

In Deuteronomy 27:19 we see the idea of justice and fairness has some of it’s beginning circa 1400 BCE within an emerging Semitic group in the Near Middle East.

This culturally-specific reference shows a young nation’s shift away from a “might makes right” society of unbalanced reciprocity toward a social system of balance and personally-motivated fairness.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was justice in process.  Justice can be messy and long, but is always worth the sacrifice.

Justice is the effort to ensure balanced reciprocity.

“The moral arc of the universe is long and it bends toward justice.”   Here Rev. Martin Luther King echoes the 19th century Abolitionist minister, Theodore Parker. These timely words relay themselves to us and our continuous intent to advance justice  within our ranks as well as protect justice’s cause throughout parts of the world which still practice injustice and unbalanced reciprocity.  Justice can be messy and long, but is always worth the sacrifice.

(Word of the Day 13AUG – Leadership Development Brief covering UCMJ) #WOTDseries #Drop8

“Come Back Better”

Come back better.

This phrase takes on new meaning as I make the solitary stroll down the concourse away from my wife and little boy for the next nine months.

I will come back better.  These next nine months won’t merely be measured by the passing of time.  Time is non-recoverable currency. IMG_1672I demand from myself an increased ‘return on investment’ based on the price that is paid and the cost to those dearest to me.  How will I come back better for Katherine, Gabe, myself, and our family as a whole?  They deserve it.  They are paying this price with me.

Deployment pays well.  However, it would be wasteful for my biggest takeaway to merely be storing away extra money in our savings account.  Financial health is a minor factor in what it means for me to “come back better.”  For me, a bank account is a poor substitute for family and loved ones.  Coming back better is about them.  How can I come back better as a husband and father for them…for our family?

Some may say, “You don’t have to worry about coming back better. The comprehensive experience of the sacrifice is enough to make you better.”  Agreed.  I will come back as a better Soldier and Chaplain – a residual effect from the caliber of Soldiers with whom I deploy,  as well as the training so far received and the day-to-day improvement of my craft overseas.

However, I’m looking to learn a unique lesson or develop a new skill or habit that will mold me, dare I say transform me on a comprehensive and transcendent level.  Therefore, this “come back better” idea must be better than a “do more” bucket list or checklist that I accomplish on my own as some existential ‘show-and-tell.’

Ultimately, “coming back better” requires aspiring to something “better” and more durable than what is currently organic to me.  This ‘something better’ will mold for the long haul.  For me, that ‘something better’ is a someone Who is eternal; Who calls and equips us to be our best.

As Patrick Henry stated in the early years of the American Revolution, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”  I relate these words to today.  But I know something that perhaps Mr. Henry didn’t;  God has built us for moments such as these.  God has engineered us to rise to the challenge.  While these moments may be met and overcome alone, we are even “better” when we meet these moments together with God.  “Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” Philippians 4:13 MSG

This is the first step of my “come back better” plan.