Danger, Dust, and Death

When they told me where I was going, they said it was the Safest Place in Iraq, but by the time I got there, things had changed. On a Tuesday night, the dining facility was crowded, bustling, with hardly an empty chair, when mortars landed on the building.

People were stunned, walking around like zombies. Most avoided eating in the DFAC, even after it was repaired and they started serving meals again. From that moment, incoming mortars and rockets became part of the routine that was soon to be my daily life.

Men from Diwaniyah would drive to a vacant field on the edge of town, bringing their rockets and mortars to fire at us. They did this in the morning on their way to work. Sometimes it was mid-day during a lunch break, and other times in the evening on their way home from work. Occasionally it was in the middle of the night. Some of the people shooting at us were teens or even younger. Often, they would launch their missiles-of-death just before, or right after their prayers.

I volunteered to go. My philosophy as a chaplain was that I wanted to be wherever soldiers had to go, and if they were at war, I wanted to be there with them. Not because I enjoy fighting. We all know that a chaplain is a non-combatant. I wasn’t there to fight.

I was there to encourage, counsel, and pray; provide worship opportunities, friendship, and guidance; nurture the living, care for the wounded, and honor the dead; and guarantee the constitutional freedom of worship to men and women of all faiths, and the same freedom to men and women of no faith. Camp Echo was my home, my parish, my fiery furnace.

I knew from the start that I could be wounded or killed. It was a weird feeling, and I came to accept it. How or when, I had no idea. But every time there was another explosion, I wondered if this was the day.

My wife also knew I might not make it home alive. Or if I did return, I might be a broken man–crippled, blind, psychologically damaged, or all of the above. With that possibility in mind, she told me before I left home, “I don’t want to find out after you get back or after you’re dead that you were in danger. I want to know right away.”

The first time I mentioned during a phone call some of the dangerous things that were happening, she said, “I already know. I saw it on TV and in the newspaper. They’re mentioning Diwaniyah and Camp Echo by name.” She scanned and sent me an LA Times article. I took it to our staff meeting the next morning, and discovered that many on our leadership team didn’t know what was going on outside the wire.

Danger, dust, and death formed the context for the job I was sent to do. Operating from the philosophy that “ministry follows friendship,” I built relationships among the men and women at Camp Echo: military, civilian, American, and Coalition. This allowed me to be there when they were at their best and when they were at their worst, in their strongest moments and in their weakest.

In the heat of the battle and the heat of the desert, hours turn into days, which transition to nights, and add up to weeks and then months. The conditions wear you down, leaving an imprint on your mind and your soul: images that will be seen in dreams for months or years, sounds that reverberate long after you’re home, people you befriended and cared about and stared at death with, but will probably never hear from again. For many of us, it’s only memory now. But for others, the war continues … on the inside.

An excerpt from the book, Safest Place in Iraq, published by Morgan James Faith.

What’s for Dinner?

When it’s time to lay the eggs, a female butterfly searches for the appropriate host plant for her youngsters to grow up on. She instinctively knows that her hatchlings are limited as to what kind of plant they will eat, and places her eggs only on that plant.

When the caterpillars emerge from the eggs, they will stay on that particular host plant until they are adults who can fly. People who want to attract certain kinds of butterflies will do a little research to find out what that breed will eat, because the egg-laying butterfly won’t be fooled. For example, a Monarch eats only milkweed. A Viceroy has a few options: willow, poplar, aspen, apple, cherry, or plum. The Zebra Swallowtail needs pawpaw. And the Pearl Crescent is limited to asters. The list goes on and on, and is particular to each variety of butterfly.

The context for this discussion is Romans 12:1-2, so it may be helpful to understand that we are instructed not to conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2). According to the extended metaphor of metamorphosis, the food we’re concerned about is what we’re feeding our minds, because that’s the point in this verse and in our day-to-day lives. It’s crucial that we select the appropriate “host plant” for our mind and spirit.

The kind of Butterfly Believer you are will determine what you feed on, where you spend your time, what you read, who you hang out with, and what you choose for entertainment. A few relevant questions include: “Who and what are you allowing to influence you?” “Are your choices helping you to be strong in your faith and more faithful as a follower of Christ?” “Are you developing a keen sense of discernment, or like the butterflies, a well-developed instinctive knowing what is right or wrong when it comes to feeding?”

The apostle Paul wrote to one congregation: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (Philippians 4:8).

There is no “one size fits all” approach. What you do to care for and feed your mind and your spirit is extremely important, but also highly personal. Like the butterfly that looks for the right host plant to land on, you have to discover what works for you. And yet, you can also learn from others. As it says in Philippians 4:9, Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

The above is an excerpt from the book, Butterfly Believers.

Captain Interrogative

Several years ago, when I was a brand new Active Duty Army Chaplain, I got a call from an Army chaplain recruiter. A pastor of a Baptist church in Southern California had called to ask about becoming a chaplain. Although the pastor was in a wonderful church and was doing a great job as their pastor, he felt that the Lord might be leading him to redirect his pastoral and discipleship efforts to Soldiers, instead of among civilians.

I asked the recruiter why he was telling me about the pastor, and he said, “The guy’s wearing me out with his questions. He literally calls every day of the week with another couple of questions. And after I answer the question, he has ten more. I’m not exaggerating here!”

I agreed to take on the challenge of staying in touch with the pastor, and I called him. He admitted that he always has lots of questions, even to the point that while he was in seminary, classmates referred to him as Captain Interrogative.

“Here’s the deal I’d like to make with you,” I said.

“Deal?”

“Yes, deal. I’m willing to answer every question you come up with, on two conditions.”

“Conditions?”

“Yes, conditions.”

“OK, what are they?”

“First, you may call me or email me up to three times a week, Monday through Friday during the workday. Second, you will keep a record of every question you ask and every answer I provide.”

“Oh yeah? Why?”

“You have a right to know everything you possibly can know before making the decision to transition from your church ministry to the military. Since you and your wife need to pray over this potential move together, you need to keep a notebook that you can both review from time to time. And after you have the answers to all your questions, you’ll have a large notebook full of information about ministry in the military, and who knows, maybe you’ll be able to help someone else someday.”

The guy agreed, and boy did he have a ton of questions. In the process of Q&A, he and I became good friends. My wife and I even visited his church to see him in action and meet his wife. After about six months, he had a fat notebook filled with everything he needed to know about military chaplain ministry. He made the decision to apply and was selected.

It’s important to keep in mind that ministry in the military is in many ways the same as ministry in a local congregation. Men and women in the uniformed services have the same needs as those who are schoolteachers, plumbers, mechanics, or salespersons. The context is different and there are some issues particular to the military, as there are in any field. But Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines need someone to teach them the Bible, provide pastoral counseling, visit them when they’re sick, model effective relationship styles, and set an example for how to live for Jesus, just like anyone in any town in America.

The above is an excerpt from the book titled Military Ministry: Chaplains in the Twenty-First Century, written by Paul Linzey and Keith Travis, published by Wipf & Stock.

Pearl Harbor

I’ll never forget what he said, or the look on his face as he relived the hell of battle. Dad’s words were bathed in emotion. Hardened by the intense heat of battle, he still choked up at times as he remembered Guadalcanal, Gilbert Islands, Coral Sea, and Midway. He repeated “Coral Sea,” hesitated, breathed deeply and said, “Midway.”

Did I detect anger? Or was it sorrow?

Dad won the Texas State High School Championship as a clarinetist in the school band, then joined the navy in 1938 as a musician. In peace time he played the clarinet in the USS Yorktown Band, and the saxophone in the jazz band. But in battle he was an intra-ship radioman, assigned to the aircraft carrier, USS Yorktown CV-5.

Dad was a Texan, as was Admiral Chester Nimitz, and often told me of battles in Texas history. Sentences we read without emotion in history books became commands bathed in blood and tears when Dad said them. If you’re not a Texan, Remember the Alamo! and Remember Goliad! could mean almost nothing to you. But it sometimes brings tears to my eyes and raises goose bumps on my arms because my Dad was a Texan! No, he didn’t fight at the Alamo in 1836 or at Goliad in 1835, but he made sure that I, his oldest son, knew about them.

Dad didn’t join the navy to kill people. He didn’t even want to go to war. As a nine-year-old boy, when he had the privilege of seeing John Philip Souza on Souza’s last tour with the United States Marine Band, he was inspired and dedicated himself to music. Becoming an award-winning musician, he wanted to join the United States Navy Band. Fighting a war was not on his radar screen. However, personal plans and goals don’t always develop to our liking. In this case, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

The above is an excerpt from the introduction to the book Dead in the Water. The book was written by Captain Stanford E. Linzey, Jr., CHC, USN, Retired. The introduction was added by my brother, Stanford E. Linzey III. I plan to post several excerpts leading up to December 7, also known as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

Veterans Day Books

If anyone is interested in a good read for Veterans Day, or perhaps getting a gift for a friend in the military, here are several books worth considering.

This book focuses on the role of the chaplain, but also takes a good look at religion in the Armed Forces. It answers a lot of questions about the rights and restrictions applicable to people of faith, and presents an accurate picture of what it’s like to be a Christian in today’s military. Containing a lot of anecdotes and real life examples, it also shows that there is an open door for genuine sharing of faith when done correctly and respectfully. Click on the book to see it on Amazon.

Being in Iraq in 2007 was scary and dangerous. Yet, the Lord was doing some fantastic things in the lives of the men and women I served, loved, and ministered to. Written as a combination memoir and testimony, it tells stories of answered prayer, overcoming fear and temptation, and experiencing the presence of God.

My dad wrote this book about what it was like to be on the USS Yorktown in World War II. He survived the Battles of Midway and Coral Sea, experienced the amazing presence of the Lord during the toughest days of his life, and shares what it was really like. Originally published with the title God Was at Midway and then as USS Yorktown at Midway, last year my brother wrote a new introduction and I added an epilogue.

These books may be purchased on Amazon by clicking on the images of the books. You may also click on the Books tab in the menu above. And if you’d like to listen to my podcast conversations with Richard Blackaby (Blackaby Ministries International) or with Randy Zachary (Family Radio) scroll down to the bottom right and you can play them.

A Timeless Classic

I just got a message from a reader of my book, Butterfly Believers.

“I sure am enjoying your book. This is really, really, good and helpful. I believe this will become a staple, a classic for Christians. What I love is that you are able to address so many important topics briefly in this format. Besides, we’re learning interesting things about the butterfly we never knew.” She went on to place the book and its message in the category of John Bunyan and C.S. Lewis . . . “Only more readable!”

I am reminded of what Pastor/Author Scott Cramer wrote after he read Butterfly Believers:

“This collection of short conversations will be used by individuals, families, and study groups for generations to come. I believe Butterfly Believers will become a timeless treasure that should be added to your library, it’s also a phrase that needs to be added to our vocabulary.”

Butterfly Believers Book Signing

On Saturday September 10, from 1:00 to 3:00 pm, I am doing a Book Signing and Meet & Greet at the Wordsmith Bookshoppe in Galesburg, Illinois. The address is 235 East Main Street, Galesburg, IL 61401.

Inspired by a study of Romans 12:1-2, Butterfly Believers consists of forty devotional readings, each one based on one aspect of the butterfly life cycle. In the same way a butterfly changes every single day, Butterfly Believers are also transforming continuously, moving towards spiritual.

The author presents forty specific facts about the egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and imago, adding one or two appropriate scripture verses. The result is an inspiring devotional about moving step by step towards maturity, and blossoming into the beautiful Imago Dei.

There is never a day when an egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, or butterfly is the same as it was the day before. This is also true of people. The author uses metamorphosis as an analogy, breaking down the steps to personal growth, making it easier to understand, and making the process interesting and fun.

Paul Linzey is an award-winning author of four books and dozens of articles. You may contact the Wordsmith Bookshoppe for additional information or directions. Their website is https://www.wordsmithbookshoppe.com/.

Book Signing Scheduled

On Saturday September 10, Wordsmith Bookshoppe in Galesburg, IL is hosting an author Meet & Greet and Book Signing for my new book, Butterfly Believers, from 1:00-3:00 PM. The address is 235 East Main Street, Galesburg, IL 61401 and the book store phone number is 309.351.7767. The store’s website is https://www.wordsmithbookshoppe.com/.

Butterfly Believers is an inspiring devotional book about moving step by step towards maturity, and blossoming into the beautiful Imago Dei. The writing reflects the work of the entomologist, the worship leader, the biblical scholar, the pastoral caregiver, and the everyday man-on-the-street who’s trying to make sense of what it takes to be in this world while living for the Kingdom of God. There are references to the lyrics of several Christian songs. The foreword is written by Eddie Espinosa, writer of the classic worship song, Change My Heart, O God. This was my theme song as I researched and wrote the book.

The transformations that occur in butterflies take place in every stage of their existence. There is never a day when an egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, or butterfly is the same as it was the day before. This is also true of people. We are always growing, changing, and becoming. There’s always more to learn, always room for more refinement. Many believers struggle with their spiritual life and wonder why they’re not growing. In this book, the author uses metamorphosis as an analogy, breaking down the steps to growth and change, making it easier to understand what it takes to succeed as a follower of Christ, and making the process interesting and fun.

Inspired by a study of Romans 12:1-2, Butterfly Believers consists of forty devotional readings, each one based on one aspect of the butterfly life cycle. The author shows how believers are like that in a specific way, adding a relevant verse or two from the Bible. In the same way a butterfly changes every single day, Butterfly Believers are also transforming continuously, moving towards spiritual maturity “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13, NIV).

Digging Deeper in First Corinthians

Digging Deeper in First Corinthians is a Bible Study devotional, providing encouragement and study opportunities together in one volume. Written over the course of the author’s own study of and journaling through First Corinthians, it offers the insights of an experienced Bible teacher as well as her personal reflections as a mature Christian. The book is ideal for readers who are interested in regular exposure to God’s Word, reading each short entry and meditating on it. Additionally, Bible study groups can weekly dig into a set of  the short readings that cover a complete chapter of First Corinthians. So whether you’re reading as an individual or as part of a group you can Dig Deeper each day in God’s Word.

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Digging Deeper in First Corinthians

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Butterfly Believers

Inspired by a study of Romans 12:1-2, Butterfly Believers consists of forty devotional readings based on the butterfly life cycle. The intent is to show how believers are like butterflies in specific ways. In the same way a butterfly changes every single day, Butterfly Believers are also transforming continuously, moving towards spiritual maturity “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13, NIV).

There is never a day when an egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, or butterfly is the same as it was the day before. This is also true of people. We are always growing, changing, and becoming. There’s always more to learn, always room for more refinement.

Many believers struggle with their spiritual life and wonder why they’re not growing. In this book the author uses metamorphosis as an analogy, breaking down the steps to growth and change, making it easier to understand what it takes to succeed as a follower of Christ, and making the process interesting and fun. The book is for the everyday person-on-the-street who’s trying to make sense of what it takes to be in this world while living for God.

Each devotional reading presents a specific fact about the egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, or imago, adding one or two appropriate scripture verses. The result is an inspiring devotional about moving step by step towards maturity, and blossoming into the beautiful Imago Dei.

There are references to the lyrics of several Christian songs, and the foreword is written by Eddie Espinosa, writer of the classic worship song, Change My Heart, O God. This was my theme song as I researched and wrote the book.

The book is perfect for individual reading or for use by a small group or class, and is available by clicking the Book tab above or going through Amazon.

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