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Reflections on My Life and Military Service

Open Bible 2 Chronicles 18I’ve been reading through the Bible this year using the “As It Happened” Bible Reading Plan in the YouVersion Bible app. Because I started it about a week after the start of the new year, I am a few days behind where I would be if I had started on New Year’s Day. Nevertheless, the reading for today (which happens to be July Fourth) is about the story of King Ahab and the prophet Micaiah, a variation on the name Michael, found in both 1 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 18. I wrote the following note and have reposted it here.

“There are two very important points for us to glean from these passages of Scripture. First, how remarkable it is that God would solicit input from His heavenly host and then permit a lying spirit from among them to deceive the already false prophets of Ahab. Second, how astounding it is that God used “a random” bowman to fulfill His Word that Ahab would die in battle.

I used to teach a Bible study every Sunday morning for the young men in infantry training when I was at Ft. Benning, GA, and I used this story about Micaiah to illustrate the Army core value of “Integrity”. They always reacted with great interest and awe when we read this story. Of all the work I did as an Army Chaplain, teaching and preaching to these young men was the highlight of my career. I feel that this is where I had my greatest impact. Some of them went on to die in battle, but I pray they developed an eternal relationship with Jesus from attending the Bible studies and Chapel services I conducted there. One of the most rewarding experiences I had was at the end of their training when they would approach me as a group to express their gratitude for the spiritual support I had provided while they were in training. I get choked up every time I think of it.”

That is as much space as the app would allow for me to post my thoughts, so I had to leave it there. However, I have just a little more I want to share about this here. I think it is very fitting for me to reflect upon my life’s work for the Lord up to this point in my life. I have served Him, sometimes more faithfully than others, throughout my life since I was a child. I turned 62 years old earlier this year and, like most people as they age, I’ve started thinking more about how far I’ve come and how much farther I have left to go. I’ve especially given thought to my personal and spiritual legacy.

I walked the aisle to accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior on a wood-shavings-covered floor underneath an open-air tabernacle constructed of solid wood and steel. It was sometime during the middle or end of July in 1973 at a camp meeting style revival for the Holmes County, Florida, Baptist Association. I received water baptism a few weeks later in the small-sized (less than 40) congregation of the Selma Friendship Baptist Church where I attended between the ages of six and eighteen. (It sold out to another denomination and ceased to exist many years ago.) The board of deacons for that little church voted to give me a license to preach, and the pastor presented it to me on Sunday, March 12, 1978. Inviting a “boy preacher” to preach to both youths and adults became somewhat of a curiosity over the next couple of years as I went wherever I could get an opportunity. I had also been the pianist at Selma Friendship, though I was never very accomplished at it, and I taught both children and youth Sunday School and R. A.s (Royal Ambassadors) classes whenever a substitute was needed. I even wrote and coordinated an original story Christmas play while there!

I met my wife-to-be while we were attending junior college, and I decided to join the Army as a Chaplain Assistant in August 1981. We were married the Saturday after Thanksgiving that year. Since my wife was a Methodist and uninterested in becoming a Baptist, I decided to become a United Methodist pastor upon my discharge from the Army in 1984. I joined the Alabama Army National Guard and resumed my college education while serving as a student pastor. After finishing my undergraduate and seminary degrees, I chose to return to the Army as a Chaplain in 1996 and served until 2005, when I transitioned into the Army Reserve for six months and then ultimately returned to the Alabama Army National Guard, where I finally retired at the rank of Major with over 30 years of service. I also resumed pastoral service in 2006 and opted to retire early from the United Methodist Church in 2011. I then chose to withdraw from that denomination in 2013 and have been working in various positions since then, including as a hospice Chaplain and as a Chaplain in a homeless shelter for men. Just like that, I have summarized my entire life of ministry—about 50 years—in just a couple of paragraphs!

Looking back over my life, I am reminded of the line that actor Anthony Hopkins delivered at his make-believe birthday party in the movie, “Meet Joe Black”, co-starring Brad Pitt as Joe Black. Joe Black was supposed to be a temporary incarnation of the Grim Reaper. Anthony’s character was reflecting on his life to that point, as I am doing now, knowing that he was about to walk over the hill and die at the behest of the Grim Reaper. As he mused about the short years of his life, he concluded by saying, “And don’t they go by in a blink?” While that is not a movie I can recommend to anyone, it nonetheless contains that one very poignant statement that is quite apropos to life. The Scriptures say it a bit differently: “. . . For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14 NKJV; compare also Psalm 39:4-5).

I don’t know when my end is going to be in this world, but I am ready to begin the final leg of my journey toward Heaven. Depending upon whether Jesus continues to tarry another 50 years and if I live to be no older than a hundred, I have no more than 38 more years left to serve Christ faithfully. As the somewhat famous rhyme about Christian service states: “Only one life to live, ‘twill soon be passed. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” I intend to finish my race running harder than I began it. What about you?

By Parson Mike

Christian minister, author, columnist, and retired military chaplain

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