Friday, December 30, 2005

I Promised You . . . (Part 2)

As I said, looking back to when our relationship began reminds me of the love relationship that developed between Sandy and me. In a sense we met by chance, it wasn’t planned. In reality, God brought us together. We started dating and I was smitten; I believe we were smitten with each other.

Three years ago I told you about God’s calling on my life, and you believed I was committed to God’s call. Representatives of the church shared Morningside’s hopes with me, and we believed God had a plan for our lives. Together.

You committed to me, and I, to you. The adventure began.

We have had some pretty significant hurdles to jump. Our backgrounds are very different. As a congregation you reflect the beauty of Southern culture. Conversely, it doesn’t take a Harvard graduate to figure out that I’m not from around here. The ideal church life we picture is not always the same. Our relationship has grown in spite of those hurdles.

We both dream dreams, but not always the same dream. Some of those dreams we have continued to pursue, though they remain elusive. Others, we have learned were not really God’s plan for us. Or they were selfishly motivated and we abandoned them. I believe maturity is teaching us that God is still developing our character to compliment each other and prepare us for assignments, yet future.

More than three years later we are still together. Still growing. Still sifting through our dreams and desires. Still in love. Still making adjustments to one another. Three years later there are some dings in the armor, but you still dazzle me.

Our journey together started on a spiritual foundation. That was all we had, we hardly knew each other. We were seeking the deepest romance possible. Do you remember what we were looking for? We started out together seeking a, “Fresh Encounter: Experiencing God through Prayer, Humility and a heartfelt Desire to know Him.” Our common ground was the desire to see God bring revival. Looking backwards or forwards, I believe we need to keep that lofty goal in sight. We need to continue our journey together, remembering the vow that united us.

I Promised You . . . (Part 1)

“I hope you will put up with a little of my foolishness; but you are already doing that. I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ . . . " 2 Corinthians 11:1-2

Preparing for the first Sunday message of the year I have been spending time looking back, as well as looking ahead. I have looked further back than just 05, and I have looked further forward than 06. Looking back, I have been thinking about the last three years we have spent together. Looking ahead, I am only sure of what I am committed to. I do not know what will result.

Looking back to when our relationship began reminds me of the love relationship that developed between Sandy and me. In one sense, Sandy and I met by chance, it wasn’t planned. In reality, God brought us together; a relationship began to grow. We started dating and I was smitten by her.

Our relationship did not begin perfectly, for sure, but it began spiritually. Our first dates revolved around our walk with God. We shared our spiritual journeys, as best as we understood them at that time. We began sharing our thoughts about the future. I told Sandy about God’s call on my life. A call to ministry; a call back to New England. She knew I was committed to that calling. Sandy shared her dreams and desire of following God’s call on her life. She believed God had called us together, and that He had a plan for our lives. Together.

Sandy committed to me, and I, to her. The adventure began.

Our love grew in spite of hurdles; our backgrounds could not have been more different. Sandy grew up in the Southwest -- I grew up in the Northeast. Sandy grew up in the suburbs -- I grew up in the country. Sandy graduated atop a class of 800, Summa Cum Laude -- I graduated, Thank the Lord, from a class of 32. Sandy had an ideal life in mind -- I had an ideal life in mind. The ideal lives we envisioned were not always the same.

Like most young couples, we had some pretty big dreams. They were not always the same dream. Some of those dreams we have continued to pursue relentlessly, though they remain elusive. Over time we have had to come to grips with the fact that there is no such thing as “Heaven on earth.” Some of the plans we embraced were not bad plans, but they were not God’s plan for us. Maturity has revealed that other desires were selfishly motivated, and we had to abandon them. God continues to develop our character and relationship to compliment each other, and prepare us for future assignments.

Twenty-eight years later we are still together. Still growing. Still sifting through our dreams and desires. Still in love. Still making adjustments to one another. The shining knight has some dings in his armor, and the bride is only "practically perfect."

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Here, There, And Everywhere!

Today we have been here, there, and everywhere. Early in the day I talked to some old friends from Maine; we have quite a history. We attended high school together, and then I ended up being their pastor for a few years. During that time we slayed a few dragons, and survived some pretty deep wounds. Those days were not all bad, and time has only served to blur the ugly and glorify the beauty of our pasts. Thankfully, we have stayed in the good fight.

Later, I met with some of the leaders in the church I serve. We are trying to get on the same page. Each of us has a part in the story being written. God is the author and finisher of the story, but we struggle with the wording. We serve an unchanging God in changing times.

Tonight, Sandy and I went to visiting hours at a funeral home; a daughter lost her dad. We left there and stopped by a party for one of our friends. Her chronometer just hit 50! Then our two sons and daughter-in-law met us at Carrabba's for dinner. Justin and Erika leave for Boston tomorrow. Their visit has been brief and our homesickness has lingered a little longer this year.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Day

I received two special gifts this Christmas: First, hundreds showed up for church this a.m. Many churches cancelled services so as not to interfere with Christmas (think about that for a few minutes); truth is, that grieves me. Also, we had a man trust Christ as Saviour this morning. God has been wooing Bill for quite some time. I first met him in the ICU; he had suffered cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated. I shared Christ with him in the hospital and he seemed responsive. When he got out of the hospital he began to attend our men's Thursday morning Bible study. Many men and women in our congregation have been "praying" this guy along for months. This morning he decidedly responded to Christ's invitation to save him.

Bill's wife had received Christ over a year ago. She began visiting our church and indicated an interest in our music ministry. Our minister of music followed up on her interest and led her to Christ over the phone. To use an expression "she has grown like a weed." She has prayed faithfully for her husband's salvation.

I am entering my fourth year at Morningside Baptist Church. I have spent nearly my entire adult life in ministry; the desire to see people come to Christ has not waned but grown stronger. More and more I am yearning to see the kind of conversion that the Scripture describes, lives radically changed and transformed into the image of Christ. Simply filling a sanctuary with a people coddled by a soft peddaled gospel has long disappeared. Today, I received great encouragement to stay on message.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Celebrating Simply -- Written by my bride

Ever since my mom died eight years ago, we have celebrated Christmas differently. Mom died in our New England home on December 22; the funeral was held on December 26 in Dallas. Mom's doctor had come to the house on Bill's birthday, December 16. He told us she was failing quickly and most likely would not live until Christmas. The weeks leading up to that time had been difficult and draining. I hadn't done any Christmas shopping. During those last few days, I spent a great deal of the time sitting in an arm chair next to my mother's bed. She slept most of the time, probably a result of the morphine the hospice nurses gave her. My brother, husband, kids and I were with her when her spirit left its earthly frame and joined her beloved Saviour and God.

We made all the necessary arrangements, booked our flights and packed our bags. We were at Mom's house in Dallas -- alone -- on Christmas Day. It was so strange to be in her house without her. Christmas had always been a joyous, busy, twinkling time at Mom's. She loved everything about the season and her joy was contagious. Her house was barren without her, a fact made even more desolate by the season.

We realized then that the best part of our Christmas celebrations always centered on faith and family. Presents are quickly forgotten, but family time stays vividly clear.

These days our celebrations are simple, yet full of love. The best things in life are, indeed, free.

Christmas Eve

Tomorrow all of our children will be here for Christmas. There is a new addition to our family this year; Justin got married! He and Erika will leave New York early Christmas morning. Josh and Meg are going to pick them up at the airport in Atlanta.

I am really glad that our church will be open on Christmas! I am looking forward to meeting with my church family. Our gathering will be a simple service with the Majestic Christ center stage.

P.M.

Hundreds came out to the Christmas Eve service. The service was simply but wholely focused on the Lord Jesus Christ. His advent, earthly ministry, and death were recognized as we shared the ordinance of communion. To God be the glory!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Beginning 50

What a surprise when the Beach Boys entered with the aid of canes, crutches, and walkers to celebrate my fiftieth birthday. The guys still have it; they really rocked the joint! Oh sure, they had a little age on them, but they raised the roof.

That would have been enough to make the night a success, but lo and behold, Sonny and Cher took the stage to sing their trademark song, "I Got You Babe." Sonny managed a post-mortem appearance!

The entertainment came to a crescendo when the Shirelles brought a slightly revised version of "The Boy from New York City." The lead singer looked exactly like my wife.

Ooo wah, ooo wah cool, cool kitty
Tell us about the boy who’s turnin’ fifty
Ooo wah, ooo wah he’s so nifty
Tell us about the boy who’s turnin’ fifty

He’s so divine. He’s really fine.
And I am glad that he is mine, all mine.
And he’s neat. And oh so sweet.
And just the way he looked at me He swept me off my feet

Ooo whee, you ought to come and see
The way he walks And how he talks.

Ooo wah, ooo wah he’s so nifty
Tell us about the boy who’s turnin’ fifty

He likes to hike--and ride his bike.
He has the finest camp house—you’ve never seen the like.
And he’s cute. In his three piece suit.
And I really like when he wears his cowboy boots

Ooo whee, say you ought to come and see
His chain saw scar and his daughter's car.

Every time he says he loves me
Chills run down my spine.
Every time he wants to kiss me He makes me feel so fine.

Ooo wah, ooo wah he’s so nifty
Tell us about the boy who’s turnin’ fifty
Ooo wah, ooo wah cool, cool kitty
Tell us about the boy who’s turnin’ fifty

On the seventeenth of December, my nephew Ron and I set out on our bicycles; it was a brisk 36 degrees! When we finished for the morning, we had covered 46 miles. I changed my day off from Friday to Monday and we did another 77 miles. Once again, it was 36 degrees when we left for Piedmont in Pine Mountain. We were going to do a century, but I ran out of gas. I will try again this weekend.

The remainder of the week was chock full of pastoral stuff. I had several counseling sessions, visited the sick, responded to e-mails, and prepared for our Annual Church Conference. Saturday night we will have our Christmas Eve service; it will be wonderfully simple as we sing worshipful songs with Christmas themes, read the Christmas story, and observe the ordinance of communion.

Friday, December 16, 2005

5 Decades And A Fresh 50!

I awoke to the first day of my sixth decade; a half century of thriving and surviving. The first morning of my fiftieth is very similar to the former in many ways: I put on a pot of coffee, read Oswald Chambers (Wrestling with God), prayed, checked my email, and read the Boston Globe. The phone rang at 7 a.m., a call from some old friends in Northern Maine. "How does it feel to be 50?" I was asked. "Straight ahead and never mind the mud!"

This day will be different. Ron and Angela (family) are coming from Florida. Ron and I are going to do some cycling over the next couple of days. Ron is bringing me some cold weather gear to wear. My wife and the church I pastor are throwing a party for me. That is cause for alarm, "What goes around -- comes around." The folks here have come to grips with a fact my wife has long known: I miss few opportunities to torment the daylights out of people!

While reading Chambers this morning a couple of phrases stood out, "If you wrestle with God, you will be crippled for the rest of your life." I know that to be true; I am enjoying the Adventure, but my soul walks with a limp. Chambers devotional ended with these words, "We don't have to fight or wrestle with God, but we must wrestle before God with things. Beware of lazily giving up. Instead, put up a glorious fight and you will find yourself empowered through His strength."

Hmmm . . . a great charge to start a fresh 50!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Wallpaper

Last night Sandy and I attended a Christmas party for Damascus Way, a local shelter for battered women. The batterings came from several fronts, an abusive spouse or boyfriend and life choices that led them into drug addiction or prostitution.

Our church has been celebrating Christmas with this ministry for 8 years. Last night it was once again, "Standing Room Only." The event was well-planned and everyone in the shelter received a gift; the Christmas tree was surrounded by stacks of colorful and neatly wrapped presents. Throughout the evening little children circled the tree searching for gifts with their names on them. Festivities included the CSU gospel choir and a professional piano player.

Then the women from the shelter sang . . . O God!

The ladies accompanied the song, "I Can Only Imagine," with sign language. They were radiant. Faces beamed. Tears filled their eyes. Redemption's joy was unveiled. The evening was a glimpse of the song they sang. Witnessing this absolutely wrenched our hearts.

When the ladies finished singing, Gary Johnson, one of our church members who organizes the event, said words to this effect, "We imagine what heaven will be like . . . our Pastor teaches about heaven and hell. Realize though, that some of these women imagine heaven, but have been to hell . . . they could tell you what the wallpaper looks like.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Narnia And Deep Magic

Tonight, Sandy and I went with some friends to see the The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I have read Lewis' Chronicles; the movie was faithful to the original story. I will recommend it to everyone.

Do you ever wish certain things didn't impact you so deeply? I don't know why, but everytime I see movies like the one I just watched, or The Lord of the Rings, I have a mixture of feelings that range all over the place: sadness, agitation, or even grief. Intense feelings arise; I have to suppress an urge to get up and leave. I want to retreat and mull over what I have seen or heard. Exactly what is going on inside is never clearly defined.

I am told some people go to movies or immerse themselves into books to check out of reality for a while. I look for good movies and good books, too. One thing I have figured out; I am not trying to check out. I am trying to check in; I know there is a life and place of Deep Magic.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

It's Funny Now!

I made it! Last night we had our Christmas presentation and I didn't make the unfortunate mistake of telling hundreds of people (children included) that, "You know who" is not "r-e-a-l!"

Yes, last year I did just that. I have never witnessed "Peace on earth" exit a church sanctuary any faster! The audience was traumatized and I was verbally brutalized; forunately, no one was institutionalized.

In the spirit of the up coming "Auld Lang Syne," I have posted last year's attempt to reconcile with the congregation I serve.

The Unintentional Grinch

My recent descent into “Grinchhood” has left me rather uncomfortable. Saturday night, after the tremendous Christmas presentation, I went to bed and dreamed the choir opened the Sunday morning worship service with a slightly altered version of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”

You’re a mean one, Pastor Shorey
You really are a heel.
You’re as cuddly as a cactus,
You’re as charming as an eel...

You’re a monster, Pastor Shorey
Your heart’s an empty hole.
Your brain is full of spiders,
You’ve got garlic in your soul.

There are more verses, but, I think you hear my heart—I know I upset many. I am deeply sorry. I revealed, to a mixed audience (adults AND CHILDREN), that “You know who is not r-e-a-l.” Why, in the planning and preparation of what I wanted to say, it did not enter my mind, I will not try to defend.

The three words that would best describe how I felt shortly after the service are “Stink, Stank, Stunk!” Please accept my apologies.

Mangled up in tangled up knots,

Pastor Shorey

Thursday, December 8, 2005

Research As The Rain Falls

I am sitting at the kitchen table pecking away at my laptop. I have been doing some research on WWII submarines. I can hear the rain falling off the eaves of outside creating a syncopated beat as they hit the concrete patio. In between google searches I have been answering e-mails from a friend in Maine; he is running a gospel ad in the Bangor Daily News and a couple of local rags. The creator of the ad is a very successful businessman who is absolutely fearless when it comes to sharing his faith. It hasn't seemed to hurt business much; he is incredibly $ucce$$ful. Our friendship began when I invited him to the church I served in Maine. A couple of years later he responded to God's urging to call and ask me if I had a need for fourteen hundred dollars. At that time I was planting a church in Northern Maine, and had just finished praying with one of our men to meet a financial need; we needed fourteen hundred dollars.

Back to the research. As I said in my last post, my father is a WWII Vet. He was on the Pintado's maiden voyage; a plank member. When all was said and done, the entire crew received a Presidential Citation; my father's has been lost. I am trying to find a way to get it replaced. One of my relatives, a very bright and savvy guy, is trying to point me in the right direction. He has found a site that may be the critical link. I have always wanted a copy of that document for my father and for me. At the present, my wife is putting together a collage of pictures for my fiftieth birthday. As I looked at the pictures with her, those pictures were reminders of epics in my life that have shaped me. The pictures don't tell it all, but they evoke memories and bring the journey back to life. I know my father; that document is important.

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Pearl Harbor Day

**This being the anniversary or D-Day, I thought this repost was timely. 

My father joined the Navy after Pearl Harbor. He turned 18 on a submarine somewhere in the South China sea. Dad was raised in Enfield, Maine and ended up on the Pintado (ss-387); the Pintado's keel was laid down by the Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery Maine on 7 May 1943.

Many a night my brothers and I went to bed listening to my father's stories. As a boy, I thought my father was a hero. As a man, I now realize he truly was. Though there is nothing romantic about war itself, there is something incredibly romantic, heroic, and endlessly compelling about the generation of young men and women who fought against evil. O God, how I pray we will never forget that there are some things worth sacrificing and dying for.

I have posted the history of one of the subs my father fought on. All I have to do is close my eyes and the images of an 18 year old scrambling through a steel tube, manning his station, and praying that the depth charges stay out of range come vividly to life. Take some time to read about our forgotten heros.

"On her first war patrol, Pintado served as flagship of a wolfpack, commanded by Captain Leon P. Blair, which also included submarines Shark (SS–314) and Pilotfish (SS–386). The attack group departed Pearl Harbor 16 May, touched at Midway 20 and 21 May, and headed for waters west of the Marianas and south of Formosa. On the 31st, they formed a scouting line in search of a convoy reported by submarine Silversides (SS–236). After sparring with the convoy’s escorts through the night, Pintado managed to reach attack position shortly before dawn and fired a spread of six torpedos at overlapping targets, destroying 4,716 ton cargo ship Toho Maru. She then daringly came within 700 yards of an escort while bringing her stern tubes to bear on another merchant ship. Although explosions suggested that some of the second spread of torpedos had scored, no second sinking has been confirmed. Pintado then skillfully evaded angry Japanese destroyers and sped away to safety.

About midday on 4 June, Pintado spotted smoke from a Japanese convoy heading toward Saipan. She and her sister subs headed for the enemy, and soon Shark sank 6,886-ton cargo ship Katsunkawa Maru before slipping away from a heavy depth charge attack. The American submarines continued to shadow the convoy and early the next day Shark’s torpedos accounted for two more cargo ships.

Pintado made her kills shortly before noon of 6 June, D-day in Normandy, with a spread of torpedos at overlapping targets. An awesome explosion tore one ship apart, her bow and stern both projecting up in the air as she sank. The stern of a second was under water before she was swallowed by smoke and flame. These victims were later identified as 5,652-ton Havre Maru and 2,825-ton Kashimasan Maru. An airplane and five escorts tried to box in the submarine and dropped over 50 depth charges, but she escaped damage.

Pintado and her sisters in the wolfpack had all but destroyed the convoy which was attempting to reinforce Japanese defenses of the Marianas. While escorts rescued many of the 7,000 troops whose ships had gone down, they had lost weapons, tanks, and equipment. This greatly weakened Japan’s defensive capability in the Marianas for the impending American invasion of Saipan. Pintado then headed for the Marshall Islands, arriving Majuro 1 July for refit.

Her second war patrol took the submarine to the East China Sea. On 6 August she sank 5,401-ton cargoship Shonan Maru and damaged another target in a Formosa-bound convoy, before scampering away through a downpour of exploding depth charges. On the 22nd Pintado spotted an 11 ship convoy guarded by three escorts. After dark she moved into the center of the convoy, passing a scant 75 yards from an escort, to attack Tonan Maru No. 2, a former whale factorywhich Lt. Comdr. Clarey, as executive officer of Amberjack, had helped to sink in Kavieng Harbor, Bismark Archipelago, 10 October 1942. Since then the Japanese had raised the ship and towed her to Japan where she was repaired and converted to a tanker.

Two spreads of torpedos from the submarine left the monster ablaze and sinking and damaged two other tankers. Tonan Maru was one of the largest merchant ships sunk byan American submarine during World War II. Following lifeguard station duty off Japan, Pintado turned eastward 1September and arrived Pearl Harbor on the 14th.On Pintado’s third war patrol, Lt. Comdr. Clarey commanded a wolfpack which included Atule (SS–403) and Jallao (SS–368). The group departed Pearl Harbor 9 Octoberheading for the South China Sea. Meanwhile, General MacArthur was preparing to return to the Philippines. When histroops landed on Leyte 20 October, the Japanese Navystruck back with all its force in a “go-for-broke” attempt to smash the invasion. The result was the decisive Battle for Leyte Gulf.

As the American Navy turned back the three prongs of the Japanese offensive, Clarey’s submarines sped toward Luzon Strait to attack the Northern Japanese Force which Admiral Halsey’s Fleet had engaged off Cape Engano. On the night of the 25th, Jallao, made radar contact with bombdamaged light cruiser Tama fleeing from Halsey. Pintado closed the scene with Jallao but held her fire while her sister submarine attacked, ready to join in the fray if needed. Jallao launched seven torpedos, and Tama broke up and went to the bottom, the last cruiser to go down in the Battle off Cape Engano.

A bonus came on 3 November when Pintado’s periscope revealed “the largest enemy ship we have ever seen”, apparently an oiler in the support group for the Japanese carriers. Clarey fired six bow torpedos at the huge target, but enemy destroyer Akikaze crossed their path before they could reach their target. The destroyer disintegrated in a tremendous explosion which provided an effective smoke screen protecting the original target until the two remaining Japanese escorts forced the submarine to dive and withdraw to escape exploding depth charges.
Pintado joined Halibut on the 14th and escorted the damaged submarine to Saipan, arriving Tanapag Harbor five days later. After a week in port, she resumed her war patrol South of Takao. On the night of 12–13 December, she sank two enemy landing craft, Transport No. 12 and Transport No. 104, and an unidentified ship. Two days later she headed for Australia and arrived Brisbane on New Years Day 1945. She won the Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary skill and heroism on her first three war patrols."

My Dad was on Pintado's first patrol, which made him a Plank owner. He, along with his other shipmates received a Presidential Citation for their service. I have been on a sub of the same size and class, the Lionfish. I have seen the cramped sleeping quarters, the torpedo room, and the dark narrow corridors that run from section to section in the bowels of the ship.

The men of the "Silent Service" were a breed apart -- all warriors are.

Monday, December 5, 2005

The Monday After Much Study!

Today I would like to set out on an endless road trip. Endless? I mean it would not end until I was ready for it to end. There would be no need to prioritize my dreams and destinations; I would not have to choose, “If I want to do this, I cannot do that.” Time constraint? None! Neither my pace nor my stay would be rushed. I would wring each experience for all it is worth. Sure, I have some places I want to go, but if, while on my unhurried way, an attraction caught my eye, I could alter my route and accommodate my curiosity. “I will get there when I get there.”

Do I sound like Solomon, “denying himself nothing . . . refusing his heart no pleasure . . . chasing after the wind.”? I don’t intend to; that kind of quest left Solomon concluding, “Meaningless! Meaningless . . . everything is meaningless!” Those are not the passions or pits that I am trying to describe.

The Solomon who most closely reflects my own state of mind said this, “. . . The Teacher . . . imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs . . . searched to find just the right words . . . much study wearies the body.” It is Monday -- after much study -- time to get going, again!

Thursday, December 1, 2005

The Gambler?

Tonight some friends helped Sandy and me celebrate my up-coming 50th birthday by taking us out for dinner and then to a Kenny Rogers Christmas concert. I didn't know he did Christmas music. When I was just a kid, he had a band called "Kenny Rogers and the First Edition." Over the years, the former "Rocker" turned "Country" singer has mellowed. Tonight, he began his concert by forewarning us that he wouldn't be singing "The Gambler" or "Lucille." He said neither of them really fit in with "O Holy Night" and "Little Town of Bethlehem."

We had some of the best seats in the house. In fact, we sat two rows behind Kenny's wife; she had their little twins with her -- they appeared less than a year old. I actually got to say "Hi" to her, but one of our friends got invited back stage to meet Rogers himself! During the concert Kenny went down into the crowd and another of our friends got chosen to sing; I hope he doesn't quit his day job!

Kenny was very vocal about resisting the pressure to take Christmas out of the public arena. I was glad to hear him say that -- more than once. The show was family oriented, clean, and pleasant. A couple of choirs from our local high schools, Shaw and Northside, provided some of the choral back-up vocals. I don't know how many deals are left in the aging Gambler's deck, but tonight he held a full house in his hands.

A Call From Iraq

This morning, one of our soldiers called from Iraq. The area he is in is considered one of the most dangerous and volatile. Our soldier is a very committed Christ follower and is also one who is in charge of many young men who follow him; he is an officer. He is in a difficult situation. Waging war requires a lot of intelligence to determine the whereabouts of the Insurgents. The best source of that intelligence is from the locals. Our soldiers there do not have the resources to win the trust of villages with gifts of blankets, first aid medicines, and the building of relationships that come from just socializing with the natives. You don't make a lot of friends when you are bursting through front doors and dragging a confirmed or suspected terrorist into the streets.

Engagements with the enemy come by exposure; our soldiers basically make themselves vulnerable to attack. Bombs disguised as roadside debris are a constant threat; nothing can be left to chance. Our guys possess superior weapons, are disciplined, professional, incredibly committed, and brave. But an adversary that is invisible is hard to fight. After I hung up the phone, the spiritual parallel came to my mind, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against . . . the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms . . ."

The Lord got my attention with a call from Iraq.