The Threat of the Ewok

While in Korea I would send gifts home.  Thank God for Amazon and the Disney Store.  It was easy to go to the website and to order and it would arrive in 5-8 days.  It just made it nice to know I could do it.  And the kids loved it.  They liked getting mail as much as I did.

Except one present.

I sent my son a stuffed animal, Wicket the Ewok.  I thought it looked awesome.  It was fluffy and furry and had a face and little arms and legs.  I thought it looked awesome.

It terrorizes my son.  He wants no part of it.  When you show it to him he freaks out.  He whines.  He hits it.  He just wants it to go away.  And he watches it as you put it away.  He wants to make sure he knows where it is, and is relieved not when it is hidden but it is far enough away that he feels safe from it.  I’ve tried to introduce it to him while we play, and it doesn’t change.

He has a Kermit that he loves and laughs at.  He has a Wooly Mammoth that he loves.  He has a fox that he holds as he goes to bed.

But the Ewok is a terror.

I feel bad that I got it for him.  I feel bad that it causes such fear in him.  It was meant for goodness and it only causes grief.

Sometimes I think its a testament to how much I just didn’t know my son at the time.  Being away had caused some lost knowledge, some gaps in my relational knowledge and I came back and all of my kids are older.  They’ve changed ever so much and I wasn’t quite aware that so much could change.  And they really haven’t.  Not really.  But I cannot shake the feeling that I missed something while I was away with my son.

I posted a couple of weeks ago about me getting to know my son.  A lot of time passed and he has changed the most, as most kids do their first year of life.  The fear is that I missed just enough of that forming knowledge in which I know him… but he also missed just enough of getting to know me. We play together and chase each other, and I push him in his stroller and carry him around… sometimes it doesn’t feel like playing.  It feels like making up for lost time.

Running to Death

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

-Philippians 2:5-8

A decision was made on my behalf, before I was born, to be loved.  To be loved, in its fullest expression, meant that the Son agreed to die for me, on my behalf, for the glory of the Godhead as no one else could.

Paul is encouraging us to be the same, to have the same mind as Christ.  A worthy goal, to be sure, but how and why?

We live and move and have our being in such a way that promotes the goodness of the Gospel by serving each other.  Just as Christ served us before we knew it, we avail ourselves to be useful, never forgetting how deeply we are loved before we knew it.

And why?  We do this not just because we are loved, but because our salvation is due to such extravagance.  We are obedient because Christ was obedient, even unto death.  We work out our own salvation in “fear and trembling” because we know we are being asked to die daily to each other.  We die our death in such a way that promotes the goodness of the body and promotes the glory of the gospel.

This is a challenge to me, as I fight against my desire to self-promote in all areas that I can.  I fight against this when it comes to my wife, my kids, and my unit.  I want to self-promote.  I want to get what i think I deserve.  I want to take a nap.  I want to watch the TV shows I want to watch.

Even as Christ defeated death, so I now run to it, no longer afraid of the punishment I once faced.  Instead I die to myself and my wants in order to help my wife, my family, those I serve, to see the gospel clearly.  I run to death because I’m working out my salvation in fear and trembling, sure of the One who has called me to obedience.

The odds of glory and love

As I watch the events of the world around me, I am interested in the concept that God wants us to be happy.  Sometimes its phrased, “God wants me to happy.  If He created me this way, then it must be ok.  Why would God make me this way if He didn’t want me to be happy.”  But, then, how could a book be written by/for/about this deity who seems at odds with what a lot of the things that make us happy?

When I pray, I sometimes say the Lord’s Prayer.  I feel like I should say it more often… its a pretty good prayer (understatement).    I believe it was given to us, in part, so that we could understand the heart of God even as we ask for things.  Each line tells us something about the God who provides, and about us who ask.

Hallowed be Your name… Answer 122 to the Heidelberg says that this line is as much request as it is an invocatory.  By saying this, we are asking to “Help us really know You, to bless, worship, and praise You for all Your works and for all that shines forth from them: Your almighty power, wisdom, kindness, justice, mercy, and truth.  And it means, help us to direct all our living – what we think, say, and do – so that Your name will never be blasphemed because of us but always honored and praised.”

We do not pray for our happiness, alone.  We should not ask just for blessings and for our safety as if God’s joy was based on our happiness.  Our life, our blessings and our struggles, are not about our happiness.  Its about knowing a God who has called us and loves us, and wants us to know Him and to make Him known… even in our struggles and in our blessings I do not speak out of both sides of my mouth when I praise Him and ask for His help in how He’s made me.  I struggle because I am at odds with His glory. I need to acknowledge His supremacy so that I can rely on Him in my struggles.  We invite danger when we think that God’s goodness as a father and as a god hinge on our happiness alone.

If prayer is a constancy of our life, then there should not be a moment of joy or pain in which we can make him known.  Yes, God knit me together in my mother’s womb, and he formed me innermost parts.  He knows me and knew my struggles before I was born.  He also saw my need for Him.  God did not make me dependent on myself.  He made me, us, that I, we, may pray “Hallowed be Your name…”

Pride is the enemy of hope

I came across this line, “Pride is the enemy of hope”, somewhere at some point.  I wrote it down and have been mulling it over for a bit now.  Is it true?

Hope is not an abstract way of thinking, setting your mind on a possible future or outcome that is favorable to you.  I mean, it is, but it can only be stunted by present calamities.  Hope towards, strain forward, for what?  In my theology, in my worldview, it hinges on a person.  Hope is a person.  Pride, self-made king, only stands in opposition to this One.

How can I look to a future of myself, the self-made man, and long for anything more than what he has given to me?  My future looking is limited by my death, something I cannot overcome but something I deserve.  I need the one who has Overcome.

Is this not what Paul is warning about in Chapter 8 of Romans?  We are not to hope and cling to the flesh, our own desires and plans.  Which is king, me and my frail body or the One who has overcome?

The Divine Act

“…grace is found in the divine act in eternity whereby the Father appoints the Son as Mediator and the Son voluntarily accepts the role.”

There is nothing that astounds me more at times as I stare at the world around, the beauty and the horror, and see the deep love of God in Christ.  For this, He agreed to die.  For this, He was asked to die.  To the hope of our eternity it was agreed, and not for own sake but for the glory of the One who is sovereign over all.  This thought grieves me, that I should be the problem.  My heart leaps at such a thought, such joy!  I am loved by a God so great.  And not me only, but those whom He has called and who answer his call.

This grace has found me and drives me on, as a husband, as a father, as a chaplain.

As far as the moon

I sat on the back porch a couple of days ago, in the cool Texan morning surrounded by the morning birds who could not keep quiet, and there the moon hung.  It was the moment when the moon is slowly fading in the presence of the sun, losing its luster as the primary source gains ground in the horizon.  Without the mountains, the sky is so much bigger.  The mountains, like Atlas kept the sky further away.  Here the sky feel as close as it could possibly get.  Such a difference from Korea.   As different as the moon.

That’s where I might as well have been: the moon.

Tribulation and necessity

“If tribulation is a necessary element in redemption, we must anticipate that it will never cease till God sees the world to be either redeemed or of no further redeemable.” – CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain

I did not mean to read The Problem of Pain.  When my Nana was days to the end I wanted to read A Grief Observed, but this book showed up instead.  As chances are what they are, I picked it up and was encouraged in unexpected ways.

I often meet soldiers who are in pain.  In fact, its about 90% of the soldiers who come to see me are experiencing pain in some way or another.  I do joke at times that I would like to hear some good news, from time to time.  I do not give the trite answer that God has all these things happening for their good… because even though I can see it they cannot.  Its a brash answer given at times when care is needed most and not given. Its a speedy answer, not necessarily the most caring.

To pray for a world of no suffering… its the dream, right?  “Peace in our time.”  But that’s it, just peace for the present.  How many times have I bartered for peace when reconciliation was needed?  How often have I wanted to just sit and be in the quiet, thinking that was peace?  I will insert into my prayers in formation what what we look forward to is the time without deployments and wars.

Tribulation is for the weak to be shown the goodness and strength of their god, and does he lack what they require of their god?  Instead, in my bias, I cling to the God who ran to suffer for my sake, because He cares for me.  There can be no peace in our time, because we are still in a world that “moans as if in pains of labor”.  It wants to be redeemed.  I want to be well.  Neither of those can happen if not for the accepted suffering of the God who died in my place, and the knowledge of the present lacking in this rebellious world.

May He continue to find us worth redemption.

Getting to know my son, again

Ewan & the mandolin

I stepped out of formation and walked holding my mandolin in the air.  There were quite a few of us, and I figured I was the only one carrying a mandolin.  So, I held it aloft like a beacon.  It worked and I could hear my wife yelling “Chaplain Fuller!”  Claire and Lily ran to me right away and i dropped all I was carrying and pulled them close.

Ewan looked at me tentatively.  In his closest, and maybe farthest, recollection I was only 2D, and on a screen.  He would see me in pictures point me out.  When he saw me on the computer or phone he would wave and smile. But here I was in the flesh, and he didn’t want me.  It was late, and Heather was close – I didn’t stand much of a chance at that moment.

My heart broke, a tiny shard peeling off.  This was my fear, that my youngest wouldn’t know me or want to be near me.  He wasn’t frightened as much as he was just unsure.  I gave him back to Heather and said hello to everyone else, thanking them for coming and kissing my wife over and over again.  I wasn’t about to force him close to me knowing that would spell disaster.

The struggle of being away is the feeling that you will miss out on so much.  Daily, it gets worse as the distance becomes more and more pronounced.  Reintegration is all about relationships: the better the relationships the better the reintegration.  Its one thing when you can expect those who were in the past will be there in the future, when you get back.  You can catch up and create new stories that build on old bonds.

But what about those that your relationships are new when you left?  What about those who had no real concept of you before, and then you show up one day.

We came back to the house and Ewan was intent on my mandolin.  He was patting on the case and just wanted to know what it was.  So, I brought out the mandolin and his eyes lit up.  He wanted to know what it was, and why it sounded the way it did.  Running his fingers over the wood and wire, he was amazed.  I was showing him something he did not know, and in that moment he was interested in me, wanting to know more about the guy who brought this into his life.

I’m starting a relationship with my son anew.  I’m getting to know him as much as he’s getting to know and trust me.  I know that I will be leaving again, its only a question of when.  The time I have now to connect and create a relationship with my son the better it will be when that time comes again.  Ewan makes it so easy, too.  He’s such an amiable kid, wanting to show me everything.  His smile and eyes are infectious, and only invites you to come get him and hold him.

Still, preparing for the future deployments does not make easy the present moment.

I got lost

My time here in Korea is running out.  There are still some things I would like to do but time has run out.  Between doing stuff with the soldiers and just getting away, some things got shifted to the back burner and they never moved forward.  No regrets, though.

I did want to climb the mountain behind Camp Stanley again.  I hadn’t been up there since November.  Last time I was up there I was wearing mostly my full kit for a PT session.  I took up the mountain and sat at the top of the saddle.  We got in such a task oriented thought that morning that I was the only one who sat.  I was running a little late for the rest of the day but did not regret sitting at the top, overlooking Camp Stanley and Uijenbou, and read Psalm 27.

This time was different.  I went with another Captain in the early hours of Saturday and we walked up the path.  I wasn’t weighed down by heavy gear.  I was wearing shorts, and we could take our time.  There was no agenda except just getting to the top.  Things were going really well until we thought we were still on the path.  We had a general idea of where we were going, up.  However, it became clear that the path had disappeared and we had to make some decisions.  We were still sure that we just needed to keep moving up, but without a path we were forging our own way.

What became a challenge became a terrible idea.  We were walking up steep sides, jutting up against rocks we could not get up, and barely made it around.  We clung close to ridge lines and held on to tree limbs, scraggly tree limbs but firmly attached to the mountain.  We finally found a spot where we could just sit.  Below us lay the valley.  We were so close to the top, we just couldn’t get up to it.  Trying in vain to boulder up, we turned and sat.

The valley belowIt felt so good to sit.  It felt so good to look down and see the valley stretch below.  i don’t know that the view would’ve been much better if we had gone up another 15 feet.  After the struggle, it was a rest we needed.  After such a long time, it was good to think that I had come here, accomplished something and could rest.

It also seemed a little late.

In all of this, it seemed like the rest had come too late to really enjoy it.  Along the path we made we had stopped to catch our breath but I did not appreciate those moments anymore than a stop on the journey up.

We were completely lost.  We made our way down the mountain mostly by falling.  The leaves were about 5ft deep in some places and were needed cushions, as long as you didn’t think about the spiders and bugs that were sharing that space with you.  We had a general idea of where we were going “down”, but we could tell from the top that we had somehow made it over the ridge and were quite a bit aways from Camp.  As long as we kept moving there was hope that we could make it back at a decent amount of time.

And then, a path appeared.  Well, it seemed like a path, and then it actually was one!  It was amazing!  We were so happy.  And then, the path was suddenly the path we had started out on and we were back at the gate onto post.  It was so weird, and relieving.  We walked back into the gate and I realized we looked a mess.  Just a mess.  Covered in dirt.  my shoes were filled with what could be compost.

We did not reach our goal, overall.  Not the point, though, really.

Question 81

Question 81 from the Heidelberg Catechism

Q: Who may to come to the Lord’s Table?

A:  Those who are displeased with themselves because of their sins, but who nevertheless trust that their sins are pardoned and that their continuing weakness is covered by the suffering and death of Christ, and who also desire more to strengthen their faith and to lead a better life.  Hypocrite and those who are unrepentant, however, eat, and drink judgement on themselves.

I question quite often the worth of my life in regard to that which I have been called to.  When i hear “hypocrite” my mind turns on itself in judgement.  Who am I to judge others, let alone think I am worthy enough to take part in the Table.

But a hypocrite is not what I am.  I live worse than I profess, because I am a sinner in my very depths.  My heart will always pursue evil, though I know I am called and loved.  I am not a hypocrite because I “live worse than I profess.”  I come to the Table because I hate my sin, and I am thankful for the One who loves me.  I am sure His work is complete.

A hypocrite is someone who coddles their sin, or excuses them or “makes no effort to turn from them.”  A hypocrite is someone who comes to the Table and only cares about the Table at that moment.  A hypocrite is someone who leaves the Table and thinks its sufficient… not the Christ who instigated the meal, or the community.

We take hypocrite at its simplest meaning, and we apply to ourselves at the wrong junction.  Of course, we are all hypocrites, but only as far as we are unwilling to change, unwilling to see the beauty of Christ.  That doesn’t make us unrighteous, or unable to judge others within our community.  Instead, it should humble us before the Throne and Table.  The hypocrite is the one who only gains from the advantages of Christ and not share in His suffering.