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Unorthodox Injury with Eric Schwarz

This week, I get to sit down and talk with a guy who was a student of mine when I was doing full-time student ministry, Eric Schwarz. He’s an amazing guy with an amazing story. Here are a few of the bulletpoints form our discussion… though you REALLY need to push play and hear Eric’s story for yourself!

  • Eric was born & raised in San Diego
  • Grew up at North Coast Church and I knew Eric’s older brother, Tony
  • Loved skating & punk rock
  • Knew Jesus was real, but wanted to do his own thing

Why didn’t you follow Jesus if you knew it was real?

  • “I didn’t care about my salvation at that point. I just cared about having fun.”
  • Eric did all the church events, but not any of the relationship with Jesus.
  • He knew there was a reason that everyone else believed, but he never took the time to grasp it and engage with it

Eric’s life dramatically changed… and it all started with an accident

  • One day, Eric got high after school and skated home
  • While following his friend home, his friend crossed the street and as he went to cross, he was hit by a truck.
  • Eric woke up in a hospital with no idea why he was there.
  • Later, Eric learned that a Nissan Titan hit him at 45 mph, Eric was thrown 30 feet, destroyed his shoulder and smacked his head on the concrete.
  • Eric was diagnosed with PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury
  • After getting home from the hospital, he went right back to his old life of smoking, partying and skatingUnorthodox Injury with Eric Schwarz
  • While watching his grandfather die, Eric saw what true commitment to Christ looked like.
  • His grandfather’s example and strength led Eric to follow Jesus for real
  • Now, with this life change, Eric has finished school, advocates for people with TBI and works at a school for the disabled.

What are the long-term impacts of the injury?

  • Life long headaches, anxiety, depression, lower functioning motor skills and lack of focus
  • Eric has found that creating art helps cope with depression

What are words of advice for people going through brain injury?

  • Practice gratitude – gratitude helps you focus on the good things in this world
  • Don’t Isolate yourself – talk to others who know more than you do: professionals, doctors, family, friends
  • Admit you need help – get the help you need!

What advice do you have for people who are in relationship with others who are dealing with depression or TBI?

  • Just be there – you don’t need to do it all
  • Don’t just say good words – have good actions

Eric’s favorite Bible verse?

  • John 3:16 – it is the entire Bible summed up in one verse. It is the Gospel.

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

Closing thoughts:

What you earn give back to others. Keep your word and live in truth

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Josiah joins the show this week, straight from his new “agricultural job”, harvesting medicinal marijuana. An interesting endeavor, considering he has never partaken of the forbidden herb.

Which leads us to a conversation about the worst jobs we’ve ever had.

For Vince, a gearhead at heart, working customer service was the worst ever. Though, he may have taken things a bit too far when he told an overweight (and annoying) customer to calm down, Hometown Buffet will stay open for her until 10:00pm. But, when you think about it, just as ever Israeli citizen has to do a stint serving in their nation’s military, it should be national policy in the U.S. that every person must serve four years in a customer service job. This alone would cut down on the amount of adult jerks we have walking our streets.

Josiah once worked as a fire sprinkler fitter. Now, it should be common knowledge that fire sprinklers would lead to a flowing water source. What Josiah didn’t realize was that over time, years of black sludge fills the pipes and often flows out before the actual “clean” water sprays out any fire. No one typically cares or notices the sludge, since the only time these liquids should pour forth is in the event of a catastrophic fire. Well, leave it to Josiah to accidentally release the sprinkler, spraying water, sludge, goop, and slime all over a business’ walls, floors and furniture – not to mention all over Josiah.

Which leads us to spiritual warfare.

Like so many of us, to Justin even the words “spiritual warfare” seem daunting and other-worldly… probably because in many ways, it is.

That’s why we have Josiah on board this week.

But first, let’s look at Ephesians 6:10-20,

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— 19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

David Guzik, Pastor at Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara wrote that there is a real battle to fight for each of us who call ourselves Christians. That’s spiritual warfare. This is why Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:10 that we need to be strong with God’s might. In addition to being filled with a strength that comes from God, it is up to each of us to put on the full Armor of God. Both of these things are essential, and while many teachers focus on the Armor of God, too many people neglect our need to “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might”. If you think about this in non-metaphorical terms, if you take a weak man and load him up with the most sophisticated of armor, he will still be a weak soldier underneath it all, and he will be easily beaten.

Image: The Cracked Door

Image: The Cracked Door

Now, there is no secret incantation to becoming strong in God’s might. You can’t just repeat the words over and over and it will happen. As in any strength building, this takes training.

And when we are talking about God’s might, we are talking about His power and His force put together. Someone, like Vince, who has bulging muscles, displays his might, even when he doesn’t use them. But, this is the exact opposite of strength. Strength is when someone’s might is actually executed. And, oh… does God have infinite reservoirs of might and power!

But, His might cannot work through us, if we just passively sit on the sidelines of life. We grow strong in His might as we constantly rely on it and step out to do God’s work.

Now, it is possible to rely on it, but do no work. It’s also possible to do work without relying on God’s might.

But both of these fall short.

We must first rely on God’s might to strengthen us, then go out and serve Him by following His commandments and doing His work through His might.

Which brings us to our need to wear God’s Armor… His FULL set of Armor. Because, whether we want to admit it, or believe it, or not, we are in a battle. If you deny this or are unaware of it, you are most likely not winning the war against “principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

Did you get that? Our battle is not against other people (flesh and blood). Though, that tends to be the direction too many Christians focus their energies towards (i.e., take down that candidate, boycott that organization, scathingly blog about this person or that).

But, catch this, according to verse 12, it is completely irrelevant whether we are fighting against a principality, a power, or even a ruler of the darkness or wicked spiritual host. Collectively, they are all members of an organized spiritual army – a rank and file under the headship of Satan.

Yet, as Romans 8:38-39 tells us:

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Therefore, all of Satan’s rank and file – even Satan himself – cannot keep us from God’s love and are limited in their power and ability.

In fact, Colossians 2:15 tells us that Jesus has:

“…disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”

All this to say, our victory in spiritual warfare is rooted in what Jesus has already done by dying for our sins and being resurrected from the dead, not what we do. This is why it is God’s Armor that we need to gird ourselves up with – not our own abilities or knowledge. THAT is how we can stand firm against our attackers.

But, from a skeptical point of view, what differentiates someone being overcome by the evil principalities and forces and mere, common sleep paralysis? Or even, once upon a time, people who suffered from epilepsy were considered demon possessed. If someone sees the empirical and scientific phenomena that explains certain circumstances, and they read Paul’s words in the New Testament, how should he differentiate and discern between the two?

Josiah recommends going to the basics – read the Biblical blueprint. Start out by reading your Bible, God’s word. Feel free to Google your questions in order to find a starting point in which Scriptures to start with (but find your answers in God’s word… not Wikipedia).

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In this week’s show, Vince lays out in layman’s terms what stewardship really means.

Being a good steward over what we are given – both physical items we own, as well as spiritual gift – boils down to what we read in Matthew 25:14-30,

14 “It will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags.29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

A few of things that jump out of this passage are:

The master gave according to his servants’ strengths. So, the reason why some people are given more to deal with in life than others may be proportionate to the strength that we have within our faith. God never allows us to experience more temptation than we are capable of dealing with.

So with that in mind, while you may be dealing with a situation in life that is more difficult than the situations I am dealing with, in some respects this is a compliment to you from God – you are stronger than I am at this moment. This doesn’t mean that I won’t eventually get there, but I’m just not there yet.

Another thing that I see in this passage is that your strength can be another person’s weakness. You should use your God-given strengths to help other Believers. We easily see this in everyday friendships where one guy will be good at something and help his buddy out, and sooner or later that second buddy will need to help out in another area where he has strength.

Finally, it’s important to remain motivated. We need to be willing and able to use our past or current difficulties to reflect God’s glory and power. If you have ever heard a Christian say something to the effect of, “Well… the world’s going to hell in a handbag, and there’s nothing I can do. I know where I’m going, so I’m just going to mind my own business and wait for my day in heaven!”… that’s an example of the wicked servant! They were given a “bag of gold” by God, their Master, and all they are doing with it is burying it in the ground. They should be using everything that they have been given to further God’s kingdom.

Image: James Brewer

Image: James Brewer

Now, this “bag of gold” could be a bank account full of money, it could be an empty bank account, it could be cancer or PTSD issues, it could be literally anything big, small, good or bad. The question is: What do we do with what we have and go through? Do we focus on ourselves, or do we reflect God?

Al this to say, It’s one thing to overcome your hardships; and it’s a completely different and more important thing to give God glory as you go through them.

Next, Justin and Vince are joined by Retired Colonel Bill Coate, author of YOU: The Last Best Hope to Restore Our Nation.Bill Coate

Now, Bill grew up in a typical, Americana, patriotic family and town. After serving about 25 years in the Marine Corps, he looked around and realized that the values and priorities that he had grown up with – the same ones instituted by our nation’s forefathers, were no longer being upheld by our society.

John Jay, the first Supreme Justice of the US Supreme Court said:

“It is the responsibility of every citizen to read and study the Constitution so that they can pass on freedom to the rising generations. For if a man understands his rights, he will soon realize when they are being violated and do something about it.”

After reading this, Bill realized that our problem that is causing a downhill slide in our nation is ignorance. And the missing ingredient to solve the ignorance problem is courage. Too few people are brave enough to stand up, speak truth and suffer the consequences – which are typically no more than spiteful words. As a kid, we used to say, “Sticks and stones may break by bones, but words will never hurt me!” Yet today, people behave as if words can kill them!

Tie this together with the fact that not enough people even know their own rights, and now we have an entire society of people who are too afraid to speak up, and don’t even know what they should be speaking up about.

This lack of courageous leadership that Bill writes about really seems to be key. As Bill writes:

“I am more afraid of an army of a hundred sheep led by a lion than I am of an army of a hundred lions lead by a sheep.”

In other words, if you don’t step up and lead courageously, you will end up being led by your inferiors. After generations upon generations of this, we now have this “us vs. them” political environment, where people identify themselves as either Republicans or Democrats… or Conservatives vs. Liberals. No one is out there, rising to leadership, identifying themselves as simply American, holding to the values that made this country great.

Bill likes the message of the book, The 5,000 Year Leap by W. Cleon Skousen, which boils down to this: The Pilgrims landed on the shores of New England in the same transportation and with the same tools that civilization had had for 5,000 years. Yet, within 200 years after signing the Constitution, we were landing men on the moon. This isn’t simply because Americans were smarter, but because for the first time, a culture had complete freedom and able to innovate and create without being oppressed by their central government.

According to Bill, the opposite is occurring in our country today.

So, the key is to first understand what is going wrong; and then second, have the courage to stand against it. But this cannot happen if we are not held to ultimate accountability… which can only happen if we surrender to God.

To argue against this, many people turn to Romans 13, which starts out:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves

These people basically hold that no matter what our government officials rule, we should go along with it, as obedient servants to them and God. However, this is a misinterpretation of God’s Word. We are never called to obedience of ungodly leadership of any sort. Throughout the history of the Bible, any people who stood against God’s will were eventually beaten down – including Israel.

And even according to secular rules, if a Marine is ordered to do something illegal by their commanding officer, they will be held accountable for their actions, even if they were “just following orders”.

So, if we have a nation that is doing ungodly things, and we Christians follow in lock-step, we will be held accountable.

What’s incredible is that the Christian Church is still the largest and strongest social organization in America, and could make the changes needed, if its leaders would courageously stand up for Biblical truth.

But, the Church has its unique obstacles, too, such as the Johnson Amendment from 1954, which prohibits pastors from addressing political issues from the pulpit. Yet, if we look to the example of America’s founding fathers, it was their pastors’ DUTIES to call out the government for their illegal and unethical missteps. This guided their congregations to vote in accordance to Biblical truth.

One Biblical truth is that freedom actually only comes from God. Our founding fathers understood this. Today, we hear politicians talk over and over again about “fairness”, but “fair” is not mentioned anywhere in our Constitution. Fairness only works in fairy tales.

The Constitution is concerned about justice for all… not fairness for all. Fairness cannot provide mercy, but justice can. This means that we can still hold people accountable for their decisions and actions, but their punishment can differ based on the circumstances and/or mercy. However, if you simply applied “fairness” as the governing rule, then justice will inevitably be hampered.

So, what can we do to reverse this course?

The first step would be to get the proper leaders in office. Starting with the local, then escalating all the way to the federal level, we need proper, courageous leaders.

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Warning: Some of the topics discussed may contain accounts of real life violence, strong language, and other topics not suitable for minors. This podcast has remained unedited out of respect of those individuals who feel led by the Lord to share their testimonies.

We begin today’s show with Vince sharing an important story about a new direction his life is taking:

I got married back in 2011. My wife’s dream has always been to be a mother. Around the time I got married, I was five months away from deployment to Afghanistan and three and half years left in the Marine Corps. So, we made the decision to wait until I got out of the Marine Corps., because I wanted to be a father that was actually there and I didn’t want her to be a single mother in case something happened to me.

So, after I got out of the Marine Corps., we kept trying and trying for a year and a half and there was no luck. All of her friends had gotten pregnant. My heart’s prayer became that my wife got pregnant, even though I didn’t feel ready for a kid, because I could see her brokenheartedness. So, we made an appointment recently, to go see a doctor about it. Right when we made the appointment, we prayed one more time. When I come home the very next day, Megan is crying. I asked what was going on, and with shaky hands, she handed me a pregnancy test. It was positive. At that point my heart sunk into my socks. I was thankful, and it was great to see her so happy. She was glowing.

So, we thought about how we would tell my parents. We decided to buy a onesie, with a little saying, “Here Comes Trouble,” which is what my Dad always says whenever I visit, inside a little heart. Below the heart is the expected month and year. We order it online, and it’s adorable. We packaged and wrapped it up, and when Good Friday came, my wife and I took off to visit my parents. On the way there, I was thinking about what this baby means to my parents and as much as may be uncomfortable for me to have another mouth to feed and not be as flexible to dream, I knew my life was about my family.

I have a sister and a brother. My sister is a great woman who loves the Lord wholeheartedly, but there was a time in her life where she wasn’t living her life coherent with Christianity. She ended up dating this guy who was kind of a druggie and a loser. She got married him right after high school, since she had gotten pregnant her senior year. My parents fought with her and tried to give her wisdom, but nothing would work. So, she ended up having the kid and getting divorced six months later. She couldn’t take care of the kid and had made some more bad dating decisions, so she decided to give my nephew, Andrew, when he was nine years old, to my parents. At that point, he was running into some issues and was starting to run away from home.

My parents ended up taking him in, and my sister decided to skip town without keeping in contact with her son. He was living with his grandparents and they put him into a Christian school where he did really well academically. He was a great kid with a loving heart. However, he had been dealing with depression without any of us knowing about it.

At the time, I was in college, and when I graduated in 2006, I ended up commissioning as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. I was heading home and was super excited to start my new life. I had about six month to wait before I was sent off to the basic school in Quantico, Virginia. So, I had a lot of time to spent with my nephew. We had planned to spend a lot of time together. On July 5th, 2006, I was out shopping with my cousin who had just arrived from Australia, and while we were out I got a frantic call from brother. He told me that I needed to get home immediately and that he heard from my aunt that my nephew had shot himself. That didn’t make any sense to me, because I was with him literally ten minutes ago.

I called my mom, who was of course really distressed and telling me to come home immediately. So, I got my cousin and we headed back as quickly as possible, booking it at literally 100 mph in 25 mph speed zones. I turn a corner onto my street, and I can see that my house is surrounded by basically the entire police department, yellow tape, ambulances, and everything. So I slam the brakes, park the car in the middle of the road, and just run out. A cop grabbed me before I ran into the house, but I was able to see the that the coroner’s van was nearby. I remember that the cop was crying. I asked if my nephew was going to be okay. He said that he didn’t know and that he didn’t think so.

Image: Triblive.com

Image: Triblive.com

So, I go into the house, where my mom was. I remember hugging her and seeing the coroner with a gurney and a body bag on it. They wheeled my nephew out to the van and they put him inside. At that point, I had no idea how we’d ever make it through this. I remember praying for strength at that situation, and God really met me at that point.

My nephew ended up passing away. I was still supposed to go to the basic school and I began questioning what I was going to do my life. I remember talking to the coroner, a very nice lady, who confirmed that it was suicide and that he had shot himself with my dad’s gun. He was 12-years-old. We buried my nephew, and I had to basically spoon feed my parents for about four months. When I had to go to the basic school, they were back on their feet. Ten years later, my dad had lost the will to live. He took full responsibility for what had happened. It was his grandson and his gun, so he shouldered the whole burden. His health went down the drain, and it was terrible to see.

This was all going through my head as I was driving back home to tell my parents about their grandkid. That’s when it hit me that this pregnancy was a gift from God and was not about me. This child is not about me. It’s not about a legacy that me or my wife is going to leave. This is not about someone who is going to take care of me when I’m older. This is about other people. This child is going to be a warrior for Christ and save people in Jesus’ name. He or she (I’m hoping it’s a girl) is going to change the lives of people starting now when they’re in my wife’s womb. This a chance at redemption for my parents. This is what is going to keep my dad alive and change everything. I had faith and a peace about me that was from the Lord. So, we get there, and I sit down with my dad. I led him through this whole rat race, telling him about how we’re not interested in having kids, right before giving him the gift.

Image: Get The Party Started

Image: Get The Party Started

Then, when I give him the gift, I tell him that it’s pretty small, and if it didn’t fit, we could take it back. He opened it slowly, and when he saw it, he just started crying. He had this look in his eyes as if God had just forgiven him. I think that my dad felt that after my nephew passed away, his name was cursed. He thought he was punished for not walking with God at the time and that God would never bless his children with children. My dad is a new man, now. In those three days, he had different look in his eyes and a pep in his step. It was great.

Next, Justin shares an important message on God’s will and timing:

I am horribly guilty of questioning God, his timing, and his overall plan. When I was in Afghanistan during 2011, my best friend, my roommate during flight school FRS, didn’t come home. He went East Coast, I went West Coast, and that was the last time I ever saw him. I remember talking to his mother on the phone, and her saying, “Don’t be sad. He’s with God know.” I thought to myself, “That’s so stupid. He’s dead. He’s gone. How could you possibly think that?” Then I spent the next two years basically peeing on his grave, by using his death to justify my chronic alcoholism. I was angry with God for what he took from me, when in reality, that wasn’t mine.

Years later, I’d come across this verse from the story of the Job:

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:

“Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you,  and you shall answer me. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set,  or who laid its cornerstone— while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?

“Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;  here is where your proud waves halt’?

“Have you ever given orders to the morning,  or shown the dawn its place,  that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it? The earth takes shape like clay under a seal; its features stand out like those of a garment. The wicked are denied their light,  and their upraised arm is broken.

“Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been shown to you? Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness? Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this.

“What is the way to the abode of light?   And where does darkness reside? Can you take them to their places? Do you know the paths to their dwellings? Surely you know, for you were already born! You have lived so many years!

“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail, which I reserve for times of trouble, for days of war and battle? What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed, or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth? Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm, to water a land where no one lives, an uninhabited desert, to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass? Does the rain have a father? Who fathers the drops of dew? From whose womb comes the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heaven when the waters become hard as stone, when the surface of the deep is frozen? (Job 38:1-30

Whenever I read this, it makes me feel like any idiot for ever questioning anything. It’s scary to see how God puts Job in his place. I am thankful for grace everyday, especially when I hear stuff like this.

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

We have plans we have plans, goals, and dreams, but whatever happens, it’s what God wants. God gives us dreams and passions for a reason and uses them so that we can glorify him in that. Sometimes though, you may plan something a God will send you in a completely different direction.

Here are a few more verses on God’s sovereign will:

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)

Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. (Psalms 115:3)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

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On today’s show, Vince, Justin, and Bryan are joined by Robert Kale, a gunnery sergeant who has an amazing story that is the definition of a true miracle.

School Circle: Can you tell us where you’ve been and where you’re going?

Robert Kale: I was born in 1978 to a pretty decent family. We went to church, but didn’t do a whole lot of churchy stuff at home. Dad was gone a lot, since he was in the Navy, and Mom did a lot of stuff on her own. So, she got burned out, and my parents fought a lot and ended up getting divorced. When they got divorced, they were still unable to care for my brother, my sister, and me, so all three of us were put into the foster system with one family. That was where the abuse that I endured as a child really started to take full shape. If you stepped out of line at the foster home, it was straight to the beatings for my brother, my sister, and myself. We were often unnecessarily physically, verbally, and emotionally beaten just for ordinary kids stuff and made to feel less than human at times. They ranged from being locked in rooms and not being feds to just constant beatings. When I became old enough to fight back, I got tossed out of that home and went back to live with my biological mother.

To no fault of my mother, I took advantage of her guilt for leaving us out to dry with the foster system and began to drink, smoke cigarettes, and dabble in some light drugs. Out of all the things that stuck, drinking was good for me because it could numb the pain of the childhood that I had just come out of.

I had tried to join the Marine Corps when I 15, 16, 17, and 18. It was all I had ever wanted to do. When I was a kid I was just enamored with them because I knew that they stood for something good, were the best of the best, and just hard. My dad and I didn’t have a great relationship when I was growing up. He was in the Navy, and I wanted to do something that I felt was better at the time. After high school, I joined the Marine Corps, went to boot camp, went to first duty station, and fell perfectly right into marine life.  There was a lot of drinking and partying. I got married right after boot camp and had my son. Needless to say, I was a 19-year-old kid with a bad attitude and a chip on my shoulder because I made it through boot camp. I thought that I was unstoppable and that the world was going to bow down to me because I was finally a marine. I let that affect me. I was young, immature, and didn’t even come close to parenting the way that I should of.

I was gone a lot for my son’s younger years. When I came back from the MUE, I found out that my now ex-wife was pregnant again with my first daughter. About a year after she was born, we get orders for Okinawa, where we had our third child. Okinawa is a tough place to bring up a family, especially when they are unable to see their family back in the United States and they have as close a bond as my ex-wife had with her wife and her grandmother.

So, that took its toll on my family. Not being a good father or a good husband took its toll. Being gone all the time took it toll. Putting everything and everybody besides my family first took its toll. Drinking more took its toll. I ended up getting divorced. My ex-wife packed up, took the three kids, and headed back to the United States while I was still in Okinawa. At the time that was really hard, but now I actually applaud her for leaving in that situation. I was pretty volatile and not doing the right thing by my kids or her. At that point, I started drinking really heavy, hanging out with marines who were doing the same, and looking for fights and excuses to avoid dealing with what was going on in my life. I got in trouble in the Marine Corps and received adverse paperwork, which made it difficult to get promoted again. I pretty much just through it all away because of the pain and not knowing how to deal with it.

I ended up meeting my second wife over there. When we came back to the United States we got married, and I started my combat deployment cycles. I deployed seven times, four in Iraq, three in Afghanistan. 2007 was a decent deployment. I had a kid in my platoon named Jason Rogers. He was a corporal and I was a sergeant. Later on, he’d get promoted. We became really good friends. I really leaned on him, he mentored me, even though he was junior to me, and he meant a great deal to me. Fast forward to 2011 and by this point I have seen some things and done some things, just like everybody else in the deployment cycles. I was prepping for missions late at night, when I checked my e-mail to make sure there weren’t any last minute changes. When I check my e-mail, I find one from a mutual friend of Jason and I, saying that I needed to call her right away and that something bad had happened. So I called her on the phone, and she informed me that Jason had been killed that day. He had stepped on an IED. We were both combat engineers and we both swept for IEDs.

That was a bad day. Period.

They had lost three guys and there were several wounded that needed to be evacuated. Jason had gone in to save a marine who was a triple amputee. He ran in without any detection trying to save this marine who had been hurt badly. He ran back out to grab a stretcher and ran back in. Then, on his fourth trip, leading the way out, this time with a stick, he detected an IED. He bent over trying to check it out and it killed him. I had dealt with death before with family members and marines that I had served with, but this rocked literally rocked me to my core. It put me in literally the worst place I could have possibly ever been in my life. I continued the deployment and missions, just trying to push it down and not deal with it right then and there. I had things that I needed to care of.

During that deployment, I had a convoy that within a 1500-meter span hit and detonated eleven IEDs, two of which while I was on the ground. So, upon coming back from that deployment I’m in a bad place. I had changed even more so than the other deployments. I was spiraling out of control, drinking a lot more, and not even considering my current wife and our young daughter. I was ready to just go. I started volunteering for just more and more deployments. I took orders out to California so I could keep on deploying. Every deployment just got worse, and I just got worse and worse. I came home in 2012 and tried to get orders for a special duty assignment so I could try to save my marriage that was rapidly falling apart. That didn’t happen, so I decided to deploy one more time. In 2013 we left and got into Afghanistan in October.

On November 26th, my vehicle hit an IED, rendering me unconscious for a while. When I came to I was in disarray. I medevaced off the battle field and taken to the concussion care in country. I stayed there for eight days and did what they told me I needed to do, even if I couldn’t do it, to get back to my marines and continue the mission. On December 11th, my platoon sergeant counterpart and one of my platoons hit a large IED in his vehicle. He was medevaced out of country and we lost Lance Corporal Matthew Rodriguez that day. Due to some manning issues, I switched platoons. At that point, after losing another marine and everything I had just dwelt with, I felt like I just couldn’t get the satisfaction out of these deployments I was looking for. I couldn’t bury everything or get revenge for the marines that I had lost, especially Jason. So, I pretty much took over the new platoon and in my mind, without saying anything to anybody, I told myself that I’m not coming home from this deployment. I was planning on dying in country, whether I do it myself or die by the enemy’s hand.

I remember that we got into a pretty big firefight. It was about 33 hours long. Everything and anything that could of gone wrong that day did. Trucks broke down and got stuck, RPGs, machine gun fire, IEDs, enemy everywhere, jets screaming overhead. Just the whole gamut of a combat situation.  I thought to myself, “This is the day. The day that I could end it all and no one would know the difference. My kids would be taken care of and know that their dad died in combat doing what he wanted to do.” When we took the first RPG round, I called over the radio to my lieutenant and told him we were going back there. We took the truck back there, and I started running around like a crazy man, not even caring that we were taking fire. It has nothing to do with me being a hero or some awesome marine. That wasn’t why I was doing it. I was doing because I was hoping that a round would hit me in the face or somewhere vital that would have taken my life that day. That wasn’t the case. In fact, we didn’t lose any marines that day, which is a great thing. Nobody even got hurt; the worst injuries from earth and dirt shrapnel from close calls with an RPG. Other than that, we were perfect.

We got back to the base and I make it home from that deployment. When I make it home, I get sent to Wounded Warrior, because I couldn’t do my job. I was angry, drinking a lot, and showing up late to work. I was not myself and thank God that my command took care of me. I know there are a lot of marines out there who feel that they aren’t taken care of when they’re in these situations, but that wasn’t me. I had a great chain of command that took care of me. They loved me and they wanted me to get the help. Going there, trying to deal with all that stuff, and trying to fix my life were hard. One of the hardest things that I ever had to do was open up to strange people about things that I had been feeling and going through and not knowing how to come out and say some of these things.

When I got to Wounded Warrior in March, I started to hear about the Mighty Oaks program and that I should go. By September 5th, I was enrolled in Mighty Oaks and was going to go for sure. I went to friend’s wedding and was supposed to be the sword detail, but God works in mysterious ways. One of the captain’s wives was a marine as well and he accidently grabbed her dress blue trousers instead of his own. So, I gave up my trousers, and ended up sitting at the front of the wedding in my civilian dress clothes. I had been to a thousand weddings at that point, but this wedding was different. It was the first time that I honestly felt God reach down and touch me. Everybody there loved each other. Its rare to get 300 people in a room and feel like there aren’t any dirty looks from other people’s families or that nobody is upset with anyone. Christ was the center of that relationship and that wedding. Christ was in that building. It was legit. It was real. The wedding went on and as some songs were sung and the vows were read, the sincerity of the Christianity within that room hit me really hard. I don’t cry a whole lot, but I cried like a baby at that wedding. It wasn’t because people were in love, but because I was feeling something that I had never felt before.

I went to the reception and told myself that I wasn’t going to drink, which only lasted about 10 minutes. I commenced to drinking obsessively that night to drown it all out, to get rid of it all, and get back to what I felt was comfortable in life: suffering, isolation, and just dealing with things myself. Up until this point, I had thought of taking my own life many, many times after coming home and just feeling like I was I an infectious individual. I felt like I was bad for my children, because I was just so hateful and angry. The guilt that I felt every time I saw them for not being a better father got to the point where I couldn’t take it and just wanted to end it all.

Knowing that I had to be picked up for Mighty Oaks program the next day, I decided to sleep in my car. When I woke up and felt that I could drive, I drove back down there, packed my bags, and showed up late for pickup. I ended up making it, and on the way there I told myself that, “If this doesn’t do anything for me or help me learn something to get out of this, I would take my life when I got back home.” I had it all planned out, where I would go, how I would do it, and all the notes I would leave behind.

When we got up to Mighty Oaks, the first things that they said to me, that have been stuck in my mind for maybe forever were “If what you’re doing right now isn’t working, then why don’t you try something different?” and “This isn’t a hug-a-vet program, this is a poke-a-vet-in-the-chest program.” I don’t operate well with coddling. I liked to be slapped in the face and told what’s up so that I could try to fix it. By Wednesday night we received a huge, impactful class and I decided that was the night that I had learned what I needed to learn to make a difference in my family’s life, mostly my children. I rededicated my life to Christ that night and finished out the program. All of my fight plans were centered on my children and the damage that I had done and to include damages with their stepfather, whose relationship with my children I had sabotaged out of jealousy and insecurity. That’s what I’ve been doing up until this point.

I kind of struggled after Mighty Oaks. I was trying to find my way back and to was struggling between a few churches, but after some prayer, some scripture reading, and some help from the Mighty Oaks staff, I was able to put myself where I knew Christ needed me and wanted me. It’s a struggle everyday, but I think that I’m on the path right now that leads to me becoming the man God wants me to be, for my family, for myself, and for others. If I could just do that, that’d be awesome for my family and myself. My kids are the most important people in my life. I’m getting married March 26th to a good, Christian woman. She was a marine too, so she supports me and gets the things that we go through. She’s very driven, very spiritual, and very kind, everything that you would want in a woman. I’d feel bad if I didn’t say something about her.

School Circle: On September 5th, you say that you’ve hit rock bottom. At that point what you say to 19-year-old Robert Kale, whose just graduated boot camp, newly married, and has a kid?

Robert: I would hope that I would be able to tell myself at the age of 19 when I didn’t have to many problems in life, other than stuff from my childhood, that things aren’t that bad. You’ve got a son and there is always a way out.

School Circle: What would the current Robert say to September 5th Robert?

Robert: Current Robert would tell him, “Wake up! Get on off of your butt. Think about your kids, your legacy, and what you’re about to leave behind if you execute this plan of yours. God loves you and Christ paid for everything that you’ve done and everything that you’re going to do. His plan is for you and he bore those burdens for you so that you could walk upright and feel lighter. Put yourself in alignment with God, because when you do that, you won’t feel the way you feel and you will make an impact on your children’s lives and your family life down the road.”

School Circle: When you walked in that day at Mighty Oaks, I thought to myself ‘This guys a lost cause,’ but I hadn’t seen everything that God could do in people’s lives. Now, every time I think of someone as a lost cause, you pop through my mind, because you are evidence that there is no one to far gone. That’s just the beauty of grace. The fact that you can take all of this evil and long suffering life, turn your story in around, and heal the relationships you’ve broken just shows the power of what God can do through you and in you. You can’t do it alone, but you can do it with Christ and brothers that surround you and give you that support and love.

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School Circle Slider v1

Warning: Some of the topics discussed may contain accounts of real life violence, strong language, and other topics not suitable for minors. This podcast has remained unedited out of respect of those individuals who feel led by the Lord to share their testimonies.

On today’s show, Vince, Joseph and Justin get an update from Mike Priddy’s trans-continental bicycle ride and Vincent shares a message regarding fear…

School Circle: Where are you? 

Mike Priddy: We are about 10 miles outside of Elizabethtown, Kentucky.

SC: When did you depart on your journey?

Mike: We left on April the 28th from the state capitol in Sacramento. This trip has not been the easiest of things. When we got into Colorado, we had to take the Monarch Path, which is 11,312 feet, over the Rockies, and the day before I was sick and unable to ride. So, I was in back seat the safety vehicle and couldn’t stop shaking and rocking back and forth. I also had to relieve myself every so often. On that that day, I didn’t eat or drink really well, so on the next day when we’re going over the Monarch Pass, I get on my bike, start peddling, and immediately feel like I’m not going to make it. We luckily had the Colorado State Patrol behind us the whole time. As we start moving up, I keep saying to myself, “Okay, just keep going until you black out and fall over. Then, no one can say you didn’t try.”

I guess the Colorado State trooper could tell when I was starting to slow down, because he was turn his PA on and pump some very motivating music. There’s actually a video on our Facebook page, No Man Rides Alone, of me riding a bicycle and a Colorado State trooper blowing up the Monarch Pass with AC/DC.

 

SC: It must be an interesting feeling being chased by the police, but for all the right reasons and being excited about it.

Mike: Yeah, they were behind us the whole time and it was a really cool experience.

SC: What have been the difficulties of riding your bike at 14,000 feet?

Mike: The air was very, very thin and, as you can see on our Facebook page, it was snowing. The temperature was around 30 degrees. I’m riding and sweating profusely, but the wind is still whipping against. So, I’m hot, sweaty, and freezing.

SC: Tell us about your stops and the one on one you’ve had with people while raising awareness.

Mike: Well, wherever we stop, they can definitely tell that we’re not from around here, but for the most part, everyone has been very, very welcoming. We stopped through Ellsworth, Kansas and did a little meet and greet and talk at the American Legion there, and they actually had a declaration from the mayor, naming that day as No Man Rides Alone Day. I actually got to talk with a very prominent individual from that community, and my story really resonated with him. So, hopefully he’ll be looking for the help he needs.

SC: What’s the average length of a leg?

Mike: We’re probably averaging about 65 to 70 miles a day. We’re trying to go town to town, so sometimes it’s a little bit shorter and sometimes it’s a little bit longer. It also depends a lot on terrain. Out west there were a lot of foothills we had to go through. So, we’d just have to travel 45 miles, but it’d still take us 6 hours because of steep hills.

SC: How many days do you have left?

Mike: We end June 10th and all the information and all of the stops can be found on our Facebook page, No Man Rides Alone. We’re hoping to get the awareness out there and raise funds. The Mighty Oaks Warrior Program doesn’t cost a thing. We’re trying to spread awareness for what’s happening with our veterans, but also that there’s a cure: a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The Mighty Oaks Warrior program is helping veterans form that relationship and we need the money to be able to continue to do this for our brothers who are out there struggling.

SC: How many more miles do you have left today?

Mike: We just have about 10 more miles to go.

Next up, Vince shares an important message regarding fear…

As a Veteran, I’ve never really sat down and thought about what Memorial Day meant. I served in the Marine Corps for about 10 years, and during my service, I’ve lost many friends. I never really looked back, sat down, and pondered those men and women and my good memories with them, and I think the reason for that is because I was afraid to let them sink in and to feel that sadness. The night before Memorial Day, I went on Facebook and there are so many people that have lost loved ones in combat, loved ones who have given their lives freely in service of our country.

I was a Cobra pilot, and as a cobra pilot, I was up a thousand feet, comfortable, and loaded with tons of explosives and ammunition. I could defend myself. I would look down with bird’s eye view of soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen on ground and watch them in the heat of battle. Looking back, I had it good. I was very safe, and I owe it all to those guys fighting down there so I didn’t have to. They kept me safe when I would return back home to base at the end of a mission.

What came to my mind around this Memorial Day was fear, and as a Christian, the Bible talks a lot about fear. It actually mentions it, 365 times. Looking back, I remember flying over the battlefield and one mission in particular where we showed up to the overhead and there were a bunch of British guys on the ground. It was pretty quiet, initially, and then we started taking fire from a mosque. As we began taking fires from the mosque, we began doing circles and shooting in trying to suppress this target. After so long, we depleted about half our ammunition and needed fuel. We had stopped taking fire from the mosque, so we flew over to FOB landing and began to refuel. We were ten minutes into refueling (it takes about 20 minutes to refuel a Cobra) and we saw a guy in the distance running towards us with a giant sheet of paper. I couldn’t read it until he got closer, which is when I realized it said, “Take off now! Take off now!” So, I immediately rip the fuel hose out of the aircraft, armed up the aircraft, and hopped in the front seat. We were out bound three minutes later. Right when we took off, we gained COMs with the J-Tech on the ground. He was frantic and told us that they were taking fire and that we needed back immediately. So we show up into the overhead, and I had never, before or after, seen so many rounds and explosions flying every which way. The 53s came in and had to wave off, due to the volley of RPGs being fired. I can return fire from the Cobra, so we’re expelling all of our ammunition trying to defend the guys on the ground. We ended up picking those Brits up and returning back to base. That night, I realized what war really was. I could see people shooting at each other and there rounds being volleyed back and forth. There was a point where I felt helpless. I was out of ammunition ad popping out flares just to distract the enemy. I started to understand the battlefield and the danger that faced our guys on the ground. For once, my life flashed before my eyes.

Image: bcmlife.net

Image: bcmlife.net

Even though I struggle with certain things, I feel like my life, then and now, is pretty good. I think I walk with God pretty well. However, one thing I realized that day is that I am caught up in fear. For me, primarily, it’s fear of death. This Memorial Day reminded me of what it is to live a fearless life, as so many of our brothers and sisters have done and given their life out of courage. I know that I could have been a better tool for God in the military if I had lived confidently in my salvation in Christ.

I want to talk about living a fearless in Christ, so that we can be effective in both the actual battlefield, for those of us who are active duty, and the spiritual battlefield, which is prevalent in all of our lives.

In Romans 8:15-17, we read:

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory

This tells us that if we are saved and the spirit is within us, then we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. There is living proof for if we are heirs of God, the fruits of the spirit. So, if you see the fruits of the spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control, in your life, then you know you are living in the spirit.

If we are heirs of God, He will always come to our aid and always take care of us. As Isaiah 54:14-15 says,

In righteousness you will be established: tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you. If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you.

If we are living in Christ and we are co-heirs in Christ, then we can lead fearless lives because we know that God will protect us on the physical and spiritual battlefield. I’m not saying we can’t be killed on the physical battlefield, but we can fight with courage no matter where we are at because God is going to take care of us.

In Psalm 56: 10-11 it is written,

In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?

So Christians, soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors thank you so much for serving alongside me in both the physical and spiritual battlefield. Thank you for serving your country so gallantly and so courageously. This Memorial Day has helped me remember how grateful I am for your service.

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School Circle Slider v1

Warning: Some of the topics discussed may contain accounts of real life violence, strong language, and other topics not suitable for minors. This podcast has remained unedited out of respect of those individuals who feel led by the Lord to share their testimonies.

Welcome to the premier episode of School Circle, a podcast featuring a room full of veterans who just want to share the road that God has them on. In today’s episode, producer Bryan Muche and hosts Justin Reinwand and Vince Joseph talk to Mike Priddy, who is embarking on trans-continental bicycle ride, and Josiah Hirsch, a retired Marine Corps scout sniper.

School Circle: Everyone’s interested to hear about your upcoming bike run and how we can get involved.

Mike Pretty: Yeah, on April the 28th, a gentleman named Dave Allison and I will be setting off from the state capitol building in downtown Sacramento and riding our bicycles 2700 miles to Marine Corps base Quantico, Virginia and actually ending in the Iraq and Afghanistan memorial there. We are doing this for two reasons. The first is to raise nationwide awareness for the marine suicide rate, which is at 22 a day. The other is to raise awareness for the 8% divorce rate among male combat veterans. Those numbers are horrible.  There’s no reason that it is that way, other than that veterans are not getting the care that they need. The only way to receive that care, as we all know, is to come into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

That’s what the Mighty Oak Warrior Program, Fight Club for Men does. It shows what the Biblical blueprint of manhood is, and it is laid in a way that we, as veterans, understand. It’s a poke in the chest, slap in the face, and kick in the butt, all at the same time. This program is the only that is actually combating those statistics. To date, there have been 871 male students graduate from the Fight Club for Men and we have had zero suicides and, through our marriage program, there have been zero divorces, because we have addressed the route cause. The route cause is that we are all broken and that we are all missing something until we enter into a relationship with God through his son Christ. We are going to be spreading that message all the way throughout the country and just letting people know that this is a program that is available to any every veteran who has served. The demographic that we’re going after are combat veterans, but it doesn’t just have to be that. We have had veterans come through who have post-traumatic stress from a number of things, from car accidents to psychotic episodes.

That’s really the goal, to spread awareness about the suicide rate, the divorce rate and let them know that there is a solution: the Gospel.

School Circle: Awesome man. I love your fire. I love your passion. Let’s talk attire. What will you be wearing for these 2700 miles?

Mike:  Well, I’m going to be wearing the standard bicycling outfit most of the time. I’ll have the little short with the sewn in pad in butt and the under areas there and always got moisture wicking shirt, sunglasses, and a helmet. When we’ll be traveling through the mountains, there is the potential of hitting some cold weather, so we’ll have the appropriate cold weather gear and wet weather gear.

School Circle: You are completely out of your mind, but I love it. I’m excited for what you’re doing. How can we get involved?

Mike: You can get involved in a number of ways. You can go on to our Facebook page. The event is called No Man Rides Alone, and you can search for that, like it, and share it with all your friends. There are links there to get you to our webpage is which is theeternitychallenge.com. There’s a page dedicated there to the No Man Rides Alone event. You can donate straight through there or use the text to give option. Text NMRA to 41444 and you can give that way.

School Circle: I just hit like. I’m following and I’m just about to blast it out to my circle of friends.

Mike: I really appreciate that. The best thing anyone can do is just share it and get it out there. There are a lot of people who talk on TV or you just run into who give lip service to caring about our veterans. I believe that most of them really do, but are they going to do anything about it? This program, as you guys have seen, has changed men’s lives and not everybody knows about it. As you know, it costs money just to send a veteran through it and we want to do everything that we possibly can to keep that cost at a minimum for any and every veteran. But it’s expensive. It costs roughly $1500 to send one man through a fight club, including air fare, lodging, and food. The environment is so welcoming and it’s an environment of us, our veterans. All the staff, all the instructors are tried and true combat vets who have all at one time or another fallen on their face and destroyed everything around them, and have only been able to get up off the ground and carry with the help of brothers and the help of God. That’s why the program is so successful; we keep things centered around the beginning and the end of everything in our lives.

School Circle: I get this question all the time Mike, but how can a change that radical happen in six days?

Mike: So, it’s not six days.  It’s the one instant when the individual makes the decision that what he’s been doing is not working and he accepts to do something different. That something different is to give up control of your life, because it’s an illusion if you think you’re in control of anything. But, you give your life to God and let him work through you; you will have an abundant future that you could not possibly fathom.

School Circle: Will you be doing social media as you are heading across the country?

Mike: I personally will not being doing it, but it will be getting updated. We have an IT guy who’s doing a phenomenal job and we’ll have cameras like GoPros, so it will be updated.

Next up, former Marine Corps Sniper Josiah Hirsch will share a story of how he got back on the path, a journey he is still on and will be until he with our Father in heaven.

Josiah: Before, so much of my identity was in the Marine Corps and growing up, that’s all I really wanted to do. While I was just infantry after coming back from my first employment, I wanted to do more. So, then I became a sniper. I was school trained back in 2007 and it was a good time. Having said that, my identity, being a marine, being a scout sniper, being an infantryman was my life. Marine Corps was my life. When I got out, I didn’t actually have a chance. It was more “Hey the Marine Corps downsizing and you got all these problems and issues coming back from your Afghanistan employment in 2011. We’re going to keep pushing you to get out.”

That’s what ended up happening and I actually got medically retired out of it. So, that’s a plus, but in hindsight I was pushed just to get out. In the process of doing so, there wasn’t a lot of accountability for myself. I was drinking a whole bunch. I had three kids and a wife and I’d already had other incidents, such as flashbacks and things of that nature. I’d already had to move from two other locations due to my outbursts, destruction, and things of that nature.

On July 18th, 2011 around 20:43 I ended up pushing out and taking my sniper team.  Farmers had just flooded the field and bogged it down to where we were in waist high deep mud, slowing our mission down. Our mission was to us, to do some good. We were setting up an ambush spot and it didn’t go out accordingly. Because we weren’t meeting the time hack and the mission, I needed to find another way to get to our position faster. So, I decided to take a short cut and walk on hard packed road, which was a very bad thing to do. One, walking out at night was a bad thing to do. Second, walking on a hard path was a bad thing to do. Took it slow, but nonetheless, it wasn’t a very smart thing to do at the time. Coming around a corner, I had my team come to a short security halt.  My point men and I were scoping out the area and didn’t see anything in the disturbed earth. We thought we were good, so we ended up pushing. Three steps into our walk moving forward on this packed road an IED (improvised explosive device) goes off. It was a pressure plate, so my point man’s leg was immediately blown off. He went up in the air and I was blown twelve to fourteen feet on the path.

My decision-making led me to no longer being a team leader after leaving camp Leatherneck. I was just a number on the team. Coming back home from deployment, there was no billet for me. I was being seen everyday, but my only responsibilities were to get my appointments done, take my medication, do this, do that. That was it until I got out. I took to heavy drinking and was considered a functional alcoholic. Afterwards, I had some flashback events that were very, for the lack of a better word, bad. My relationship with my wife was quickly going down hill. I didn’t want to have any relationship with my kids. I didn’t even want to be married to my wife. I didn’t really want to be alive anymore. So, I drank heavily, put a gun to my head, and started yelling at myself in the mirror that I was such a failure that I couldn’t even kill myself.

So, I decided to keep pushing on and put the gun away. I ended up getting out of the Marine Corps and working at the church. I thought the church would be a good spot for me to ground my feet while I was still dealing with everything, since I grew up in the church with my dad as a pastor.  However, I was still dealing with everything and didn’t have any idea or understanding of how to handle what I was going through. To make matters worse, I could put on a good front while working at the church, but inside I was just being torn apart. Every day I was working at the church, I could see my patience level going more and more downhill. I didn’t want anything to happen while at church, so I stopped working there and picked up a construction job. During construction, you could drink and you were away a lot, so, to me, that was an ideal situation. I didn’t have to be around the family. I didn’t have to drink in front of them. I didn’t have to put on a show. I ended up working at a town a few times and I would just drink out there. I actually had a few incidences out there where I found myself lying in the prone position in the middle of a parking lot or a hillside.

On top of all this, I never recovered from the injuries I sustained in Afghanistan. My back, shoulders, and neck were all out of whack. Working construction was very difficult on my body. I was breaking it down even more and not giving it the amount of time that it needed to recover. I always wanted to work more than required, and I would always work straight through both lunch and break, unless I was actually told to stop. In doing that, it got to the point where I could barely even walk anymore and my knees were going out on me. I had to go to my employer and told him I had to stop, making me feel even more like a failure. Now I’m unemployed and life is getting crazy, so I decided to start contracting.

I had everything done and all I needed to get a contracting license was a stamp from my doctor that I was deployable, when my wife, who has stuck with me, forced me to go to a meeting with Bryan Buche and guys from the Mighty Oaks program. I was sitting there and listening, but I didn’t really want anything to do with it since my mind was set on contracting. I had my life insurance set up, so if I died while contracting, I could leave the family with a lot of money. That was my of handling and dealing with the situation. I thought money could replace a life. Nevertheless, I ended up signing up to go to this Mighty Oaks Warrior program called Men’s Fight Club, not even really planning on going to it. As the time got closer and my contracting plans went South, I got my bug out bag and wanted to just disappear. I didn’t want to go to the program and I got denied a contracting license. So, the Sunday I was supposed to go up, Bryan Buche comes knocking at the door, got my bags, and we went up to the Men’s Fight Club. Man, was that a life changer. It was a complete transformation. It was an eye-opener and the style that was used up there was definitely geared at my mindset. I met one of best friends up there and it was just a crazy, crazy time.

School Circle: When you were still on the wrong path, what was the stimulus that made you realize you were in a bad place?

Josiah: My foundation in the church was how I was able to keep that myself together. Knowing that killing myself was bad, that raising my children this way was bad, and that putting my wife through this turmoil and destruction was bad helped me. Quite frankly, it was the persistence of my wife and her dedication. Her wanting me to go to church, bible studies, and the cumulus of different events like that helped me from going off the deep end. I didn’t want anything to do with anybody for the longest time, but it was her continuously pushing me that helped me get past that. I also knew, even though I selfishly didn’t want anything to do with my family, that I’m supposed to be going out there and being there for my kids.

My wife did give me an ultimatum. At the time the only thing that could help me feel or express any outward emotion was to drink a lot. She caught me once, right before we were about to go out, while I was downing some whiskey after I’d agreed with her to stop drinking. I didn’t even care though and we went on a walk when she gave me the ultimatum: stop your drinking or I’m taking the kids to Colorado, where her family lived. That was the eye-opener and helped me realize that I could lose my connection point to the world if I didn’t stop. If she took them, what else would there be?Josiah

After the Mighty Oaks outpost, I know what God’s purpose is for my life and me. I lead an outpost and work at the Might Oaks Men’s Fight Club. I lead my family the way a Christ-following man is supposed to lead. Having the Biblical blueprint and being able to lead based off of that blueprint has been phenomenal. The change that God is using and doing in my life is evident in my ability to go out and talk to people. Now, I have all of this that I can now do, and the only who can stop me following God’s direction is me, and knowing that I have support and accountability keep me on track. Without accountability, I’d probably disappear again.

If you want to share your story, call our hotline at 760-576-4750. For more information about the Mighty Oaks Warrior program go to mightyoaksprogram.org.

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I’m really excited about this week’s guest:  a friend of mine, the Right Reverend Derek Jones.  He’s the Bishop of the Armed Forces and Chaplaincy and a retired combat veteran fighter pilot.  He became a Chaplain after serving 27 years in the US Air Force.  It was then that he went to seminary and began to pursue a career in ministry.  His roots are in the Baptist Church, where he began his relationship with Jesus Christ as a teen, however as an adult, he became an American Anglican bishop.Derek Jones

You see, his father worked as a performer in Washington D.C and had an Episcopalian background and his mother was a Methodist.  Somehow, this entangled web of roots spawned a strong appreciation in Derek for liturgy and the sacraments, even as a young boy.  As he grew, he supported the military chaplains any way he could in any capacity and for any denomination – even officiating over a Jewish service at one time.

While in seminary, he was hit with a personal conviction in regards to the “real presence of Christ” in the Eucharist on top of organizational and theological stances that all led to becoming an Anglican Bishop, overseeing several chaplains in the military and law enforcement.

Needless to say, the combination of military machismo and Christian conviction is a fun recipe that can only be prepared by God’s hands. But what makes the responsibility of a chaplain truly unique is that when he is embedded with active troops, they tend to look to him for guidance and help, and rarely do questions regarding denominations or communion issues ever come up.  It’s typically much more “life and death” issues and “searching for meaning” and eternal questions that are on these guys’ front burners more than differences in dogma.

When chaplains are deployed into the theater, it’s never for less than six months (most tours end up being 12-18 months), and Derek has chaplains under his leadership who have deployed up to six times in their career.  While visiting with the commander at Fort. Drummond in New York, Derek learned that one of their greatest concerns were the amount of deployments some of their men had taken – many of whom were married before their first deployment, and were now getting ready to go out on their fifth.  So, while they had officially been married for around seven years, they had actually only been home with their families for but a few months in that time.  This creates a whole slew of unique challenges.  One nice thing is that Derek has a portion of his staff who keeps track of the chaplains and the soldiers they care for.

You see, in a typical church setting, you have a community of believers surrounding each person with a pastor and other member care people to take care of the needs of each individual within the congregation.  But for our military personnel, who don’t have a congregation to connect with, each chaplain becomes the “place of refuge” for each Christian soldier to turn to.PTSD

For example, the Centurion Project is designed to bring our combat veterans who are suffering from PTSD and operational stress.  PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which affects a lot of folks who come back from fighting overseas and simply don’t know how to deal with what they’ve done in the theater of war.  You see, while a soldier killing another human being may be moral and may be justified, it can still cause a severe moral injury to the soldier.  It runs contrary to who we are as God’s creation to want to take another life.  So, through a series of retreats and interactions with professionals, we help walk these folks through the process of how, why and when God heals.  It’s important to note that this isn’t isolated to our Christian soldiers.  We also invite those with no faith at all to attend, because, quite frankly, whether or not they believe in God at the time has no bearing on what God can do through their situations and in their lives.  He’s much bigger than our opinions or anything we can imagine or suffer through.  Over 100 combat veterans have been healed through the Welcome Home Initiative and the Centurion Project.

While there are many agencies out there that do a lot to help soldiers develop coping mechanisms, the truth is that people can cope through a myriad of different things:  counseling, family, as much as drugs, alcohol and pornography.  Therefore, the Centurion Project isn’t about guiding them to the right coping mechanisms.  Instead it’s about God actually healing these wounds.soldier-with-ptsd

This goes all the way back to Biblical times, where we see the soldiers camping outside the city for seven days of rest and purification.  This is that type of program, where we teach our combat veterans how to prepare to be healed by a God who wants them to be whole.

To learn more about the Centurion Project, go to AnglicanChaplains.org, and to learn about the Welcome Home Initiative, check out ByHisWoundsMinistry.org.

Switching gears, Derek and I talk about the status of today’s military and its chaplains.  Unfortunately, chaplains are often alone and lack a grass-roots effort to billow underneath them and support them, such as a local congregation.  One of the things Derek and his colleagues had to tackle was the newly defined issue of “religious liberty”, and our very first Constitutional right.  The next onslaught that has come his way is an idea that “a chaplain is not religious or doesn’t represent faith”.  Now, while the things that Derek does and teaches do, in fact, support Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, etc.; and Derek recognizes that all our military personnel are free to exercise their own faith.  But, to present the idea that somebody of no faith whatsoever should be represented by a chaplain just doesn’t make sense.  For those that are not of faith, they have no need of a religious person to help them through things.  They actually have a plethora of places where they can go to get the help they need that are not religious in nature: mental health professionals, professional counselors, and others.  A chaplain, however, is commissioned with the pastoral responsibilities for those of faith.  So, to see an individual claiming to be an atheist also petition for the office of a chaplain is ludicrous.  So, while Derek is working to clearly define on public record what a chaplain is, his colleagues also recognize that that could be a slippery slope.  It wouldn’t be long after that we would have to publicly and officially define what a congressman is, or what a senator is (though it would be interesting to see how the US government would define a czar).

Derek puts it best, in regards to the decisions we face today and the slippery slopes that are out there.  For instance, when “no fault divorce” was allowed several decades ago, it altered the sanctity of marriage that had previously existed in the U.S. for two hundred years.  Therefore, to see the suggestion that the marital relationship between a man and a woman is not sacred should be no surprise.  When we are given to our own devices, and the argument begins to be “God is love”, which is true, but it can pretty much lead to accepting anything.  You see, we pretty much have ourselves to blame.  We took our own religious liberty and said that it is a private discourse.  We agreed to keep it reserved and kept to the home.  We remained silent while opposing opinions to our own pushed us in this direction.  Therefore, we’ve been silenced, which was never the intent of our founding fathers.silence-in-the-face-of-evil-bonhoeffer

We’ve been silent so long that now, that many Christians are actually fearful to express their views in public.  We need to be emboldened and we need to support those who are bold enough to stand up and take their place in the public square and proclaim who God says He is.

And, by the way, it’s totally easy to stand firm without being a jerk!

You can calmly, confidently and even smile while expressing Biblical truth.

The problem is that there are so many Christians today who don’t understand: what they believe, why they believe what they believe, and why it matters.Regret

We especially see this come to light when it comes to the sanctity of life and matters of abortion.  The truth is that about 25-33% of women in America have had an abortion.  Yet you have proponents of abortion who will say it’s more like 50%.  Now, if their math is correct, that’s sad in its own right, but why would they promote such a dramatically higher statistic?  It’s because they are seeking to normalize abortion.  Therefore, somehow it makes it acceptable.  And just like the soldiers that David ministers to, it’s documented that scores of women suffer from PTSD after aborting their babies.

This is what happens when we try to create a moral standard absent of Scripture.

Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty are the experts for religious liberty and needs your help.  While God is not flat broke, the organization can do so much more if more funds were to come in.  While they work in Washington, they are neither conservative nor liberal, but rather judge things on whether or not they are orthodox and right.

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Welcome a new year for An Examined Life, and I’m really excited about our first guest for the new year:  a friend of mine, the Right Reverend Derek Jones.  He’s the Bishop of the Armed Forces and Chaplaincy and a retired combat veteran fighter pilot.  He became a Chaplain after serving 27 years in the US Air Force.  It was then that he went to seminary and began to pursue a career in ministry.  His roots are in the Baptist Church, where he began his relationship with Jesus Christ as a teen, however as an adult, he became an American Anglican bishop.

You see, his father worked as a performer in Washington D.C and had an Episcopalian background and his mother was a Methodist.  Somehow, this entangled web of roots spawned a strong appreciation in Derek for liturgy and the sacraments, even as a young boy.  As he grew, he supported the military chaplains any way he could in any capacity and for any denomination – even officiating over a Jewish service at one time.

While in seminary, he was hit with a personal conviction in regards to the “real presence of Christ” in the Eucharist on top of organizational and theological stances that all led to becoming an Anglican Bishop, overseeing several chaplains in the military and law enforcement.

Needless to say, the combination of military machismo and Christian conviction is a fun recipe that can only be prepared by God’s hands. But what makes the responsibility of a chaplain truly unique is that when he is embedded with active troops, they tend to look to him for guidance and help, and rarely do questions regarding denominations or communion issues ever come up.  It’s typically much more “life and death” issues and “searching for meaning” and eternal questions that are on these guys’ front burners more than differences in dogma.

When chaplains are deployed into the theater, it’s never for less than six months (most tours end up being 12-18 months), and Derek has chaplains under his leadership who have deployed up to six times in their career.  While visiting with the commander at Fort. Drummond in New York, Derek learned that one of their greatest concerns were the amount of deployments some of their men had taken – many of whom were married before their first deployment, and were now getting ready to go out on their fifth.  So, while they had officially been married for around seven years, they had actually only been home with their families for but a few months in that time.  This creates a whole slew of unique challenges.  One nice thing is that Derek has a portion of his staff who keeps track of the chaplains and the soldiers they care for.

You see, in a typical church setting, you have a community of believers surrounding each person with a pastor and other member care people to take care of the needs of each individual within the congregation.  But for our military personnel, who don’t have a congregation to connect with, each chaplain becomes the “place of refuge” for each Christian soldier to turn to.

For example, the Centurion Project is designed to bring our combat veterans who are suffering from PTSD and operational stress.  PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which affects a lot of folks who come back from fighting overseas and simply don’t know how to deal with what they’ve done in the theater of war.  You see, while a soldier killing another human being may be moral and may be justified, it can still cause a severe moral injury to the soldier.  It runs contrary to who we are as God’s creation to want to take another life.  So, through a series of retreats and interactions with professionals, we help walk these folks through the process of how, why and when God heals.  It’s important to note that this isn’t isolated to our Christian soldiers.  We also invite those with no faith at all to attend, because, quite frankly, whether or not they believe in God at the time has no bearing on what God can do through their situations and in their lives.  He’s much bigger than our opinions or anything we can imagine or suffer through.  Over 100 combat veterans have been healed through the Welcome Home Initiative and the Centurion Project.

While there are many agencies out there that do a lot to help soldiers develop coping mechanisms, the truth is that people can cope through a myriad of different things:  counseling, family, as much as drugs, alcohol and pornography.  Therefore, the Centurion Project isn’t about guiding them to the right coping mechanisms.  Instead it’s about God actually healing these wounds.

This goes all the way back to Biblical times, where we see the soldiers camping outside the city for seven days of rest and purification.  This is that type of program, where we teach our combat veterans how to prepare to be healed by a God who wants them to be whole.

To learn more about the Centurion Project, go to AnglicanChaplains.org, and to learn about the Welcome Home Initiative, check out ByHisWoundsMinistry.org.

Switching gears, Derek and I talk about the status of today’s military and its chaplains.  Unfortunately, chaplains are often alone and lack a grass-roots effort to billow underneath them and support them, such as a local congregation.  One of the things Derek and his colleagues had to tackle was the newly defined issue of “religious liberty”, and our very first Constitutional right.  The next onslaught that has come his way is an idea that “a chaplain is not religious or doesn’t represent faith”.  Now, while the things that Derek does and teaches do, in fact, support Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, etc.; and Derek recognizes that all our military personnel are free to exercise their own faith.  But, to present the idea that somebody of no faith whatsoever should be represented by a chaplain just doesn’t make sense.  For those that are not of faith, they have no need of a religious person to help them through things.  They actually have a plethora of places where they can go to get the help they need that are not religious in nature: mental health professionals, professional counselors, and others.  A chaplain, however, is commissioned with the pastoral responsibilities for those of faith.  So, to see an individual claiming to be an atheist also petition for the office of a chaplain is ludicrous.  So, while Derek is working to clearly define on public record what a chaplain is, his colleagues also recognize that that could be a slippery slope.  It wouldn’t be long after that we would have to publicly and officially define what a congressman is, or what a senator is (though it would be interesting to see how the US government would define a czar).

Derek puts it best, in regards to the decisions we face today and the slippery slopes that are out there.  For instance, when “no fault divorce” was allowed several decades ago, it altered the sanctity of marriage that had previously existed in the U.S. for two hundred years.  Therefore, to see the suggestion that the marital relationship between a man and a woman is not sacred should be no surprise.  When we are given to our own devices, and the argument begins to be “God is love”, which is true, but it can pretty much lead to accepting anything.  You see, we pretty much have ourselves to blame.  We took our own religious liberty and said that it is a private discourse.  We agreed to keep it reserved and kept to the home.  We remained silent while opposing opinions to our own pushed us in this direction.  Therefore, we’ve been silenced, which was never the intent of our founding fathers.

We’ve been silent so long that now, that many Christians are actually fearful to express their views in public.  We need to be emboldened and we need to support those who are bold enough to stand up and take their place in the public square and proclaim who God says He is.

And, by the way, it’s totally easy to stand firm without being a jerk!

You can calmly, confidently and even smile while expressing Biblical truth.

The problem is that there are so many Christians today who don’t understand: what they believe, why they believe what they believe, and why it matters.

We especially see this come to light when it comes to the sanctity of life and matters of abortion.  The truth is that about 25-33% of women in America have had an abortion.  Yet you have proponents of abortion who will say it’s more like 50%.  Now, if their math is correct, that’s sad in its own right, but why would they promote such a dramatically higher statistic?  It’s because they are seeking to normalize abortion.  Therefore, somehow it makes it acceptable.  And just like the soldiers that we minister to, it’s documented that scores of women suffer from PTSD after aborting their babies.

This is what happens when we try to create a moral standard absent of Scripture.

Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty are the experts for religious liberty and needs your help.  While God is not flat broke, the organization can do so much more if more funds were to come in.  While they work in Washington, they are neither conservative nor liberal, but rather judge things on whether or not they are orthodox and right.

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  • WM-ad-web-v2-489x486
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