Can Dreams Come True?

A question often asked by people around the world is whether dreams can come true. I think they can. Of course, it depends on what kind of dreams we’re talking about.

When I was a kid, I often dreamed about finding buried coins in the front yard. Lots of money, usually quarters and dimes. When I was eight or nine, this dream was so real that in the dream I took all the loot, wrapped it up, and hid it in my bottom dresser drawer so it would all be there when I woke up in the morning. I was so disappointed when I woke up the next day, ran over to my dresser, opened it, only to find that there was no money. I used to have that dream three or four times a year up until I was about thirty. Now it’s only once every other year or so. It never has come true.

Then there’s the dream where I’m in school or at church or some other public location, and all I have on is my underwear. Interestingly, in this dream, even though I am totally embarrassed, nobody else ever even seems to notice. Fortunately, this dream has never come true.

After returning from the war in Iraq, I frequently had dreams and nightmares for the next two years or so. Explosions, or gunfire, or dangerous situations. What a relief when those gradually faded away. It’s been several years now. The only two aspects of PTSD that still linger are the claustrophobia and eating in a hurry. I can’t seem to overcome those.

But there are some dreams that really do come true. Let me tell you about three of them.

Several years ago, my wife and I were invited to teach a three-week intensive class at the Hungarian Bible College in Budapest. We taught the class every morning, then in the evenings and weekends, would preach in churches in Budapest and nearby towns.

One day, our missionary hosts had to go up to Czechoslovakia (now Czech and Slovak) for meetings with their regional supervisor, and told us how to get from their home to the college. The trip would require a bus ride part of the way, then the subway, and then we had to walk the rest of the way. Of course, the trip would be reversed after the class in order to get back to their home.

Up to this point, we had resisted taking the subway because the missionaries had told us about an American pastor who got lost in the metro. He had missed the station where he was supposed to get off and rode the train all the way to the end. Seven hours later, he called to ask them to come and get him.

When we got to the subway, there was a huge, long escalator that took us way, way down. Longest escalator I have ever seen. When we finally reached bottom and turned right, I stopped.  This was really strange, because the scene in front of me was familiar.

“Linda, I’ve been here before.”

“What are you talking about? We’ve never been to Budapest.”

“I know that, but I’ve seen this before.” It was a really eerie feeling.

“How could you have seen this before?”

“I don’t know. But if this is what I’ve seen before, the subway cars will come from the right, and they’ll be blue.”

In about fifteen seconds, the train arrived . . . from the right . . . and it was blue. We go in, the doors close, and the freaky experience continues.

“When we get to the next stop, the doors on the left will open, and the walls will all be yellow.” Sure enough, that’s what happened.

Even Linda was weirded out by now. “What’s going on?”

“I don’t know! But at the next stop, the doors on the left will open and the walls will be orange. But when we get to where we need to get off, the doors on the right will open, and the walls will be blue.” It all unfolded exactly as I expected.

Then it dawned on me. Even though I had never been in a subway, a year-and-a-half before we came to Hungary I had a dream about being in this very subway, and the details in that dream were exactly the same as the reality we were now experiencing. That was a dream that came true.

Another dream I had as a kid was to be a Navy chaplain like my dad. But by the time I was ready to become a chaplain, the Lord redirected, I went into the Army instead, and had a wonderful career. Six years after retiring from the Army (which was thirty years after I became an Army chaplain) I was invited to serve as the Protestant pastor at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, working with the chaplains. It was a one-year assignment, but a fantastic experience. I felt like I had come full-circle back to my dream of being a Navy chaplain.

One more dream worth mentioning here, was the dream of growing up, falling in love, and marrying the woman of my dreams. That’s another dream that came true. Life with Linda has been everything I had hoped for . . . and then some.

Snatched by Goodness

On October 31, I preached in the Naval Academy chapel. The scripture of the day was Hebrews 9:11-14, where Jesus is introduced as “High Priest of the Good Things.” The sermon title was “Snatched by Goodness,” and I told a couple of stories of my life being spared by someone who literally snatched me by the collar. Then I asked one of the men of the chapel to tell of a personal experience he had as a Naval Aviator. Ed Grunwald’s story is a powerful testimony of the goodness of God in answer to prayer in a desperate situation.

Ed called me yesterday to tell me another story. He graduated from the Naval Academy with the class of 1950, and has been a member of the USNA protestant congregation since retiring from the Navy. For the past twenty-five years, he has been praying for an opportunity to tell his story to the congregation.

I had no idea all that was going on when I felt the leading of the Lord to have him share his story. I had met him when I visited him in his home a few weeks earlier, and as I was preparing the sermon, I just had an inclination to ask him.

God is good. Jesus is the “High Priest of the Good Things.” And it’s wonderful to hear about how people’s lives have been touched by goodness.

If you click on the YouTube link, you can view and listen to the whole service. My message begins at 29:45. Ed’s story starts at 35:15 and runs about eleven minutes.

Should I Give This to a Friend?

I got this email through my website yesterday:

Hi,  Paul. A friend loaned me a copy of your book and I read it. I enjoyed it, so I bought a couple of copies. My pastors wants to read it. Here’s my question: I have a friend who served in Iraq some time ago, maybe 15 years ago or more. He did lose some friends and saw action that had casualties. Do you think this book would be appropriate to offer for him to read? Would it bring some perspective or healing? Or take him back to relive the horrors of war? I would appreciate your input.

And here’s what I wrote back to him:

Hello, friend. Great to get your email. Thank you. I think the book would be a good thing for your friend to read. While it mentions some of the painful stuff and the danger, it also shows how some of us processed the PTSD and got better. The Lord is a huge part of that, and I think it could be helpful for your friend. I’ve had a chance to talk with other veterans who went through some pretty horrible experiences, and they told me it was helpful. So go ahead and share it with him, and tell him he’s welcome to give me a call or an email if he wants to talk about his experiences over there.

The man’s pastor wants to read the book, which leads me to say this: Anyone looking for a book to use for a book group, a Bible study, or a home group discussion might consider using Safest Place in Iraq. There are discussion questions in the back. Plus, there’s a separate study guide. Consider using it in your group or at your church.

Writing Challenge Winner!

I just found out that an article I recently posted won the weekly writing challenge from FaithWriters. The article titled “Running a Marathon” is an excerpt from a brand new book I’m co-writing with Dr. Keith Travis. Our book is titled Military Ministry: Chaplaincy in the 21st Century.

Some comments from readers of the article:

“I liked the idea of comparing training for a marathon for the training of everyday living. Both types of endeavors are only successful with God’s help.”

“Your article has good content and speaks of experience.”

“I really liked this! It wasn’t hard hitting, yet had a very definite message. It was great.”

“Your title drew me in, and I wasn’t disappointed! Sounds like someone that knows about running in a marathon physically and spiritually! You’re running to win!”

“This is a great devotion. I liked your real life lesson and your biblical one too.”

Recommendation for Safest Place in Iraq

I pray that all of you are doing well after a week of glorifying God during Holy Week.  As I compose this email, I have a lingering awe over the profound power of Jesus’ resurrection . . . how that day changed everything for everybody for all of history and all of eternity . . . how it changes you and me every time we bow our heads in prayer!  God is so good!

Here is a recently released book by a chaplain:

“Safest Place in Iraq: Experiencing God During War” by Chaplain Paul Linzey, is an excellent resource for chaplains, as they consider how they might handle combat ministry.  Great vignettes throughout.  Honest and inspiring.  It’s widely available and costs about $20 in paperback.  It is published by Morgan James Faith.

From Rev. Jim Denley, Retired Navy Captain, now the military chaplain endorser of the Assemblies of God. The book may be purchased on this website, from the publisher, or ordered from any bookstore.

Mandatory Reading

I just finished reading your book and wanted to thank you for taking the time to write it. It brought back many similar memories of my time as a chaplain. When I retired from the Army, I became the endorser for the National Association of Evangelicals. If I was still in that position, I would make your book mandatory reading for any chaplain candidate and junior chaplain. It was excellent. Thanks for being transparent and honest about your own struggles and for showing your willingness to work with and encourage other faith traditions. Job well done! Keep writing and ministering. I wish I had something like it when I was a young chaplain.

Chaplain (Colonel) Paul Vicalvi, was the Commandant of the Army Chaplain Center and School, and then the Chaplain Endorser for the National Association of Evangelicals. After reading my book, Safest Place in Iraq, he sent me this note and gave me permission to share it.

Leadership Podcast Interview

Dr. Richard Blackaby, of Blackaby Ministries International, recently interviewed me for his Leadership Podcast. The conversation is about 35 minutes long, and covers diverse topics such as what it’s like to be at war, responding to temptation, the power of prayer, the importance of unity in marriage, being an effective witness for Christ, why some people consider suicide, and effective leadership and influence. You can listen to the interview by scrolling to the bottom right of this screen.

Richard and I were discussing my new book, Safest Place in Iraq, where, I mention the impact that Dr. Blackaby’s devotional book Experiencing God Day By Day had on me while I was in Iraq, specifically how the Lord used one particular reading on May 8 to prepare me for an amazing encounter with one of our Iraqi interpreters.

You can hear this story by listening to the recorded podcast. And you can read many more stories in the book, Safest Place in Iraq, which is available on this website or at any bookstore.

Safest Place in Iraq is a collection of inspiring stories showing what God was doing in some people’s lives during the war in Iraq. It’s perfect for individual reading, small group, discussion, or even in a classroom setting.

Feel free to contact me through the Connect page above, or by leaving a comment below, and tell me what you think.

Chapter One Excerpt: Safest Place in Iraq

Heat, 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. (From chapter one of the new book, Safest Place in Iraq).

Great Book for Small Group Discussion

Even on good days, living for Christ is a challenging, risk-laden endeavor. One way to make the task a bit easier is to see how other Christians have successfully navigated their temptations and struggles.

Safest Place in Iraq aims to do just that, by peering behind the curtain and showing how one military chaplain handled the various dangers, people, and circumstances he encountered during his war-time deployment in South Central Iraq. The result is a story that ranges from death and destruction to friendship and faith, and from temptation and torment to redemption and revival. Colonel Paul Linzey identifies the broad themes that everyone—both Christian and non-Christian—has to deal with when the going gets tough. He also shows by example what it takes to overcome life’s obstacles, whether dodging mortars in the desert, or fighting fear, loneliness, and temptation at home or at work. And in the process, Safest Place in Iraq shows that it is possible to remain true to one’s values and calling as a person of faith in a hostile world.

Safest Place in Iraq would be perfect for individual reading, but it’s also ideally suited for a small group discussion such as a home group, bible study, a men’s group.

In addition to telling the stories of answered prayer, divine intervention, and people coming to faith in Christ, it answers questions that people are asking about Christians in the military, overcoming temptation, and other issues.

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