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Flu Shots, and why I think I’ll be sick tomorrow.

November 6, 2012

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I got a Flu Shot Yesterday. It was mandatory (The government likes to inoculate you from, well, everything). They stuck this thing up my nose and shot it full of liquid that made me sneeze.

Tomorrow our country undergoes once again the great privilege of choosing its elected officials as a body of people with the right to do so. Yet I harbor no excitement or peace to its outcome. 

There has been a very good show that has been put on for many months now that has pit two candidates against one another for a struggle over the drivers seat. yet neither of them have seemed to say anything real, taken any stances requiring character, or spoken words that have captured the essence or feeling of the American people. In fact, they spend most of their time saying mostly nothing.

It is a great circus, and from what I can tell many Americans have enjoyed the entertainment. Yet much like a circus the illusion of magic, or the application of wonder is calculated, words are chosen carefully, and the audience is pleased with the production, though it be no reality. The money still goes to the boss, and in four years another circus will come to town.

You see, we operated no different in Afghanistan. It did not matter that their public official was corrupt or of ill morals and character. As far as the people were concerned, he was amazing and we supported him fully. He was the answer to their governmental problems and anything good we ever did as a coalition force was as a result of his request. Our job was to connect him to the people, and that we did, regardless of how much he didn’t care. Unfortunately, it does not take a government official with character, or even a stable government for that matter to put the people at ease, it merely takes the appearance of stability, or honest service. Perception is, and always will be reality.

To speak more directly, Americans do not have a choice in their elected officials anymore. I believe they merely have the perception of choice. If given the option of playing with two poisonous snakes, There is only picking the one with the least venom, though you know he’ll strike eventually.

It will take much more than this blog to dissect and make solid arguments for when and where the American populace lost their say in their government, but I will offer this:

I am a Christian. Therefore I must come to two logical conclusions that cannot be refuted. 1. God is in control because he says he is. 2. God has chosen humanity to promulgate his gospel throughout the world and carry our His will because the bible says that’s what he did. That’s our job.

There is a culture I see that has pervaded for many generations now amongst Christians in this country. This culture has grown full form into the idea that the true believer is above earthly things, should be content with “giving to Caesar what is Caesars”, being totally content with their little worlds, as long as decisions made don’t affect their comfort or lifestyle. In fact if you engage in politics as a Christian I have even heard argument’s that you miss the point of the gospel completely, as God has no care for those type of earthly things. The most popular catch phrase I hear this election season amongst the churched is “vote biblically”. Yet when given the option between two equally large piles of crap the biblical answer doesn’t seem to be voting for the less smelly one.

Here’s my point: I cannot hold to the idea that we (Christians) are not directly responsible for the state of our government and the character of its leadership. Unfortunately we who live in a country of elected officials do not have the luxury of rendering to Caesar what is Caesars because we ultimately get to chose how much that is, and who that is for that matter. I cannot see God birthing us in a country that gives us the right to put into place who represents us and not expecting us to honor him in that. Yet we have embraced the culture of common ground, don’t rock the boat, someone might get angry. We have let the world dictate our culture, and have grown impotent in building out culture to dictate the world.

In 1877 James Garfield said this at America’s first centennial:

Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature … If the next centennial does not find us a great nation…it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces.”

We have walled ourselves, content to “Pray for our Leaders” when we ourselves do not possess the conviction to enforce who those leaders are. Like my flu shot, If I were to take that little vial and spray it on the outside of my skin I would be wasting medicine. In order for it to work you have to inject it, allow it to enter the body until it flows through enough of your infected areas that you begin to get better. Government is no different. And because so many of us have no remembrance of where this country was born out of and no vision for what it could be we sit idly by, content to spray our vaccines on the surface, unwilling to jump in its nose to see real healing. After all, faith and politics dont mix. Right?

Sometimes I wonder if we are going to not care ourselves into tyranny. Look around, there is a restlessness, a downright discontentment even for who gets to duke it out tomorrow. Think honestly, out of the 300 million American citizens these two men are the greatest examples of leadership we have to offer, the men that will provide the vision and indestructible character to make the hard decisions necessary to lead us into greatness once again? No, these two men have gotten this far because we let them.

But we will continue to surround ourselves with toys, learn to “do life” well in our little community groups and pray for our leaders, in the end, Gods not about politics, and who are we to think we can change something?

those are all my thoughts tonight. That and I’m glad I have my flu vaccine, in case I ever have to fight it.

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Old words, new meaning.

January 18, 2012

I have been reading some Spurgeon lately and ran across this little message:

“Perhaps, O tried soul, the Lord is doing this to develop thy graces. There are some of thy graces which would never be discovered if it were not for thy trials. Dost thou not know that thy faith never looks so grand in summer weather as it does in winter? Love is too often like a glow-worm, showing but little light except it be in the midst of surrounding darkness. Hope itself is like a star-not to be seen in the sunshine of prosperity, and only to be discovered in the night of adversity. Afflictions are often the black foils in which God doth set the jewels of his children’s graces, to make them shine the better. It was but a little while ago that on thy knees thou wast saying, “Lord, I fear I have no faith: let me know that I have faith.” Was not this really, though perhaps unconsciously, praying for trials?-for how canst thou know that thou hast faith until thy faith is exercised? Depend upon it, God often sends us trials that our graces may be discovered, and that we may be certified of their existence. Besides, it is not merely discovery, real growth in grace is the result of sanctified trials. God often takes away our comforts and our privileges in order to make us better Christians. He trains his soldiers, not in tents of ease and luxury, but by turning them out and using them to forced marches and hard service. He makes them ford through streams, and swim through rivers, and climb mountains, and walk many a long mile with heavy knapsacks of sorrow on their backs. Well, Christian, may not this account for the troubles through which thou art passing? Is not the Lord bringing out your graces, and making them grow? Is not this the reason why he is contending with you?

“Trials make the promise sweet; Trials give new life to prayer; Trials bring me to his feet, Lay me low, and keep me there.”

It is rare that I find a piece of literature that so succinctly speaks to current struggles. I have never been in a place that so violently pursues the theft of joy as this place filled with these people does. If I’m not careful that reality breeds a form of resentment and unbridled rage in me that matures into ideas and outlooks wholly inconsistent with what I know to be true. More precisely, it makes God look completely worthless as he does not seem to be of any help, and having any interaction with Him just a waste of air and precious time needed to lead my Marines.

Out here, it only matters that you accomplish the mission. If you are incompetent, guess how many people care how deep your faith is? nobody. You’re useless. And as God has seemed unresponsive to all my pleads to keep my men safe, and despite my many deep searches through the scriptures for comfort that still evades me, I am tempted to throw my faith in the “not important” pile as it seems that God has decided to sit this one out. If He is no help, then He needs to stay out of my way.

At least that’s how I feel. Yet as I have learned from hard-fought experience, feelings are very rarely vehicles to find sound guidance and council in. They are deceptive above all things and will unfailingly ruin those who follow them without thought or consideration. The majority of my foolish decisions were emotion-based, or involved alcohol, usually both, as one begets the other.

So I read this 200 year old devotion by a man who could have not comprehended its application for a young Lieutenant in Afghanistan reading it long after its author is long since dead and buried. Yet,  its truth is no less relevant. Nor is its sobering reminder that as I fight a physical war, a spiritual one rages just as fiercely, and produces just as many casualties.

Spurgeon caused me to remember all the horrible training I went through, and in turn all the horrible training I submitted my Marines to so that when the test comes they are prepared, and prepared they are. Therefore, compassion does not always equal comfort, nor joy, nor ease, nor provision. Instead, since we are in a fight, compassion takes the form of loneliness, trial, grief, strife, stress, imposition of will and hard knocks so that when you emerge on the other side you are prepared for that which life has in store for you. You are ready for a fight.

God has not left, nor is he unfamiliar with the state of my heart. Instead I contend that he is staying quiet because I am still taking the test.

Ok world, show me what you’ve got. But know I will not go gently, and I am not alone.

My address in afghanistan and some parting words.

September 21, 2011

So, I’m going to war tomorrow. I guess I never really thought I’d ever type that sentence and mean it.

I wish I could expound on all the feelings and fears and anxieties that are all churning through my soul tonight, but I’m not much in the talking mood.

I don’t know what the next few months will bring, but I’m sure I’ll have some stories to tell.

People ask me all the time what I’m feeling and how I’m dealing with it all, and I always wish I have a good answer ready so they could understand. But the truth is I never know how to answer that, because I’m numb really, which when matured forms resolve.

I have a job to do, and upon completion of that job I will come home. There is no room for feelings, not now. Those will come later.

I cannot express how humbled I am by the sheer support and love I feel from from friends and family almost on a daily basis, I cannot thank you all enough, and will work to do the job well enough to deserve such high accolades, so thank you all. You are my support network, my relief, my mental medicine, I would be a shell of a leader without you.

My address in country for those of you who have been asking is as follows:

Lt Hardy, T. J.
3/7 India Co 2nd plt
Unit 41570
FPO AP 96427-1570

If your itching to send something, I’d ask you wait a couple of weeks for us to get settled. We have enough stuff as it is.

Tonight I looked into the faces of 45 Marines in my charge whose lives will be intertwined with mine for the next seven months and they are ready. They are trained, taught, rehearsed and drilled and the time has come for the test.

Tomorrow I will look their families in the face and tell them how proud I am to lead them, to mentor them and how great a pleasure it has been to lay myself low that they may be better. Which is all true, but it will be in the knowledge that some will not see their sons again. I cant really describe that kind of weight.

Very soon I will meet an enemy that hates me so bad he has dedicated his life to seeing my destruction. And I don’t know how to react to that because I don’t feel that way about anybody. When I figure it out I’ll let you know. Maybe that’s what Jesus felt like.

That’s all that’s really on my mind I think. The longer I do this job the more sound action becomes appealing and the less stock I have placed in words. Idle talk is cheap. I’ll do my very best to write as often as possible and keep you all updated as to what all is going on from day to day.

I guess I’ll end this like the first note I wrote the night before Officer Candidate School which seems apropos:

“I am reminded of a Robert Frost poem,

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”

I will see you all on the other side, Godspeed.

Christ is all,”

I have the greatest friends in the world, I am thankful for a savior who travels with me and will keep me company, and I have no regrets. See you all in seven months.

~Lt T. J. Hardy

The Gravity of Things, The Weight of Obedience.

January 25, 2011

(written 01/02/11)

 

So, I apologize for not writing sooner, I’ve found that I typically only write when I’m inspired, and have the time, which rarely coincide. I am waiting in the airport terminal for a flight that will take me to Atlanta, which will lead me to another flight back to Washington DC, and inevitably back to training. Smooth jazz is the intercom music of choice this morning, my coffee has too much sugar (my fault), and no one is really in the talking mood.

The school I begin tomorrow will mark a 13 week challenge of all my assets and resources, as will the job I’ll have once I’m finished. I am on my way to Infantry Officers Course.  I have had a good Christmas break. Sometimes the breaks you take are to rest the body, some are to rest the mind, this was both. Thanks to my awesome family I have been in the lap of luxury reading my new Kindle (awesome invention) for the past couple of weeks while visiting old friends, having good times, and probably spending too much money, it’s been great.

Ever looming however has been the knowledge that this plane flight would come, and it would whisk me away to a different world that will prove to be more Spartan than this one. And to be honest, it is with no great excitement I board my plane today. No one wants to leave a warm bed. No one wants to leave love.  “You signed up for this.” echoes through my head, followed closely by “Suck it up dude, it’s not that big a deal.”  Which may be true, but that does not make the situation decidedly easier.

The school I will attend for the next thirteen weeks has one purpose and one purpose only, to train you to wage war, to kill, to teach others to kill. I will run on little sleep, more than likely be overworked, stressed, and then asked to perform with harsh consequences for failure, because that’s what combat requires of you. It will force me to become comfortable with the idea of taking another humans life, which is decidedly unnatural. To kill a man is to perform a task with certain resolve. The full spectrum of war, as I have come to understand it, takes place within the six inches between your ears. If your mind is not ready, all is already lost.

Even heavier upon my heart, is the idea that I can make decisions that will get people killed, rob young men’s families of their loved one. I will die a thousand deaths to prevent the death of one of my Marines. I cannot fathom the abyss of living while knowing your ignorance took the life of one of your subordinates.

As I think about these things and what lies ahead, what role I will have to play and at what cost, I am reminded of a truth which I feel the need to make quite clear: I hate war. To catch a true glimpse of what humanity is capable of, and how truly horrific war is fills me with a feeling that I struggle to quantify into words, but if expressed, most nearly resembles a great sorrow. It is deplorable, what we do to each other.  Yet war is one of mankind’s oldest and most expensive social institutions, and shows no sign of going anywhere.  Peace is most wonderful but to choose it and pretend the other does not loom is to almost surely invite combat to your home.

I find that the chief argument in my head against such training is that God is not really in this, and surely in his mercy and goodness and grace could never ask a man to do such a thing as kill another one of his children.  So whatever it is that I’m doing truly cannot be within his will. Yet the scriptures do not match this idea, and the Lord works in warfare. So, despite my misgivings I am continually brought back to a basic truth, A Christians response to the Lord is not: “God you are not a part of this, I shall remove myself.” But instead: “God you have let this be, and I must immerse myself in it, and you in me, that I may bring light into the darkness, and mercy where there is none.” Candles only light a room when its dark, But candles who only chum around with other candles aren’t nearly as effective. To be a light, you have to go where it’s dark.

So, tomorrow, the sun will rise, and bring with it all the triumphs and sorrows that this life throws at the sons of Adam, and I resolve to look them in the eye and fear not. Joy fills my heart, and strength finds my steps. I have been called, I have been commissioned, I have been sent. I may travel this road alone, but I am never alone. I am never alone.

Being mean to little kids and such…

August 14, 2010

We were in class this past week learning about Enemy Prisoners of War, how to search them and keep them safe in combat situations and keep yourself safe while you’re doing it. At the end of the class one of the NCO’s, a sergeant  told us a story that I’ll probably never forget.

He told us about an incident that happened to him in Iraq a couple of years ago. They had just shown up in theater and were getting set to take over control of some outpost somewhere and were told to look out for a little girl about 10 years old or so who comes around with her little bro, maybe 6 or so. She comes around every day and sells DVD’s for like ridiculous deals to all the Marines. And if you know anything about life on deployment, it gets boring as hell. So, what do you do when you cant leave? You watch a crap load of DVD’s.

So sure enough this girl came around every day and sold DVD’s to the marines for awesome prices, bootlegged of course, and over the next couple of months the marines there figured out that the girls dad was killed in the invasion and her mom was working and sent her and her little brother out to sell DVD’s to basically get by, they were struggling. So of course they would send the girl outta there with wads of cash pretty well every day.

It didn’t take to long before somebody watching figured out that this girl and her little brother passed in and out of the security gate pretty well unimpeded every day. They found her family and took her mom hostage telling her that they would slit her throat if the girl didn’t do exactly what they told her to do. So, the next day the girl wandered up to the gate like she did every day except instead of DVD’s this time her backpack was filled with 5 pounds of high impact plastic explosives and all sorts of rocks and stones and metal fragments. A marine called her over and as he unzipped her backpack to see what all she had to offer for the day some coward with a trigger switch watching about 100 meters away pushed a button and instantly vaporized four marines, the little girl and her brother, and wounded two others. The sergeant who told us this story had a scar on his face from bone fragment that had blown over 150 meters away to his position and caught him in the face.

Why am I telling this story. Well, one, because I want to remind anyone who bothers to read this just what kind of enemy we are fighting. But the larger picture is that it made me think about God in a different way.We were told that story in reference to what types of security breaches get people killed and to be reminded always that “complacency kills.” So  what are our procedures from then on? What is the compassionate thing to do in that situation? You keep people like that the hell away from you and your men. You treat the little girl like a suspect, fully knowing she’s innocent, and you make sure that your men know to yell and scream and do whatever it takes to make sure people know to keep their distance. All the little girl will know is that she is struggling and that all those marines are really mean, and all the marines will know is that no matter how much explaining you do as a commander, they still feel heartless when they do it.

Now, I hate that we live in a world that puts people in these situations, and that in the not too terribly distant future I will be the leader having to make tough call like that, when all I will really wanna do is try to hold it together when I meet people who have it hard like that, especially little kids. And all you really wanna do is adopt that little kid and help her out anyway you freakin’ can, because, that’s how most of us view compassion. That IS compassion isn’t it? is it not helping the helpless? Well yes, but in this instance compassion really doesn’t look or feel very well like compassionate at all.

How often does God’s compassion result in what we think is a tough break? Getting fired? Not getting promoted, getting dumped, dumping someone else, failing a test, failing school, deaths in the family, death of a spouse, death of your child, losing a friend, feeling alone, feeling like you never get a chance to get ahead, and the list goes on and on. If things had gone the way they should have that little girl would have had no clue why all those military guys with guns are so damned mean, and as it follows I don’t think we usually get why life sucks so bad sometimes or why things never seem to work out the way we want either. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that maybe sometimes the worst forms of God’s wrath is that he lets you do whatever the hell you want, and gives us over to all the things that our hearts think is good.Passive wrath is much more devastating that active maybe.

The training I’m going through is hard, yeah,  its the hardest this country can offer even sometimes, its designed to be. But through it I can feel fear become more manageable and less a factor in my decision  making, I can feel strength and confidence fill my bones, and all in all I know its making  me into something I’m very excited about. So I have no complaints, no reservations, and no gripes. In this instance God’s compassion took the form of rings of fire and trial to jump through, hardships to deal with, and not being able to see my family and friends when I want, among other things. Yet God is good for it. Sure it gets messy sometimes, and I’ll probably come out a little roughed up and singed around the edges, but which is better, this? Or finding a “safe” job somewhere and going to a bunch of bible studies?

I hope God’s compassion finds us all, whether we like it or not.   🙂

Clearing My Throat

July 7, 2010

When I was in college I had the opportunity to take an amazing creative writing class. The Professor was a woman from inner city New York who brought all the facets of that city with her into the classroom. She also happened to be  somewhat of a genius and could read people like a book, no pun intended. The combination of these two things made for a really fun class, especially for a bunch of Texans.

In almost every paper I would write she would always preach to me about voice. “You have to find your voice T. J.!” She would tell me that I had two voices that would always emerge. One had the ability to speak frankly much like I am now, and the other was a much higher and loftier tone. She would call that voice my “inner poet” who would come out and take a breath from time to time in the work I would submit to her. She said these two voices would vie for control depending on the depth and weight of my topic and by the end of the semester I began to see what she was talking about. If I felt like being goofy, or writing on happy things, then my conversational tone would emerge and tell a story like a camp counselor would to a bunch of kids. Or if I found something I was particularly passionate about then a royal heir would flow over the words I put to paper, a formal and deep writer emerged and attempted to explore the depths of verse until I was satisfied that I got out what I needed to say.

The problem she would say is that the former voice has no command in it, and demands no respect or admiration because it had the tone of a court jester seeking entertainment from its audience. The latter however, regardless of how hard I worked to avoid it always carried with it a distinct tinge of pretentiousness and almost a haughty feel that came off as a tad preachy. This too benefited no one because it eliminates the readers ability to identify.

Greatness she said, will be found on the day when the two voices meet and decide to work together. On the last day of class she sat everyone down and critiqued our final works we turned in for our final. She went one by one and talked briefly about them, gave their highlights and shared encouragement to continue to work. When She got to me she shared something very simple and yet very profound, she said that my greatest challenge will be to work my identity out to find the melding of my voices, because voice only comes from the true understanding of yourself.

I say all this to make a point. The more I wrestle with this idea the more I have come to realize that my real self has nothing to say. My voice and its identity is not my own, it was bought by a King who paid a great price for it and its true and authentic tones come from him, and the melding of my two voices only happens when I speak through Him. He is my originality, my muse, my ability to communicate. I wish I could claim inspiration devoid of him, and champion myself as the originator of great works but anything I could come up with on my own that resonates in the hearts of others would just be a shadow of its real form.

In Him are all my hopes and dreams of having the voice of a sound father one day, the voice of a deep and committed husband, and the voice of a patient leader. I want to know what it is to live in modest wisdom, and in simple truths, to work hard for what I have and enjoy the small things. To love others, to know, and to be known. One day I would like to have the tone of a man who knows his creator, and derives his voice and confidence from it.

Today however I Must settle for the voice of a Lieutenant in over his head, uncertain in his steps and still trying to earn his commission. This tone has a hint of fear in it, a fear of failure, and the fear of not performing. It knows pain and trouble, it deals in complications and has a difficult time finding its way through the stress. This tone knows loneliness and a deep yearning for friends and family, But it is not content to stay here, and knows that the author and perfecter of it has not left its side, works in and through it and will one day make it into what it needs to be.

So today, knowing that in Him lies my meaning and worth and identity, I clear my throat, and place my hands over my mouth. He speaks for me.

Stretching my legs

June 13, 2010

SO I have created a new Blog. It used to be in my collegiate days not so long ago that I was always around an ample ammount of friends and acquaintances to run ideas by, share my thoughts, and otherwise dialogue about life and the world and the day to day mundane that encompasses life and love and experiences etc.

But as of late I have found myself in a new vocation, a new way of life as it were and my time and resource of eager ears has somewhat diminished. Thus, more as a coping mechanism and a chance to keep my pen sharp, I have decided to blog about my experiences as I travel on a trajectory that will inevitably lead me towards foreign lands, new places to live, and with all hope a closer relationship with God. May he always be my inspiration.

writing is, and always has been my greatest form of mental medicine.

I hope you enjoy.

~T. J.