Disciplined against distraction

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Disciplined against distraction

Jan. 13, 2005    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
mwacht@flumc.org     Orlando  {0223}

An e-Review Commentary
By the Rev. Terri Jones**

KUWAIT — The Rev. Terri Jones (left) serves communion to CPT Abner Wang of the U.S. Navy during a Sunday service before Christmas. Jones is a U.S. Army Reserves chaplain serving in Kuwait. Photo by SFC John Barrow, Photo #05-0135.

KUWAIT — Being the entry/exit chaplain I get to meet all kinds of soldiers.

After two months now, I can begin to see beyond the universal uniform and gear to the small things that make each one different. It is the small things that also tell the experiences of the soldiers.
For example, a soldier who has faced battle will have an alertness about him. His eyes scan the crowds and are able to make an instant analysis about dangerous situations. Those who have traveled the roads can identify the smallest discoloration in sand that covers a buried IED (Improvised Explosive Device). The battle-prepared soldiers will often have their blood type written in permanent marker on the side of their boots ... in case they are injured, so the medics can provide transfusions immediately. And, if I could look carefully, they may even carry a personal letter or listing of names, phone numbers and addresses of those most important to them wedged between the sappy plates of their body armor. It is the most protected place on their body, and it is there that they keep those most important to them. 

I suppose one could describe these soldiers as having everything about them focused singularly on their mission, their entire being speaking to only those things that are mission essential — alertness, preparation for any attack and home pressed close to their heart.

Many words come to my mind to describe these soldiers: focused, brave, well-trained. They don't draw attention to themselves or boast of their stories. Quite simply, there aren't contradictions. They are soldiers, through and through.

Those few in the crowds teach me much about my own life as a Christian. If a stranger saw me in a crowd of religious people what would he/she see? What would my behavior whisper about me? What would my priorities tell about my mission? I wonder about my own self, if I have that same focus that I could identify temptation so easily as those soldiers discovering the hidden mines.

Regardless of what people feel about soldiers, there are few other professions where I have seen people so focused and prepared for what they do. Most of us work between distractions. The soldier is disciplined against distraction. If only my mission for Christ could be so completely focused.

Today, I had a group of six soldiers come through my office for their R&R briefings. They had survived the attack on Mosul where their commander had been killed. One of the soldiers carried the shell of a bullet that had just missed him in his pocket. They came filing in together and I sent them home with a prayer ... even as I had sent their comrades together home eternal with a prayer. 

It takes only five minutes of being in their presence to be changed, challenged, and to re-think how I prioritize my life. May I count it all loss except for Christ, my Lord.  May I be as fearless as they to proclaim the mystery of the Gospel.
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes ... so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand ... ."  - Ephesians 6:10-20

This commentary relates to Christian Mission and Witness.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Jones is a U.S. Army Reserves chaplain in Kuwait working with all branches of military and civilians entering and leaving the theater of operation, including Iraq and Afghanistan. When called to active duty, Jones was serving as pastor of Gulfport United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg.

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