Welcome to Field Notes. I plan on posting here often, and in longer form than this post will be. Today I just want to give our supporters, prayer partners and friends an update on the ministry at Military Fellowship Center since we started in January. This is my first full week in my office with it fully functional, not completed, but functional. There have been many challenges this past month as I adjusted to a new ministry, but I am enjoying the challenges.
I bought my desk at a used furniture store. Jacksonville, home to constantly moving Marines, is replete with used furniture, pawn, and antique shops. I specifically looked for a typewriter desk. Though you are reading this online, the first draft was typed on my 1960 Olympia SC-1, manufactured in West Germany. I love old stuff and typewriters in particular. The desk looks like it has two identical sets of drawers on each side, but the left side is actually one large door that opens to a pull out platform on heavy duty springs that keeps my Olympia safe from dust and hides it away when not in use.
The desk is from the 30's or 40's, and on the pull out writing surface on the right side there was a little piece of paper taped down. It was obviously typed up by the previous owner. It appears to be copied from an inscription on a tomb.
At the bottom of the page the ascription is given: Ernest A. Fitzgerald Cemetery United Methodist Church Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I entered the first few lines of the text online and found it is a popular 'prayer' commonly called 'The Dangerous Prayer' I put prayer in quotes because I don’t care for wrote prayer that is read back to God verbatim, especially if its written by someone else. This little statement intrigued me though. Here it is;
Lord, Don't give me rest. Give me tasks to do, O Lord, big ones, long ones, time consuming ones, challenging ones Give me jobs that look all but impossible, give me that others don't think I can handle. Give me projects that I cannot finish in a day, but must set aside at evening and sleep on and anticipate for tomorrow Give me work I'm not quite sure how to do, Lord, and give me deadlines and give me people standing there impatiently waiting for the result — discriminating people who expect it to be right and who need it very much. Give me all this today, Lord, and then tomorrow give me more tasks just as tough or tougher. All this give me, Lord, instead of rest, because I want to learn, to grow, to be of value, to accomplish, to have purpose and to anticipate all my tomorrows.
That simple passage spoke to me. It describes why I felt naturally drawn to Military Evangelism. Spiritually I am sure of God's call here, and I’ll tell you about that some time but in the natural realm, I felt compelled to take on this ministry because of the challenge. 14 years as a pastor and I had the mechanics of that position down. I knew when to work, when to rest, when to stay in the office and when to venture out. Not everyone understood my reasoning’s, and that was ok, pastoral ministry is tough and often thankless — pray for your pastor RIGHT NOW! And I suspect as General Director of a Military Ministry there will be similar challenges, But it’s the DIFFERENT challenges that drew me to this.
Not having military experience might seem to some a disadvantage, but every member of the military was civilian before, and will become civilian again and people are people, and the Gospel is for people. I accept the challenge of learning a new culture, a different lifestyle, a unique way of communicating (These fellas and ladies talk extensively in acronyms). I think of it as no different as an American Missionary going overseas and learning to work within a new and strange culture.
I like to work. I like to work at jobs that have meaning. In the 32 years since High School I have held many positions, and all of them intentionally. I chose over and again work that was not just interesting, but meaningful. Radio Reporter, Television Production, Deputy Sheriff, Private Investigator, Preacher, Pastor, and now Missionary.
I worry that work has fallen out of style though. It seems the “American Dream” is summed up in the desire to get rich enough to never have to work again. Work though was one of the first gifts God gave to us.
Genesis 2:15…And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
The entrance of sin greatly increased the burden of work. No longer would work be always enjoyable and fruitful.
Genesis 3:18, 19…Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
Though sin has lessened our enjoyment of work, and increased the strain of it, work is still a gift.
Psalm 128:2…For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee.
Ecclesiastes 9:10…Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.
Work with purpose, work with reward, which brings joy and blessing and contentment. That is what we should look for, enter into, labor willingly. Though I will one day retire from a daily “job” I doubt I will ever quit working. Its too fulfilling. The work here at Military Evangelism is hard and demanding and sometimes frightening in its responsibility - and it is worth every second of it because it’s also fulfilling and fun and purposeful. I love my new ministry. Thank You Lord!
NEXT: Pictures and stories from the front lines of ministry in Jacksonville.