Mission Ready - Preparing to fight the good fight.


I realize that not everybody is a football fan. Much to my dismay, my two daughters are proof of that.


But in the year I spent as chaplain to the United States Naval Academy football team, I saw firsthand the parallels between football - with its requisite commitment, sacrifice, and teamwork - and faith and military service. One thing that is shared by all of us who wear the uniforms of our country is an understanding that some things are worth fighting for, even at the cost of our own comfort, security and even our lives. Personal struggles - in life, in faith and in our service - are inevitable when we devote our lives to something bigger than ourselves.


What I learned from those young football players (and, by extension, the female midshipmen as well) has enriched my life and strengthened my faith. It has inspired me to serve others, my country and God with renewed energy and conviction.


Regardless of whether you are a sports fan or not, I hope that this series of devotions will inspire, challenge and comfort you in your faith and service, the way that my season as the Navy football chaplain did for me.


- Chaplain John Owen


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Play Your Part


Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms. - 1 Peter 4:10


Throughout my year as chaplain for the Navy football team, I spent a lot of time wondering what my role was. As much as I loved being on the field, I needed to remember that I was their chaplain - not a cheerleader, not a coach and certainly not a player.


My job was in the background, on the sidelines. That was not always easy for me to accept. We in the military, for the most part, are doers; we are not watchers. We want to be actively engaged, and if we are not, we can easily feel left out, useless, even irrelevant.


Nothing could be further from the truth. Whatever our role - on the team or in the unit - we need to remember that if we don't do our job, others can't do theirs. We must never underestimate the impact that something as simple as a word of encouragement, a slap on the back or a small act of kindness might have on a teammate. Whatever our role at any given time, we have something to offer.



When The Chips Are Down


I trust in you, Lord; I say, "You are my God." My times are in your hands. - Psalm 31:14-15


Every athlete has experienced that moment when, in spite of our best efforts, the contest is lost. No matter how hard we try, it simply cannot be won.


Every service member has experienced situations where the stress, danger or sheer magnitude of the challenge in front of us exceeds our mental and physical capabilities. We may even question whether we should be wearing the uniform of our country.


Every human being has experienced those moments, moments of such profound sadness, loneliness, depression, or helplessness that everything we thought we believed in is suddenly in doubt.


Those moments are not the time to decide what we believe.


Rather, those are the times when we remember what we have learned, prepared for and put our faith in. Those are the times to hold fast to those decisions we have made about what is right and trustworthy. Those are the times to press ahead, trusting that our faith and our preparation will stand us in good stead, that equilibrium will eventually be restored to our lives.




Full Speed Ahead


Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses... let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. - Hebrews 12:1


In the chapel of the United States Naval Academy are several magnificent stained-glass windows. Perhaps my favorite of these is a depiction of Rear Admiral David Farragut leading his Union Navy task force in the Battle of Mobile Bay. In the window, he is shown lashed to the rigging of his flagship, U.S. S. Hartford, and pointing toward the left. Behind him is an angel, also pointing to the left.


The story goes that while his officers cautioned him about entering the minefield the Confederates had laid at the entrance to the bay, Farragut felt a divine hand guiding him, inspiring his legendary command, "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!"


I don't know how many of us can identify divine guidance as clearly as Admiral Farragut did, but the truth is that God's watchful and providential care is always with us, whether we are aware of it or not. May each of us be open to the guidance and inspiration of God's Spirit, whenever and however it is extended to us.



Hold On To Hope


The Lord watches over you... the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm - he will watch over your life. - Psalm 121:5-7


I first met Wendy Rivers at a reunion of the Navy fighter squadron he and my dad flew in together. In 1965, Wendy was shot down over North Vietnam and spent the next seven and a half years as a POW, finally returning home in 1973.


He told me the story of one night in his captivity, after enduring unthinkable torture, when he felt he had reached the end of his rope. He was exhausted, injured and wondering if there was any point in holding on any longer.


Nearing desperation, he looked up at the tiny window high in his cell. Perfectly framed there, resplendent in the night sky, hung the moon. "At that moment," Wendy said simply, "I knew I was going to be okay."


Did anything change in Wendy's circumstances? No. But somehow he found the inspiration to carry on. He regained his hope. He made a decision to live for one more day. Then one more. And another, until seven years later, he was on a plane going home.


Wendy refused to surrender his hope. And his hope did not disappoint him. It brought him home.



Into the Fire


If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it. But even if he does not, we... will not serve your gods. - Daniel 3:17-18


No image from September 11, 2001, captures the pathos of that day better than a photo I have of a single New York City firefighter running up a stairway - while a line of terrified people streams down, away from the flames.


For me, that image illustrates what we in the military have been called to do. Our country is counting on us to be willing to run into the fire, toward the danger, even as others around us are seeking shelter and safety.


Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were also willing to face the flames, even though they did not know how things would turn out for them. They simply trusted in their God, no matter what happened.


Our calling is a difficult one, lonely and often dangerous. We are not called to be without fear. But we are called to be willing to face the dangers we encounter, trusting in those who serve with us - and in the God who always goes with us.



Practical Wisdom


For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. - Psalm 33:4


The Bible is obviously a special book. But sometimes I wonder if we don't elevate it to such a mystical status - a volume full of secret, hidden messages - that it loses its relevance for us in our normal, everyday lives.


The Bible, though, is remarkably practical. I'm often amazed at how relevant its words are, how filled with common sense its advice is.


We in the military rely on our instructions and manuals. We are all familiar with the frustration of wading through a bunch of obscure, military- sounding nonsense. The most effective guidance is that which is clear, concise and understandable.


The Bible is God's guidance for us, and God is well aware that guidance is not much use if it's unclear or indecipherable. So the next time you read the Bible, try reading it as if God were telling you a story - a story he designed to be useful and helpful to you at that very moment. Sure, there's a lot of profound stuff in there, but if the Bible intimidates us, we're unlikely to find what we need. Relax. Enjoy the story. I'm pretty sure that's God's purpose in telling it to us.




Painful Grace


Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome. - Genesis 32:28


One of my favorite Bible stories is about Jacob wrestling all night with an unknown attacker, only to learn in the morning that he'd been wrestling with God. Even though Jacob realized he was not able to defeat this mysterious assailant, he did not capitulate. In the end it is his refusal to give up that earns him God's blessing and a new name: Israel, meaning "wrestles with God."


In the military, it is often true that victory is the only acceptable outcome. But in most areas of life, defeat does not mean death. In fact, we are often remembered not by our victories, but by how well we fought, how we conducted ourselves, the virtues we demonstrated in the struggle.


Jacob was left permanently limping by his encounter with God. Our battles can leave us with scars, seen or unseen. We are not left unchanged by our encounters with life's hardships. But we have a choice: Do we nurse our injuries as painful reminders of defeat or draw inspiration and learn from them in preparation for the next contest?



Choose Whom You Will Serve


Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve... as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. - Joshua 24:15


Long ago, on the eve of a historic military campaign, Israel's leader called the people together. They were on the verge of occupying the land that God had promised them. Their leader, Joshua, knew the challenges ahead. It was a good land, and the Israelites were in for some tough fighting.


You can choose to trust God, Joshua said, or you can choose to trust other gods - either the gods of your ancestors or the gods of the people you are about to fight. But you must choose. The people were at a crossroads, and they needed to decide then and there whom they were going to serve.


Each of our lives is like that. There are crossroads, turning points... some obvious, others subtle and maybe even unnoticed. And the choices we make set the course for the rest of our lives.


Each of us has chosen to serve our country. We must also choose who or what we will serve through the unfolding of our lives. Make your choice, and press on.



Never Give Up!


When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise - in God I trust and am not afraid. - Psalm 56:3-4


You probably know about Jim Lovell, the mission commander of Apollo 13... the lunar mission that nearly ended in disaster. I had the opportunity once to ask him about what it takes to overcome adversity. He identified two things.


The first is leadership - at every level. Our willingness to step up and take responsibility for fixing a bad situation, even if that situation was not our fault or our responsibility in the first place, is the mark of a true leader.


The second is determination. We must never give up. Even when things seem hopeless, even when it seems like the only option is to quit, we can't. Whatever happens, we have to keep going.


Think about how many biblical figures faced seemingly impossible situations, but refused to give up, trusting in God no matter how hopeless the situation seemed. Jacob, Moses, David, Paul... each of them could understandably have concluded that their task was simply too hard, or too hopeless. But they trusted in God, stepped up to the challenge, refused to quit. And that made all the difference.



Choose Life


I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live. - Deuteronomy 30:19


Near the end of his life, Moses called the people together and reminded them of how God had always done what God had promised to do, even when the people had broken their end of the deal. (Which, if you recall, the people did quite often!)


As Moses concluded his speech, he presented the people with this choice: You can choose life or you can choose death. You can choose adversity or you can choose prosperity. If you follow the commandments of God, you will make a choice for life and prosperity. But if you choose to go your own way, ignoring God's guidance and direction and deciding that you know better, things will not work out well.


God's promises are trustworthy. God has promised us blessings and life. But we must choose to accept those gifts.


Make a choice for God today. Choose Life - with a capital "L" - trusting God to guide and preserve your life... and the lives of those you love.



Faith is a Choice, Not a Feeling


For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. - 2 Timothy 1:7


Our culture encourages us to make decisions based upon how we "feel." Advertisers persuade us to buy things because they will make us "feel" better. And too many marriages break up because partners don't "feel" the way they used to about each other.


We sometimes approach faith the same way. If we don't feel spiritually uplifted, we conclude either we're doing something wrong or God has left us. We get discouraged that we don't feel God's presence the way we used to.


The truth is, feelings are unpredictable and capricious. They come and go on their own. And they are often wrong.


Faith is not a feeling; it's a choice - a decision followed by action. It is a decision to believe even when we don't feel like believing, a decision to trust God even when we are feeling doubtful. It is a choice to love even when loving is hard.


Don't confuse feeling spiritually uplifted with choosing to be faithful. And remember that God has already chosen to believe in us.





In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth... and the "ruach" [Hebrew for Spirit] of God was hovering over the waters. - Genesis 1:1-2


The stresses we experience in combat and other intense military operations are unique, and often the stress continues long after we return home.


A very effective tool in helping restore a healthy sense of normalcy and equilibrium is called mindfulness, also referred to as a form of meditation. There's nothing magic about it, and one of the keys to practicing mindfulness is simply to sit quietly and focus on our breath.


What I find so intriguing about focusing on our breath is a concept found in both Hebrew and Greek, the two primary original languages of the Bible. Ruach in Hebrew and pneuma in Greek both have three meanings: spirit, wind or breath. Which suggests to me that when we are concentrating on our breath, we are concentrating on something intimately related to our spirit and to God's Spirit.


When I take a few moments to focus on my breath, which is always with me, I'm also connecting with God's breath, or Spirit. And I'm reminded that God's Spirit, too, is always with me.



Let Your Light Shine


[You don't] light a lamp and put it under a bowl... [but] on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. - Matthew 5:15


Jesus was a great storyteller. He often pointed to something common and everyday - something people normally took for granted - and then used it to make a profound and important point. The brilliant technique in play here is that from then on, whenever the people saw that thing or situation, they would be reminded of what Jesus had taught them.


Once, Jesus pointed to a lamp - a common oil- burning lamp, the kind everybody used for light - and he said, "Look, nobody lights a lamp and then puts it under a bowl. That would defeat the whole purpose of lighting it. You, too, need to let the light that is in you shine for everybody to see."


Each of us has some of God's light inside us - something to give to other people, something to teach them, some part of us that lights up a room or lights up a relationship.


Whatever that is for you, uncover it, develop it, enjoy it... and let it brighten up other peoples's lives. That's why God gave it to you in the first place.



All In


Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. - Deuteronomy 6:4


One of the scripture passages that Jesus, as a Jew, would have been most familiar with is this: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord is your God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might." This might be considered Judaism's "Great Commandment," forming the foundation of everything Jesus learned, believed, and taught.


Notice that it doesn't tell us to love God with one part of ourselves, give another part to others, another part to our jobs. No, we are to love God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our might. There is no room for half measures here.


In the military, we learn the importance of committing ourselves completely to our cause and our mission, even to the point of giving "the last full measure of devotion." God asks for the same from us.


Throw yourself into the challenges you face today with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might. Don't hold back. Be all in.



Incomplete Without You


The body is not made up of one part but of many. - 1 Corinthians, 12:14


The apostle Paul would have made a great football coach.


Many of the letters he wrote were to encourage and inspire people, particularly when they were facing some kind of adversity. And like a good coach, or a good military leader, Paul understood that the effectiveness - and in fact the very survival - of the early church depended upon the formation of a community of faith, not simply individuals of faith.


Paul offers the human body as an example. Even though the body is made up of different parts, and each part looks and acts differently from the other parts, the body as a whole can't function effectively unless all the parts are doing their unique tasks.


No matter what your job is, your unit cannot function to its potential without you. And no matter what your gifts are, God is expecting you to use them to the best of your ability, because the world would be incomplete without them - and without you.



Practice Hope


You will be secure, because there is hope. - Job 11:18


Each of the military branches has a set of "core values." Although the world's religious traditions differ in many ways, I suspect that "faith, hope and love" would constitute a good set of core values for most of them.


We stress faith and love, but sometimes neglect hope, which is tragic - particularly for those of us who serve in the military.


Hope is what allows us to see beyond our present and immediate circumstances to the larger purpose behind our efforts. Hope tells us never to give up. It compels us to keep fighting, to press on, even when every bone in our body wants to sit down and quit.


Hope is not wishful thinking, sitting around waiting for the situation to change. Hope is active, not passive. It inspires action and fuels the will. Hope drives us forward, even at the cost of pain and suffering. Even in the face of fierce resistance.


Practice faith and love, certainly. But don't neglect hope, because without hope for the future, the other two cannot survive.



Take Smart Risks


You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness! - Matthew 25:21


Jesus told a parable often referred to as "the parable of the talents." One of its lessons is this: Choosing to "play it safe," avoiding risk for fear of failure, is often a bigger sin than making an honest mistake while attempting something worthwhile.


Life involves risk. Trying to live a life without risk is a dangerous and futile gesture.


Our profession, our calling to serve our country in uniform, is full of risk. We accept that. We are often called upon to perform risky tasks, in dangerous and challenging circumstances. That's why we train so hard. Each of us must learn how to find the right balance between taking calculated risks and mitigating them.


God has given each of us talents - gifts and abilities. God does not demand perfection, but God does honor honest effort. To bury our gifts, to not apply them toward the accomplishment of something worthy and honorable, may be one of the biggest mistakes of all.



Seek Forgiveness


David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." Nathan replied, "The Lord has taken away your sin." - 2 Samuel 12:13


David is one of the great figures of the Bible, referred to as "a man after God's own heart."


But David did some pretty awful things, including intentionally having one of his military subordinates killed in battle so that David could marry the soldier's wife. it's hard to think of anything more dishonorable and despicable than that.


What's most important, however, is what he did next: He accepted responsibility for his actions and confessed his sins to God. He paid a high price for his terrible choice, but God accepted his repentance, and David became one of the greatest leaders of all time.


We all make mistakes. We might be tempted to think of some of them as so awful that they are unforgivable. But when you find yourself feeling like you have fallen so far out of God's favor that there is no way to get it back, remember David. And remember that through God's love and forgiveness we are all men and women after God's own heart.



Remember Who You Are


What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. - Micah 6:8


Our society - and our military - tends to judge a person's worth by his or her accomplishments. So we push ourselves to work harder and outperform others, to seek recognition through awards, promotions, accolades.


When things don't work out for us, however, we often think of ourselves as having failed. And we too often jump to the conclusion that therefore we ourselves are failures.


Yet there is nobody who can legitimately be considered a "hero" who did not experience setbacks. Many of baseball's greatest hitters also had the most strikeouts. Abraham Lincoln lost far more elections than he won. And all of the Bible's "heroes" - Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Peter, Paul - did some really awful things or made some really big mistakes along the way.


What pleased God about these individuals is not what they accomplished; it's how they submitted to God's calling in their lives. Who you are isn't about mistakes or triumphs, failures or successes. it's about character and integrity, faithfulness and humility before God. God made you. He knows you - and loves who you are.



Goliath's Mistakes


Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love. - 1 Corinthians 16:13-14


The story of David and Goliath has become as much a part of the American spirit as Lexington and Concord, the battle of Midway, and Iwo Jima. Against overwhelming odds, an inferior force prevails in battle against a greatly superior enemy.


If we only see ourselves as David, however, we miss something really important, because sometimes we are more like Goliath. And if we do not learn from his mistakes, we are likely to repeat them, with equally disastrous consequences.


Goliath should not have lost. He had the advantage in everything - except God's favor, which of course is crucial. In human terms he had all the odds on his side. But he got cocky. He got careless and complacent. And it cost him.


If hope, resilience and character are the keys to victory, then complacency, arrogance and carelessness are the keys to defeat. In our military service, and in our faith journey, God exhorts us to remain humble, prepared and alert. God's call can come at any time; we don't want to miss it.



The Main Thing


These commandments... are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. - Deuteronomy 6:6-7


A former commander once offered me these simple but critical words: "Remember to keep the main thing the main thing."


There are few skills in the military that are more critical than this. Whether you're in the heat of battle or dealing with the chaos of a crisis situation or the pressure of a leadership challenge, the ability to quickly determine what is most important in that situation, and to set aside all the competing priorities and distractions, can literally mean the difference between life and death.


Life, too, can be complicated and confusing, full of people and situations all demanding your attention. Which makes it critical that we remember what "the main thing" is. Jesus, when asked what the most important thing was answered this: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself."


Can our "main thing" get any clearer than that?



Never Hopeless


In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. - Jonah 2:2


If all we know about Jonah is that he was swallowed by a big fish and lived to tell about it, we are missing out on a powerful story about God's mercy in times of trouble... even if it's trouble of our own making.


What makes Jonah so memorable is that he made some really bad decisions that resulted in his finding himself in that fish's belly. In other words, all but dead.


But when things couldn't get any worse, Jonah remembered what he knew to be true: that no matter what happened, his hope was with God. When Jonah remembered that, and called out to God for help, God delivered him, and Jonah carried out the task to which God had called him.


We will all find ourselves in situations that we did not expect, in places which may feel hopeless. When those times come, let us, like Jonah, trust that God's mercy and forgiveness are greater than any adversity that threatens to overwhelm us.



Here I Am!


Then I [Isaiah] heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send... ?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" - Isaiah 6:8


We tend to think of the "heroes" of the Bible as these amazing, almost superhuman people with some kind of special "inside track" to God.


Compared to them, we can easily feel that we have little to offer. We're just "normal people" living normal lives.


If we read the biblical stories carefully, however, we see that with only very few exceptions, it's not extraordinary people that God calls, but regular people. What makes them extraordinary is that sometimes after considerable whining and arguing and even outright defiance - their response is eventually, "Okay, God. Here I am. Send me."


It's the response each of us has made to the call to serve our country. "Here I am. I will serve." In our military service, and in our faith journey, God does not expect us to be extraordinary. God asks us to simply say, "Here I am. Send me." That is extraordinary in God's eyes.



Words to Remember


Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. - Joshua 1:9


There are times in our lives - moments, days, maybe longer - when we find ourselves pushed to our limits. Whether by bad luck or bad decisions, physical pain or emotional despair, we find ourselves feeling like we're stumbling in the dark, unable to see beyond our immediate circumstances.


While we cannot necessarily prevent these times, we can prepare for them. And one of the things we can do to prepare is to find certain words - meaningful quotes, Bible passages, words from a loved one - and memorize them. Such words will not necessarily change our circumstances, but they can accompany and encourage us in our struggle.


For me, Joshua 1:9 has become one of my "go- to" passages. Many others find the Psalms to be a rich source for inspiration. Hopefully you have found some passages in this booklet to help you. Whatever the case, it is worth the time and effort to find those words that will not fail you, even when everything else appears to have.



In the Arena


We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. - 2 Corinthians 4:8-9


I frequently shared words from a speech by President Theodore Roosevelt with the Navy football team. I offer them to you:


It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.


To risk something big, for something good. There is no higher calling than this.



No Need to Fear


The Lord is with us; do not be afraid. - Numbers 14:9


After God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, they were perched on the border of the land God had promised to them. It was a good land, but the people who lived there weren't going to give it up without a fight. So as in any well- planned military operation, the Israelites sent spies to conduct a recon mission.


When they returned, they reported that the land was good indeed, but the people who inhabited it were very strong. - Compared to them, - they said, "we seemed like grasshoppers." And the people despaired at this report.


Except for two of the spies: Caleb and Joshua. "Wait!" they objected. "This is a good land, just as God promised us. If God is with us, then we don't need to fear!" Caleb and Joshua weren't stupid or naive. They knew the challenges and dangers that lay ahead. But they weren't afraid, because they trusted in God's promises.


In the end, they were right. What may seem impossible to us is always possible with God.



Believe - And Act


On what are you basing this confidence of yours? - Isaiah 36:4


The legendary Marine Corps Colonel Chesty Puller, at the battle of Chosin Reservoir, is famously quoted as saying, "We've been looking for the enemy for some time now. We've finally found him. We're surrounded. That simplifies things."


That kind of tenacity - not to mention humor - is one of the hallmarks of American military men and women. it's what has enabled us, from the beginning of our history, to overcome tremendous obstacles and achieve victory.


The line between courageous confidence and arrogant behavior, however, is not always clear. Failing to recognize the difference can be deadly.


it's one thing to say we believe, and another to follow up our beliefs with action. But any accomplishment begins with the belief that it can be accomplished. And that takes vision, faith and commitment. We must first be clear about the source of our confidence. If our confidence is in God, most of our failures of action begin as failures of vision. Where our hearts lead, our bodies will follow.



Prayer Is The Battle


Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God... - Ephesians 6:10-11


Many of the analogies the Bible uses to teach us about faith in God are taken from warfare. One of the most common of these is the image of faith as armor, protective gear we need to battle evil.


But another understanding of this analogy, expressed by the author Oswald Chambers, is worth considering. Chambers was no stranger to warfare, serving as chaplain to, among others, Australian and New Zealand troops who later engaged in the Battle of Gallipoli. Chambers wrote, "The armor is for the battle of prayer. The armor is not to fight in, but to shield us while we pray. Prayer is the battle."


It is easy for us to feel helpless in the face of life's difficulties and adversity. Our instinct is to take action, and prayer can feel like a poor substitute for action.


Nothing could be further from the truth. Turning to God is the first thing we should do. Sometimes praying is all we can do. But it is always what we must do.



Wherever You Go, There Is God


Where can I go from your Spirit? If I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me. - Psalm 139:7-10


All of us who wear the uniforms of our country - along with all who have ever worn and who ever will wear them - share the experience of finding ourselves far from the ones we love.


Whether from a ship on or under the seas, a deployment to a remote area of the world or another part of the country, or a hostile combat zone, we have all had those startling moments of realizing just how far from home we are.


Hopefully, however, we have also experienced the moments of sublime beauty, awe and peace that happen, often unexpectedly, in the most unlikely of places. A night sky thick with stars in the middle of the ocean; a glorious sunrise in the desert; the first signs of spring flowers in otherwise forbidding and unfamiliar terrain. These reminders of the wonder of God's creation are always there, if only we have eyes to see them. Wherever we go, we are in the midst of God's creation... and God is waiting to meet us there.



Never Defeated


We know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame. - Romans 5:3-5


One of the characteristics of military service that is most honored is the discipline to face and overcome adversity, to persevere in the face of fierce resistance.


The Bible readily acknowledges life's hardships, but encourages us not to be afraid of suffering because suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, character produces hope - and hope does not disappoint us.


Think about how physical training builds our endurance. As our endurance improves, we realize we can do more than we thought we could; we build character. With character comes the realization that some goals are worth pursuing even at a cost, and so we look past short-term pain and adversity to long-term goals. And that is what hope is.


And here's the thing about hope: Hope can only be surrendered; it can never be taken from us. True defeat only happens when we accept it. As long as we hold on and refuse to give up hope, we are never truly defeated.



You Are Ready


The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him.... The Lord is the strength of his people. - Psalm 28:7-8


At various times in our lives - on the playing field, in the classroom, in a mission briefing or alone in a barracks room - each of us has asked ourselves this question: When the time comes, will I be ready?


There is not a man or woman who has ever served who has not asked that question. Even people who have been in combat or who have years of experience sometimes wonder about "the next time." And, to be honest, I'm not sure we ever really know the answer, because "the next time" is always just around the corner.


But I believe one way to know we're ready is this: When our concern is not about ourselves, but about the mission, and taking care of those serving alongside us... we're ready.


Each of us is part of a legacy of service, courage and selfless sacrifice. Trust your training. Trust yourself. Trust God.


Others have gone before us. Others will come after us. We are never alone.



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