Faith Strengthens By Hearing

June 13, 2016

لقد تغلبت على العالم

I first heard about the late night attack on a nightclub in Orlando at about 1pm Sunday, and struggled to get my mind around how some media and government people were calling it a “crime”. In my gut I knew that this was not a hate crime, but a very effective insurgent attack on the American mainland. The Sunday evening news had more of the same, and categorization as a law enforcement matter began to stress me out; to me it seemed dishonest of them to call what happened a crime. I went to bed late, and had fitful bouts of sleep amidst the turmoil in my soul.

The media message-shaping and anti-2nd Amendment rhetoric had slightly lessened by Monday morning when the word was out that the attack had been claimed and attributed to ISIS, but that began to present even more deeply disturbing thoughts and feelings in me as I watched the morning news reports. I have “skin in the game”, so yes, I do occasionally seek unbiased reporting on the state of our Nation. I am aware that most of the “news” is bad, but I am personally called to be a voter and be aware of the times. It’s part of my character.

The way I see it, this ad hoc terror group known as ISIS is a 4th or 5th generation of Al Qaeda and similar Islamic militancy. In 2004, I served in the United States Army and deployed to Iraq to help fight against the 1.5th or 2nd  generation of AQ, known by many names but comprising terrorists of all flavors intent on damaging peace. Islamic Militants are the only people who have ever attacked me directly and personally, tried to kill me personally, and on Sunday morning, a 4th or 5th generation insurgent operative attacked and killed Americans on our own soil down in Orlando. This felt like an immediate and total failure, both to me and to the memory of my brothers and sisters who died in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting these people on their soil.

The anxiety and sense of catastrophic loss mounted as I prepared for work, and I sat very still on my couch this morning after getting dressed, thinking and praying.

We would never be mourning the loss of life today if the military had done our job in 2004. The gun control political spinsters would be ineffectual today if we had done our job back then. Nothing we’ve done in the last 20 years has made a difference, if foreign militia are killing us in our own cities and towns here in CONUS. God, where are YOU?

Irrational, yes.

In fact, these thoughts are as irrational as they were real to me this morning. Sitting on my couch, I read Psalm 136, and then prayed for clarity and peace, that the fear and anguish would be defeated. Love endures forever. Finally, I headed to work after seriously considering a sick day to deal with the grief and the anger and sadness welling up into my temples and behind my eyelids. There are more distractions at my office than in my home, and I honestly knew I would be less of a distraction to the kids and wife if we kept our normal Monday schedule. I needed to get out of my head and occupy my brain with the mundane.

Before I left the house, I checked all of my firearms, and said goodbye to the wife very meaningfully, as if I may not be coming home. It has been over 10 years since I’ve done that, but I felt as if CONUS had now become a very low intensity conflict zone. Anyway, I got to the office, lowered our National colors out front to half-staff, and then tried to concentrate on work.

The anxiety and the feelings of fearful hopelessness crept slowly but surely higher in my mind, and I began to pray fervently at my desk and listen to worship music. Finally, having had enough, I went downstairs to a vacant conference room, closed the door and turned off the lights. In the semi-darkness, I shut off my cellphone and took out the battery before plugging my ears and screwing my eyes shut tightly.

Everything was laid out before God. The streams of media and music and talking and interaction and busyness were shut off in my brain, and I bared it all to Him. I cried out for help, and for peace, and for a clear stability that was free of fear and anxiety and horror and failure. Psalm 136 came back, and I prayed each verse aloud. There began to be a withdrawing of the barrage, as if a tide was receding. My prayer was,

God, I give You thanks, but I need a reassurance that I will not be going crazy or having an emotional breakdown or something seemingly out of my control. Please help me. Amen.

With that I stood up and walked back to my office, expecting an answer. About an hour later, I made my way to our large main conference room for a scheduled meeting with Michelle Seymour of Faith Comes By Hearing. A well-established non-profit based out of Albuquerque, Faith Comes By Hearing specializes in Bible translations and spreading the Gospel to the entire Earth. Michelle had been on the calendar for about a month, and our philanthropy committee was excited to hear her presentation.

Things were going along nicely, and we were learning that their organization had served faithfully for over 40 years to spread the message of God’s Word, that they had held the original Scorby recordings on cassette in their collection of resources at one time, etc. etc. Then Michelle began to share about God’s new plans for them, with new technology that will allow villages to have portable solar-powered devices which spread the spoken Word of God. How their recording teams put together Bible stories in native tongues, where voice actors recite and perform the stories in Scripture, and it is played back to others so they can immerse in the Word. How the music and sound effects in these recordings have a profound effect on people, and when a voice actor says,

“Son of David, have mercy on me!”

, indigenous peoples experience moves of the Holy Spirit. They actually have documented cases where people are being healed of illness and disease in remote countries as they listen to the Word of God and are touched.

Michelle told us about new tech advances where multi-lingual Bible translations can be delivered via satellite, and can be passed thru cell networks in the Third World now, almost like a Near Field Communication transfer. She talked about how their organization is using Bible apps to pass the Word in native tongues, all over the globe as technology breaks every barrier.

Then she started to share about their Military Bible Stick, which is a miniaturized audio device that U.S. Military chaplains have been using for several years now. It is a small black audio player with headphones, passed out for free to deployed soldiers and those who have redeployed, and which many troops have reported helps them sleep and calm down by listening to God’s Word. Evidently these recordings are helping servicemembers who are struggling with PTSD and other effects of their experiences.

As Michelle began to unpack the story of the Military Bible Sticks, my attention was riveted on her and I stopped taking notes. It was suddenly apparent that the Holy Spirit was speaking to me in a very clear way that this meeting had purpose beyond an “ask” for prayer or financial support from a non-profit partner. When she passed out brochures on the Military Bible Stick I stared blankly at the pages, barely able to absorb what I was seeing.

And then my world was wrecked by what happened next.

Michelle had picked up her smartphone to demonstrate their Bible.Is app which has multi-lingual audio capability, and she shared a recent anecdote about a flight to Detroit where she was showing the app to a seat mate. He was an Iraqi immigrant, and she pulled up the Bible in Arabic for him. His own dialectic Arabic, which was specific to Iraq.

When she pressed play and the audio of an Arab guy speaking began to fill the conference room, I became physically, emotionally, and spiritually overwhelmed. Utterly. Completely.

The Words of Life began to swirl around me in Arabic, and the hyper-charged current of God’s Presence began to pound my heart with Peace, and Security and Power. I started crying uncontrollably.

You see, I have heard much spoken Iraqi Arabic. I have heard military commands, and curses, and calls to prayer from minarets. I have heard hatred and anger and ridicule in Arabic, but I have never heard God’s Word in Arabic. Yet here I was, in the Main Conference Room at my law firm, the day after yet another terrorist attack on American soil, hearing the proceeding Word of God in Iraqi Arabic.

In those moments as the recording played, it was as if the God of Creation was saying to me,

“I was in Orlando last weekend, and I have overcome the World. You don’t have to worry. My Will is established, and I hear your prayers and heal your pain. Those who morn will be comforted. Those who need love will be loved. Peace will be a river.”

With very little composure, I shared with Michelle and the other attendees what had just happened, and at that point the whole room became an emotional mess. Today’s meeting was a divine appointment by the Overcomer of the World. We eventually recovered, and as we concluded our meeting I led everyone in expressing our thankfulness for God’s answers to our prayers.

Answers that can often have been scheduled over a month before we ever prayed.

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I’ve given them unrestricted permission to use my story in any promotional material they would like. This is one of the days from 2016 that will stay with me forever. – DD

Flashes

  FLASHES

A silent and very secret battle is raging. It is a constant confrontation which never lets up, like being in a real-time imaginary world filled with non-stop mental fistfighting. It is no small thing to take thoughts captive, when those thoughts take form like a never-ending silvery rocket-worm commuter train rushing by, car after car, inches from the edge of the station platform.

“I, Jason Ford Kentworth, do solemnly swear…”

The flash thoughts are what disorient him the most, sometimes even to moments of absolute confusion. There are many kinds of flashes.

A persistent wife’s blue-green eyes flashing in stubborn resolve.

Humid summer’s eve thunderstorm lightening flashes.

A flawless diamond as it flashes in the sunlight.

A photographer’s camera bulb flashes.

Distant impacting artillery flashes.

Ambulance light-bar flashes.

Muzzle flashes.

 

“…that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States…”

The thought flashes are the worst flashes of all. They are what cause his lack of concentration, and they get in the way of his emotional good order and discipline almost on an hourly basis. He sees them in his mind’s eye, sometimes going down a trapline of randomly connected events or images from years ago in Iraq or before he ever joined. Even as the business client in front of him is explaining the next round of contract expectations for a new downtown office opening in two weeks. If only the client knew it was a one-sided conversation half the time.

“…against all enemies, foreign and domestic…”

 

Flash.

————–\/————–

Tonight there are unrelenting flashes of thought stampeding through his troubled mind. Familiar, violent ones that take him on hysterical paths which tangle with one another and braid themselves into a rope of mental and emotional horror that no one sees.

He carefully locks the SUV in its out-facing parking spot, and reaches for the little girl’s extended hand as he and his wife walk her to the restaurant entrance.

“If you didn’t want to get dinner out tonight, Jason, all you had to do was say so. We can still leave and go back home, without punishing the two of us for whatever it was…”

Something bitter and dark and hateful boils up into his throat, but he knows he would not forgive himself if he blurted it out on her.

Kris, Honey, I love you so much but you cannot even understand that nothing about this mental state tonight is your fault, or the baby’s fault. Absolutely zero. Not even worth trying to explain.

Reaching for the glass door with restaurant hours peeling from the lower pane, he stares angrily at her until she trails off and looks away, hurt.

Great. You just made it even worse.

Flash.

——————–}\—————

Other patrons seated around them and at the bar are having a normal Friday night full of brazenly stupid ‘fun’ and carousing, but to Jay, every casual glance is a sneer or a look of poison. Every laugh is a mocking apathetic barb. A secret reality of threats and darkness and people who don’t care and would not think twice about harming the innocent swirls around him. On the misappropriated advice of a crusty military axiom, part of Jay’s brain formulates a workable plan to kill everyone in the restaurant if needed, as the flustered waitress scribbles their drink order on a soggy notepad.

Shifting in the booth uncomfortably, with his elbow Jay adjusts the grip position of the loaded Kimber 1911, .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol concealed on his right hip. The muscles in his upper back and neck are taut like elastic cords, and a hot tingle rises behind his ears as a room full of eyes may or may not be drilling into the base of his skull.

 Is she making me sit with my back to the room on purpose? To prove a point about how mentally weak I have become? Why is she doing this to me?

Flash.

Kris is still feeling the sting of his silence since they left the house, but seeing something else that has just gone wrong, she inhales slowly and forces a smile.

“Come on, Cassie, let’s go potty before our food gets here.”

As their daughter happily scoots out of the booth, Kris silently, knowingly, motions for him to switch sides of the table while they are up. Her side is against the rear wall, and it is suddenly obvious to Jay that his wife has sensed and is trying to fix his tactical crisis here in their booth.

What a woman. What a friend. You are such an a**hole for even doubting her.

Mom and daughter walk away from the table and Jay slides out stiffly, hoping the people around them take no notice of the movement. He thinks to himself how wonderful it would be if the room were silent and empty. Well, not silent. Distracting sounds sometimes lessen the volume of the imaginary voices in his head, but there is no substitute for being privately, peacefully, alone.

Right?

Flash.

————|\————

He settles into the other side of the booth, and can theoretically begin to relax. Kris and little Cassie return momentarily, and suddenly he is inexplicably happy inside to see them. His heart leaps like they have not been gone mere minutes. This caravan of disjointed thoughts has made it seem like hours since they got up. In another minute or two he would have begun considering leaving their table to stride back and see if something had gone south in the Ladies’ room, or if an AQ-trained insurgent had taken his girls hostage or worse.

Because that sounds absolutely feasible, surely. You need help.

He breathes a sigh of relief, but in an instant the joy of seeing them back at the table evaporates. As Cassie reaches out stubby fingers for her crayons which are now on the wrong side of the booth, she dashes her cup of pink lemonade and ice all over the tabletop.

Flash.

——————————]|/———————–

Stress and arousal. That’s what the counselors call it. Whatever it is, it is bitterly infuriating. Post Traumatic Stress Arousal causes fury, and at the same time is caused by fury: a devastatingly ironic conundrum. And Jay’s reality.

Pink lemonade sloshes across menus, napkins, and flatware, with a parade of ice cubes in tow.

In Jay’s clouded and warped mentality, the night, the dinner, their very reputation as a small respectable family, is ruined in one brief mistake of his precious six-year-old. The rage lurking just below the surface of his euphoria and frustration suddenly explodes up like a volcano under intense pressure, and conflicting emotions thrash his mind. The room begins to vibrate and shimmer, as he tries to maintain control. He senses his face has contorted into a mask of hateful spite. He is involuntarily glowering, jaw clenched, fists balled on the table as the drink pools around them and begins dripping onto the vinyl seat covering.

While one part of his mind acknowledges that this is just pink lemonade and a small child, another side of Jay rages uncontrollably at the removal of order and the injection of chaos, the destruction of anonymity and the sudden harsh glare of attention from every other diner.

Flash.

It’s not just a spilled drink, it’s a lack of caution and discipline by those he most cares about. An irrational, illogical slither of thought begins to plot a course through his mind, millisecond by millisecond as the drink spreads in slow motion across the table. His synapses quickly link this spilled beverage to an imaginary day in the future where Cassie abandons disciplined caution and crashes her car into the back of a semi tractor trailer at the young age of eighteen. This scenario plays its way to a devastating conclusion in his mind, seemingly disconnected from that fact that its just a six-year-old who has accidentally spilled a lemonade.

His frustration with Cassie’s 18-year-old future self combines with the situation at hand, and logic is abandoned. The most exasperating part is the realization of just how absurd these clashing viewpoints are, even as the anger continues to pulsate. And he can’t get a grip.

Flash.

—————-/{—————-

In Jay’s warped mental awareness, his wife has just allowed this incident to happen by not foreseeing the risk of spillage and taking action to prevent it. Part of his frustration orients itself at Kris like a laser, despite the fact that he was sitting at the same table in the same moments prior, and could have, should have, foreseen the same event himself.

Kris sees his anger, and quickly springs into action. Her pulse quickens, and she deftly contains part of the icy puddle with a dam of napkins and the edge of her hand. Cassie notices his mask of dark displeasure, and slowly realizes her daddy is angry again. Thinking this anger is directed toward her, she begins to slowly lower her head as tears well up and her lip begins to quiver.

Flash.

He wants to see himself reach across and gently squeeze her shoulder, or at least smile and wink to let her know its no big deal, but this raging carnival of senseless anger won’t allow for this incident to just be “no big deal”. It is a big deal. The 18-year-old love of his life, his baby, crashing her car is a big deal.

His courageous and long-suffering wife failing to keeping an eye on the details and not helping prevent negative consequences from happening to their daughter is a big deal.

His own lack of foresight and this inability to avoid attracting unwanted attention from the clueless and potentially hostile restaurant patrons is a big deal. The instinct and desire to put on a happy face is met with cynical, depressed laughter in his mind.

Why can’t I just shut off the side of my brain that stays intense, that overreacts, that finds shelter in hatred and rage, and can’t let something go?

————-/|\————-

Kris sees that her efforts have not made the situation ok. She feels the familiar crushing weight of hopelessness, and the creeping sense of failure that has pervaded her heart for years since he returned from the war. If she cannot even do something as simple as mop up spilled lemonade to his satisfaction, she has no hope of ever being the loving and cherished wife that she wants so much to be. The false inadequacy grips at her throat, and her mind numbs itself, anticipating the flustered waitress who will approach at any moment with an exasperated sigh and a fistful of paper towel.

Flash.

Jay is suddenly acutely aware that his wife has just tried her very best to expertly handle the spill, and somewhere inside he is deeply appreciative. Just like somewhere inside a swamp there are pockets of fresh water. He also sees the tears forming in his daughter’s eyes.

It is in this moment that the anger and frustration shifts to a torrential flood of regret.

Flash.

Regret that his wife does not know how he really feels about her.

Regret that Simmons was assigned to gun on the Humvee that day and bled out before the medevac bird from Taji had a clear LZ.

Regret that none of these people sitting around in the adjoining booths and tables even know what Simmons did for them.

Regret for what he would like to do to them right now in punishment of their apathy toward Simmons’ sacrifice.

Regret that he has made a mountain of this lemonade-flavored mole hill.

Regret that his love, his little girl, has no idea what is really tormenting him, and thinks it is her.

God, help. This is more than I can bear, and I am done trying to bear it on my own power.

 It all caves in at once and he cannot stop his own tears that suddenly spring forth. He silently stares at a molasses and bourbon swiss gimmick burger on the menu through a thick wavy flood of heartbreak.

It looks to all the world that he is having an emotional breakdown about a kid spilling a drink.

And all the world is so, so wrong in that assessment.

—————————-|—————————-

This is a prologue concept to a book I may write some day. First conceived in May 2011, it has kicked around in my heart to try and expose the secret world of PTSD anxiety, and share the road I’ve traveled to healing. While the story is fiction, the fight to captivate thoughts is very real. -DD
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.              2 Corinthians 10:5