Complacency Kills

I remember riding with my upper torso exposed in my gun turret and reading the conveniently placed “Complacency Kills” signs all over the FOB (Forward Operating Base) that my convoy had stopped at for the day.  The image and location of these signs have been seared into my brain as a constant reminder of the need for hyper vigilance.  If we drop our guard in a moment of complacency we would be opened for attack. In the Army we trained for weeks and even months at a time prior to my deployment to hammer in the basics so when the time of testing occurred we wouldn’t think, we would react.  You learned and relearned things to the point of absurdity so that it became muscle memory.  Drills and scenarios in harsh conditions that pushed my body and mind to their limits helped me to know that I had what it took if the need would arise.  In a very short time I went from being a weekend warrior in the Army National Guard to a full time soldier in a combat zone.  Playtime was over.

The same has been true in my spiritual life.  Although I think I had a long reluctant courtship with Jesus prior to my full submission to His will, it seemed that in a very short period of time I went from being an interested observer to full time combatant in the Lord’s army equipped with the full armor of God.  The same principle was also true in regards to training.  I immersed myself immediately into intense study, prayer, learning the basics of my faith and was tried by fire by jumping headlong into ministry in every capacity available to me.  The lesson I learned while deployed in Iraq still rings true now, maybe truer.  Complacency kills.

How many times do you feel like giving up, or worst yet, how many times do you feel apathetic to the whole process of faith?  I’ll admit that I’ve been there and constantly have to remind myself to not let my guard down but more often than not in moments of weakness or laziness I drop my shield of faith and BOOM.  That’s when it happens.  When my defenses are low those spiritual roadside bombs seem to catch me when I least expect them.  We know what to do, we know God’s word is true, but in our pride we sometimes put our perceived needs in front of the mission God has called us to.  Like spoiled children we whine and cry if we don’t get our way or if God’s will doesn’t line up with what we thought it should be and instead of obedience we fall into rebellion.  Are we honoring Jesus with our lips but denying him with our hearts by our actions?  Titus addresses this in chapter 1 verse 16 of his epistle when he says They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” 

When we allow ourselves to become apathetic to the will of God we are “unfit for doing anything good.”  We have dropped our guard, become complacent and are completely unguarded from the coming attack.  I love how in Ephesians 6 Paul warns us to be prepared for battle and assures us that it’s not a matter of if but a matter of when the flaming arrows will fly in our direction.

If we are charging forward, fully trained and outfitted for the coming spiritual battle we may take fire from all directions but we are assured in our victory by the spiritual armor we have been given by the father.  If, however, we have become complacent and apathetic, we will most likely be taken down by the coming attack and ill prepared to defend ourselves when the moment of violence occurs.  Will you take up your sword of the spirit and shield of faith and fight the good fight?  Remember, complacency kills!

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Veterans Day

I remember crossing over the Iraq/ Kuwait border for the last time on my final combat mission in support of Operation Iraqi freedom and feeling sad.  Truly sad.  I recall holding back the tears as I took off my Kevlar helmet and IBA vest and thinking to myself "now what?" I was a week away from turning 23 and the whole previous year was spent as a soldier in a combat zone. I can't say that my particular deployment was overly hard as far as deployments go but it was my first time away from home for any length of time.  It was the first time I'd seen a dead body, the first time I had been shot at and the first time I had to detach myself from myself to get the job done.

DSC00943I was a .50 cal machine gunner on a poorly armored Humvee for my first 4-5 months in country and a truck driver the remaining 7-8 months.  I never fired my weapon at an enemy and my vehicle never got hit with an IED yet on the day of my last mission I feared for the battle to come.  During the course of my deployment, and all the experiences a combat zone had to offer, I somehow gracefully made it through unscathed.  I can’t explain it honestly, it seems like everyone I talked to in my unit had the same eerie realization that despite the chaos around us we seemed to be always right before or right after the bad stuff on our convoys.  It was like we were shielded.  That’s not to say that traumatic things didn’t happen but it suggests that those moments always seemed less than they should have been.  Like I said, hard to explain.

The realization of a war raging within my heart hit me like a bomb when the physical threats ended.  What's my mission now?  Who am I in the real world?  I just spent an entire year answering the call for my country and even though I was reluctant to fight this war, by the end of it, it felt more like home than my own bedroom in the states.  The men to my left and right showed me what it meant to be a real family, bonded not by blood but by virtue and shared experience.  This was something that made the end of the deployment that much harder. guntruckplatoon

One moment I was useful, a soldier with a purpose; and the next moment I’m all alone sleeping for days and drinking to black it all out.  To say my life spiraled downward after Iraq was an understatement.  As many people that have shared this experience can attest, it’s incredibly hard to relate to “normal” people once you return home.  Your world was on pause for the length of your deployment but the world around you seems to have been on fast forward and you’re just left with stories you can’t tell to a people that have moved on.

Veterans day always makes me reflect on what that day actually means to me.  I can’t tell my story without telling the story of Iraq.  That experience rocked me to the core and changed my life forever.  Although I regret many of the choices I made upon returning home from my tour of duty, I can honestly say I would do it all over again if given the chance to serve again.

Go Panthers!The lessons I learned, both the right and wrong ways, from that deployment have shaped the man I have become.  I thank God for his providence in placing someone in the right place and right time to tell me about Jesus.  I’m thankful that even after our shared experience in Iraq that he continued to minister and walk with me and ultimately lead me to salvation in Christ.  I think the brokenness that came from that experience allowed me to finally swallow my pride and see things clearer.

Even though I feel like a good part of who I was died in Iraq I’m glad for it.  Maybe in order to become a man I had to loose that innocence or ignorance to a certain degree.  Although I still wrestle with the questions that flooded my brain on my last mission I know that I was spared for a reason.  So what is my mission now and who am I in the real world?  I’m still figuring it out honestly but at least at the moment it seems like the sky is literally the limit.  I want to honor all of the men and women that didn’t have the luxury of making it home by truly being all that I can be.  How are you making the most of this mission called life?  Happy Veterans Day. Drivers perspective of me in the turret with the 50 cal.

Adventure Archive Kuwaiti Uromastyx Lizard

This Adventure Archive takes us back to May of 2006 at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. I was stationed here while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. I captured a Uromastyx microlepis lizard on base after many many failed attempts. This is still one of my favorite lizards! 

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