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Monday, November 27, 2006

Crater Analysis: Terry

When a U.S. military position receives incoming mortar fire, if the firing tubes are not identified through other means, the unit can conduct “crater analysis” to find out where the round came from. To start this, they measure the impact of the round – its depth and direction.

This series, which will make occasional appearances on the blog, will recount the impact that different people I met while on active duty had upon me. This first one dates back to 1997.

By the time I became an Army Aviation platoon leader, I had spent time as a staff officer and as an executive officer for a headquarters company. This allowed me to view aviation units from the outside, and I had come to a sobering conclusion – the US Army Aviation Warrant Officer lacked military discipline.

This demands two rapid clarifications. First, Army Aviation warrant officers have a different career path and set of responsibilities than other warrant officers. The lowest warrant officer rank is Warrant Officer One (WO1). In aviation, a WO1 would be responsible for essentially showing up on time. In other branches of the Army, a WO1 would be responsible for an entire battalion’s maintenance planning and performance, for example. As an aviation warrant officer progresses, their responsibilities creep up only a little bit each time. At no time are they responsible for troops, or for a unit’s performance. Yet, these officers are afforded the same level of privilege as commission officers, who are responsible for every aspect of their troop’s lives and their units functioning. This combination of greater privilege and low responsibility breeds poor discipline.

The second clarification is that while they lack military discipline, they do not lack professionalism. In fact, their occupational professionalism is unmatched. They take great pride in being the best pilot, maintenance test pilot, instructor pilot, safety officer, or whatever specialty they work in. They can be counted on to do an excellent job at their aviation tasks. It is military discipline they lack – they do not look, speak or present themselves as soldiers and officers. Obviously I am not speaking of them all – I have had some very disciplined warrants – but the group as a whole suffers here.

That preface complete, on to the story!

With that in mind, I prepared my initial in brief for all of my warrant officers. Unlike some other commissioned officers in Aviation, I was committed to maintaining a level of discipline and order, and that began by addressing my warrant officers by “Mr.” and their last name, as opposed to their first names. I would let them know that I would continue to do that, as a measure of my respect for them, and I expected a reciprocal level of professional respect for me. I would inform them that I felt that aviation has a poor image outside of the branch, and that I would hold them to a high level of military bearing in appearance and conduct, and mentioned three specific things – uniform appearance, physical fitness, and military courtesy.

The first person I briefed was Terry, a CW2 who was the platoon instructor pilot. When I finished my monologue, Terry looked at me with narrow eyes and said, “Let me tell you something, sir.”

I was cringing inside, anticipating what came next:

“Don’t you ever change that!”

He went on to tell me how he agreed, how he held himself to high standards and he was glad to have a leader who would do the same for him and his peers.

Having Terry in support of my leadership style made all the difference in the world. Over time, I became better friends with Terry. I know that God placed Terry in my life at the right time for the right reasons. Had I met Terry two years earlier, we never would have been friends. Terry had left his wife for another woman – and although he justified it with his wife’s abusive relationship with him at the time, he knew by the time we met that it was wrong, but that the right answer was not to leave his new wife. We discussed scripture and its application, professional development, and personal decisions. On a helicopter flight to Louisiana, Terry revealed to me what a mistake it was going to be to marry the woman I was engaged to at the time, for which I am eternally grateful. It went like this:

“Sir, close your eyes. Imagine that you are at the altar with X, and you have just said ‘I do’. What are you thinking?”

I snapped my eyes open and said, “My God, what have I done?!”

Terry remains the model of professionalism. I wrote recommendations for his selection for Officer Candidate School and promotion to a commissioned officer – but he eventually turned it down, feeling he could make more of a difference within the warrant officer corps. One of the downsides of my departure from the military is that I unexpectedly lost my Army email account, and lost many of my Army friends’ contact info. Terry is one that I miss most. Hopefully when I return to the Army as chaplain (Lord willing), I will see Terry as a CW4 and find out what kind of difference he has made and is making. I hope I made as positive an impact upon him as he did upon me.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Hiatus Complete

We've been out for a while with the aforementioned work and school challenges. I am happy to announce that I am no longer working the third shift, and have been hired on by my church as the adminstrator and pastoral care associate! This will allow me to assist the church in an area of talent with things (administration) and with people (pastoral care). Furthermore, I will be able to spend more time with my wife and oldest son, as well as net more overall sleep, reduce total travel time, and increase study opportunities. All in all, even though the move is a pay cut, we are excited about the change.

I recently had the opportunity to spend three days and two night with all three children, minus Mrs. Hammer. I survived the ordeal, as did they, and I leave some advice for Dads who are presented with this kind of opportunity:

1) Get them out of the house. No, not just into the yard, but away. Bring them somewhere outside of the property for three hours. We went to the seminary and the mall on Friday, the local privately run forest / park on Saturday, and church on Sunday. This removes that dreaded extended time of entertainment that the great moms of the world fill with crafts, teaching and training and the slightly less great moms fill with a lot of "lighted box" time. Dads, don't be in a spot where your answer to what you did with the kids was "watched TV"!

2) Recognize needs vs wants. When the toddler falls down and busts her lip, she needs to be held. When she is bored of hitting the dog with a wooden sword, she does not. If you are doing a family critical job, like cooking dinner, you are not capable of simultaneously holding the toddler and cooking without burning someone or something. Moms can pull this off, we can't. A firm, "Daddy is busy cooking, we'll play later" is key here. She may whine for a minute, but she'll head over to the power tools for entertainment soon enough.

3) Physical activity reduces household stress. Tired kids go to sleep easier, and running around the forest like a madman guarantees this state.

4) Notre Dame football is an acceptable kiddie show.

5) It is always the oldest one's fault. This may not always be true, but it makes punishemnet decisions easy and makes the older one motivated to avoid fighting with the younger.

6) Punish early to avoid more of it later. We had a "naughty stick" incident Friday, and no further ones were required.

The Mrs. and I have been planning the direction of the blog, though we haven't had time for implementation. Now we will, as final exams are next week and I will only have school for one week out of the next ten. Some things we'll cover:

A) The first of an intermittent series on people in the military that made a lasting mark on me.

B) A series on church membership.

C) A post or short series on the doctrine of hell.

D) An exchange of posts regarding Hyper-Calvinism and my disagreement with it (Robert, are you up for it?)

E) A series addressing the Trinity, a lost doctrine in many of our "low churches", of which I am a member.

And whatever else may come from you all.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Wal-Mart, Hotel Maids and the Kingdom

What follows is a transcript I made of a sermon by Dr. Russell Moore, the Dean of the School of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. There is a link to the entire sermon (audio) here. You will note that I cut the whole first paragraph and some parts of the second for the final post in the inerrancy series – but what may surprise you is that while the text completely fits that context, it was leading towards a different one – a warning to theological conservatives.

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

- James 2:1-9

Nancy Anderson and Richard Marius, both of whom are liberals, wrote sociological analyses of the Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention – and both came up with the same conclusion. When you look at people who were moving toward liberalism, and the ones who were standing toward orthodoxy, the ones who were the fundamentalists were those who grew up in blue-collar homes; while the ones who were liberal, regardless of how much money they had now, were the those who grew up in very comfortable homes. Not as a rule, but generally. Why? Anderson and Marius both asked, Why? Their conclusion: those who are more at home in American culture, those who are more secure in American culture, were those who were more likely to move with American culture, were those who were more likely to be concerned about what the outside culture thinks. Those who instead were insecure in the culture, those who were already marginalized, were the ones who were willing to hear and to listen to a gospel that the scholars had been telling them is ridiculous!

That’s not an accident, it’s not unusual. James says, “God has chosen the poor of this world, God has chosen the downtrodden of the world to be rich in faith.” God is preserving orthodoxy and preserving commitment to the word of God specifically through those that the world says have no influence at all! There is a reason why boutique liberalism and faddish evangelicalism don’t really take root in the trailer parks. There’s a reason why Brian McLaren has never been translated into Sudanese. Places who are feeling the persecution of the sword, places in which those who have the power over your income also have the right to tell you what to believe, are the very places where God brings forward men and women who will stand and say “This I believe, I can do no other.”

God has chosen them to be rich in faith, and not only that, but to also be the heirs to the kingdom, he says, which he promised to those who love Him. What you need to understand is that you are looking through the wrong priority lens, and what you need to see is that the last will be first and the first will be last. When you welcome in the poor among you, do not sit around and congratulate yourselves as if you did some act of charity. When you are pastoring, ministering and loving the people who are rich in faith but poor in the things of this world, all you are doing, James says, is being the political consultant to those who will one day be the rulers of this earth! They will be heirs of the kingdom, and when you recognize that, you are saying that you know that at the resurrection of the dead, God will be giving glory and authority

Those who may not have had anything in this life, may have had had shabby clothing, who were hotel maids who had to take Motrin eight times a day because their backs are giving out, but those who believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they will be exalted. James says when you don’t listen to them, it is to your own detriment, it is because you don’t know what is coming! That’s exactly what Jesus is saying when he tells his disciples, “The first will be last and the last first.” When you understand this, you will understand that there will be church janitors who will be crowned with glory and church celebrities who will be humbled…

In every generation of the church, and in our generation, too, there is a danger of defining the great commission as chasing whatever the world values. In the 80’s it was upwardly mobile baby boomers who wanted a mall. In this generation perhaps it is cool, hip, edgy postmodernists who are technologically savvy. In every generation there is a tendency to despise the very people through whom God has given us the gospel. It is very easy as a seminary student, or seminary faculty member, or administrator to make fun of shofars blowing at the Southern Baptist Convention. It is very easy to turn around and see our churches and to despise them. It is very easy to look at what we see as Biblical illiteracy and look at what we see as silliness, and scoff at them in coffee shops.

In older days people had liberalism to show how much smarter they were than the rednecks. However, it is just as easy for Satan to tear you apart by taking orthodox theology and relevant missiology in order to prop up in your mind your superiority to these people. And you can find yourself believing things that are true, and you can find yourself doing things that are effective, and find yourself serving in churches with your heads cricked- just like the liberals did toward Harvard and Yale - you can have your heads cricked toward all of your peers who are looking at what you are doing and looking to see if you are fitting in with what they expect, you can find yourself doing that, while secretly considering yourself above the people you serve – and it will take more than five points and an elder board to keep you from liberalism…you’ll already be there. It will take more than a spread in Relevant magazine to make you relevant to the culture - you’re gone.

James says that you need to recognize that the standards here and priorities here are very, very different. You need to understand that you can have all the justifications you want to for thinking you are superior to them, more educated than them, more socially well off than them, but what you need to understand is that you can have all the ironic conversations you want to, and have all the theological sophistication that you want to and you can miss the fact that the kingdom of God is dawning in a Wal-Mart break room of people sitting around over a Bible leading someone to Christ, who don’t know who John Owen is, who can’t diagram a Greek sentence, who like Bill Gaither more than they like Bach, who understand the gospel in what may be a very narrow way, but they are people who are rulers-in-waiting of the cosmos, and you need to recognize that because your own soul is at stake.


I pray that the Almighty keep us all from such arrogance...and especially me.