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OCF Crosspoint Podcast
43 minutes | Nov 11, 2022
(S3:E10) Part 1: Being a leader of character / Lead to serve, serve to lead
Show Notes: This episode begins a three-part series featuring Brig Gen Robert “Gwyn” Armfield, USAF (Ret.), former OCF executive director Lt Gen Bruce Fister, USAF (Ret.), and current OCF executive director Col Scott Fisher, USAF (Ret.). Speaking from nearly 90 years of combined service in the Air Force, these three leaders share their personal stories as followers of Christ and as military officers. On this first installment, Gwyn, Bruce, and Scott discuss how leaders can approach employing God’s Word effectively, integrating the calling to serve in uniform and the calling to serve the Lord, and leading in times of crisis. The cornerstone of being an effective leader who can do these three things well, they assert, is being a leader of character. Gwyn and Bruce’s recently released book, Lead to Serve and Serve to Lead: Leading Well in Turbulent Times, inspired today’s roundtable conversation and the two to come. Gwyn describes his and Bruce’s book as a “discipling guide on how to lead things and get things done in a way that honors Christ with a tactical-level implementation,” written for people of all ages and walks of life. If you would like to share your own story, complete the form on OCF’s “Be a Guest” webpage. Alternatively, if you have an idea for a guest or topic I should consider for a future episode of the show, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. As you listen to this conversation with Gwyn, Bruce, and Scott, here are a few questions to ponder in your personal time, with a small group, or with a mentor: Scott described character as the “cornerstone of an effective leader.” What examples, biblical or personal, prove that concept? For biblical principles of effective leadership, Gwyn references Philippians 2:3-4, and Bruce references Proverbs 12. Read those passages for yourself and consider what you can apply to your own leadership roles. Throughout your military career, you’ll likely find yourself in conversations about leadership where you can incorporate biblical principles. What verses can you incorporate into those conversations? As a uniformed service member, how can you share your faith in a wise and understanding way? Bruce says people won’t remember a crisis, but they’ll remember how a leader performed during a crisis. What crisis response comes to mind when you hear Bruce’s point, and what can you learn from the leader’s or leaders’ response to said crisis.
31 minutes | Oct 26, 2022
(S3:E9) “Pursue God… no matter where you are”: Finding fellowship beneath the sea
Show Notes: Today’s episode takes us back to the topic of small groups. If you've listened to some of the more recent episodes of this podcast, you might be asking, “Haven't you guys said enough about small groups already?” In this episode, however, we're going to hit that topic from a slightly different angle as LT Will Parker, USN, and LT Sam Alexander, USN, sit down to talk about their experiences while serving aboard submarines. They discuss the challenges of such a unique environment, the challenges of beginning and maintaining a small group Bible study aboard a submarine, and practical applications for similarly isolated environments. They also get into the importance of seeking out fellowship with others wherever you can, whether that’s through an OCF small group, a local church body, or with a few peers at work. If you would like to share your own story, complete the form on OCF’s “Be a Guest” webpage. Alternatively, if you have an idea for a guest or topic I should consider for a future episode of the show, send an email to email@example.com. As you listen to this conversation with Will and Sam, here are a few questions to ponder in your personal time, with a small group, or with a mentor: Will and Sam talk about the unique schedules, or lack thereof, of service aboard a submarine and the challenge such irregularity presents in many aspects of life. How do you make time for investing in relationships with God and with others when you can’t control your own schedule? Recall a time when you had an atypical fellowship group. What made those relationships most impactful despite your unique life circumstances? Sam mentions a “grab bag” of pre-structured Bible study resources that helped him lead a small group when he didn’t have much time to prepare between gatherings. What resources could you place in your own “grab bag” for future use? How can you use technology as a tool for pouring into others and receiving encouragement even as you’re away from in-person fellowship? What practical, realistic goal can you set in your own walk with the Lord? Don’t set a goal for the sake of setting a goal and checking something off your to-do list, but let this goal serve as a reminder to factor its objective into your everyday life.
45 minutes | Oct 7, 2022
(S3:E8) “March or die”: Turning to Christ & community in times of trauma
Show Notes: Today we're going to talk about a topic that pops up from time to time on the podcast, and that topic is trauma. In this episode, we're going to consider this overarching question: What's a biblical approach to dealing with or healing from trauma? Here to help me answer that question is Jeremy Stalnecker, who served as an infantry officer in the United States Marine Corps. He currently serves as the executive director of the Mighty Oaks Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping America's military warriors and their families suffering from the unseen wounds of combat such as post-traumatic stress. Raised in southern California as a pastor’s kid, Jeremy watched his parents serve in the church and was convinced the Lord would ever call him to serve in ministry. Nonetheless, Jeremy’s parents taught him the importance of service, prompting him to pursue a future as a Marine. Commissioning in 1999 and serving in Kuwait and Iraq, Jeremy returned to the States, left the Marine Corps, and, despite his earlier assertions he’d never go into ministry, joined a church staff shortly thereafter. His service as a Marine and the years to follow have given Jeremy opportunities to deal with and heal from his own trauma, resulting in a passion for helping others, particularly within the military community, do the same. In our conversation, he unpacks a functional definition of “trauma,” its relationship with identity, the impact of spiritual resilience, and next steps to take when you or a loved one are dealing with trauma. Check out the various resources mentioned throughout this episode: Mighty Oaks Foundation March or Die (book) March or Die (podcast) The Anatomy of Courage: The Classic WWI Study of the Psychological Effects of War by Lord Moran If you would like to share your own story, complete the form on OCF’s “Be a Guest” webpage. Alternatively, if you have an idea for a guest or topic I should consider for a future episode of the show, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. As you listen to this conversation with Jeremy, here are a few questions to ponder in your personal time, with a small group, or with a mentor: Jeremy talks about feeling lost and alone when he quickly left the Marine Corps and joined a church staff. Have you ever had a similar experience when the course of your life changed quickly and unexpectedly? How did you feel during that season? When have you had to choose to take a faith-filled step forward? How would you describe the role of identity in trauma or healing from trauma? If you haven’t yet, what spiritual disciplines can you cultivate to develop spiritual resilience? Jeremy reminds us that “isolation kills.” Who can you ask for help when dealing with and healing from trauma? How can you help others when they’re experiencing trauma? Thinking of Jeremy’s earlier statement that trauma pervades the Bible, what scripture comes to mind as you listen to this conversation?
37 minutes | Sep 23, 2022
How God healed a “performing Christian” from past trauma and abuse
This episode of OCF Crosspoint is a chance to hear from CDR Carl Crabtree, USN (Ret.), who currently serves with his wife, Christy, as the OCF Field Staff Representative at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. A man on a mission in this episode to share how God has healed him from “PTSD, trauma, moral injury, habitual sin,” Carl shares about his experiences as a foster-to-adopt kid and onward. While the conversation doesn’t get overly detailed or specific, please be advised to listen with care or listen to a different episode altogether if you are still healing from your own past trauma. Carl pulls from countless personal experiences as an officer in the Navy, a leader in his local church, a husband to his wife, and others, reflecting on how God worked through hardship in all those circumstances to deepen his relationship with Him. Along the way, the Lord redefined and brought to life some commonly used Christian terms like forgiveness, grace, and trust for Carl. In addition to biblical passages and relationships with friends and family, Carl mentions a few resources that aided his walk with the Lord, linked below: Victory Over the Darkness by Neil T. Anderson of Freedom in Christ Ministries How People Change by Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out by Brennan Manning If you would like to share your own story, complete the form on OCF’s “Be a Guest” webpage. Alternatively, if you have an idea for a guest or topic I should consider for a future episode of the show, send an email to email@example.com. As you listen to this conversation with Carl, here are a few questions to ponder in your personal time, with a small group, or with a mentor: What do you turn to as a means of escape from difficult life circumstances? How would you describe the tone of your conversations with God when He brings hardship your way? Why is it vital to read Ephesians in its entirety rather than focus on one half of the book? Carl talks about approaching his military career and his walk with the Lord with a “performer” mentality. In what area of your own life do you find yourself being a performer? Despite the distractions of the world, how do you stay focused on your own identity in Christ? When have you seen the Lord use your vulnerability to impact others?
46 minutes | Sep 7, 2022
(S3:E6) “Embrace the suck”: Trusting God in all things
Show Notes: LT Jonathan Gentry, CHC, USN, discusses the seemingly simple concept of trusting God, specifically within the context of Jonathan’s calling to the ministry and to the military. Since December 2020, Jonathan has been serving as a chaplain at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, but the Navy chaplaincy was not always on his radar. A Georgia native and pastor’s kid, Jonathan wrestled with the same questions many high school graduates face: What should I do next? Where should I go? What career should I pursue? Based on his own love for theatre in high school, Jonathan chose to pursue a degree in theatre at the University of Memphis while also growing spiritually through leadership roles with his church and Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM). Later in college, Jonathan realized the Lord was pulling him away from theatre studies toward ministry instead, leading him to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. The years to follow were ones of trusting God and waiting on Him with decisions about education, vocation, and relationships. He reflects on past experiences where he can now retroactively see God’s hand at work and encourages other Christians in the military to trust Him in all things from job assignments to work dynamics to personal relationships. Jonathan answered the call for podcast guests by completing the form on OCF’s “Be a Guest” webpage, and you are invited to do the same if you would like to share your own story. Alternatively, if you have an idea for a guest or topic that should be considered for a future episode of the show, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. As you listen to this conversation with Jonathan, here are a few questions to ponder in your personal time, with a small group, or with a mentor: Describe a time when you wrestled with discerning God’s calling for your life. What did you learn about God’s character through that experience? Where can you look back retroactively to see the Lord’s hand at work in circumstances you didn’t understand at the time? Jonathan describes a hard experience with a church that he “wouldn’t trade” because he can see how that prepared him for the Navy chaplaincy. What challenging but growing experience would you not trade? What does trusting God look like in a practical sense? What spiritual disciplines help you trust the Lord in all things?
29 minutes | Aug 17, 2022
(S3:E5) Balancing relationships and Bible study in a small group
Show Notes: After commissioning through the ROTC program at the University of Missouri, Lt Col JB Kump, USAF (Ret.), spent just over 20 years serving wherever the Air Force sent him. Along the way, he and his wife quickly connected with various OCF and church small groups. The “home-away-from-home” fellowship he and his young family found during an early assignment in Germany provided the prayer and support they needed while stationed overseas, and JB has been an avid advocate for small groups ever since. In this episode of OCF Crosspoint, JB shares what made those small groups so impactful in his own life, practical tips for those currently interested in leading small groups, how his passion for those local fellowships led to his current post-military career, and more. JB now serves as Minister of Small Groups, Retreats, & Visitation at Great Outdoors Community Church in Titusville, Fla. He additionally holds roles on the boards of directors for both the American Evangelical Christian Churches and Berlin U.S. Military Veterans Association. JB answered the call for podcast guests by completing the form on our “Be a Guest” webpage, and we invite you to do the same if you would like to share your own story. Alternatively, if you have an idea for a guest or topic we should consider for a future episode of the show, send an email to email@example.com. As you listen to this conversation with JB, here are a few questions to ponder in your personal time, with a small group, or with a mentor: What factors have made a small group impactful in your own life? Do you view small groups primarily as a chance to study the Word or to build relationships with other believers? How do you find the balance in your own group? How can we as members of the military community effectively invest in relationships despite the frequent turnover that comes with the military lifestyle? Have you felt the Lord calling you to lead and/or participate in a small group? What next steps might you take to follow the Lord’s calling? In what ways has the Lord grown you through an experience in which you were reluctant to participate? What Scripture comes to mind when you think about what a biblical small group ought to look like? How does Ecclesiastes 4:12 apply to small groups?
25 minutes | Jul 27, 2022
(S3:E4) Learning from the VMI ministry model to reach Generation Z
Show Notes: CH(COL) Bob Phillips, USA (Ret.), joins us on the podcast today to speak from his 26 years of military service and his ongoing work as the chaplain to the Corps of Cadets at his own alma mater, Virginia Military Institute. Bob shares his stories of coming to faith with his parents, “straddling the fence” in high school and in college, and meeting his wife Tracy, before diving into what his current ministry looks like at VMI. He observes that one of the predominant topics of discussion among cadets and college students across the country today is anxiety. While anxiety can often seem unavoidable and unbeatable, Bob shares how he and Tracy use relationships and group Bible studies to address anxiety and point cadets back to Christ. Bob also serves on the OCF Council, this ministry’s governing body, where he provides perspectives and input to shape OCF’s strategic goals, ministry-wide decisions, and more. Interested in learning more about generation-specific ministry? Check out the following resources Bob mentioned throughout this episode: College Ministry 101: A Guide to Working with 18-25 Year Olds by Chuck Bomar Generation iY: Secrets to Connecting With Today’s Teens & Young Adults in the Digital Age by Tim Elmore Generation Z Unfiltered: Facing Nine Hidden Challenges of the Most Anxious Population by Tim Elmore Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World by James Emery White If you have an idea for a guest, topic, or story that I should consider for a future episode of the show, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit OCF’s new “Be a Guest” webpage. As you listen to this conversation with Bob, here are a few questions to ponder in your personal time, with a small group, or with a mentor: Bob shares that his family’s dining room table is their “greatest resource for evangelism… and discipleship.” How could you similarly use a seemingly everyday item to make an impact for the Kingdom? What topic seems to “come to the surface” often in your own local community, and how can you engage with that topic biblically? How does Christ address the anxiety many face today, such as the VMI cadets Bob serves? How have you seen the power of relationships with other believers impact your own life? Do you have a mentor? If you do, how can you start preparing to mentor others in the future? If you don’t, who in your local community could you ask to pour into you spiritually in that capacity?
35 minutes | Jul 13, 2022
(S3:E3) Embracing GRACE relations in the body of Christ
Show Notes: Jesus follower, wife, mother, military veteran, USAFA ’97 graduate, counselor, nutritional healing-foods lover, author. These phrases all describe today’s guest, Aurelia Smith. Aurelia served as an active-duty Air Force officer both in the United States and abroad and separated from the military in 2002 as a Captain, and she’s been involved with OCF in many capacities since her cadet years. GRACE: God’s Reconciliation At Christ’s Expense. To say race relations is a complex issue is an understatement, and every facet of this topic cannot be covered in this one episode. Aurelia and I simply sat down to start the conversation, talk through Aurelia’s experiences in the military community, and her passion for helping other believers answer the question: How do I minister to the person in front of me who’s hurting from an ethnic or cultural incident? Aurelia and I are both members of OCF’s R7:9 Project (Revelation 7:9) committee, which examines the critical subject of race relations and explores how believers should engage in this topic in a biblical manner. Throughout this episode, Aurelia mentions a few books and resources linked below: One Race One Blood: The Biblical Answer to Racism by Ken Ham and Charles Ware Weep with Me: How Lament Opens a Door for Racial Reconciliation by Mark Vroegop Ministering to Military Women: Biblical Help & Hope by Aurelia Smith Truth in Love podcast, episode 358 Truth in Love podcast, episode 369 Programs at Spring Canyon Programs at White Sulphur Springs Caleb Challenge Career Transitions Strategies If you have an idea for a guest, topic, or story that I should consider for a future episode of the show, send an email to email@example.com or visit OCF’s new “Be a Guest” webpage. As you listen to this conversation with Aurelia, here are a few questions to ponder in your personal time, with a small group, or with a mentor: What does it look like to engage with race relations in a biblical manner as Christ followers? How should the passages Aurelia read from John chapters 13 and 17 shape our understanding of the love and unity to which we’re called? How can you align your heart with God’s heart for the nations expressed in Revelation 7:9? In what ways does your local church engage with today’s topic? How would you respond to the first situation Aurelia described in which an interracial couple faces backlash within the church body? What Scripture would you share with Adam in the second scenario? What counsel would you give Tanya in the third scenario? How can OCF as a ministry to the military community continue to engage with the topic of GRACE relations? Contact R7:9 Project Coordinator Larry Simpson to continue the conversation: firstname.lastname@example.org.
44 minutes | Jun 15, 2022
(S3:E2) How to see past the barriers and share your story
What keeps you from sharing your faith with others? I sat down with Capt Ryan McCary, ANG, to talk about this question and others. Ryan shares his own story of growing up in a missionary family, joining AFROTC at the University of Central Florida, and debating between military service and vocational ministry. He recounts his own failures to share his faith and how the Lord changed Him through those experiences, then he offers practical steps on how to be bold in your faith today. Ryan also hosts his own podcast. Check out his MIL SPEC Believer podcast and follow him on Instagram (@mil_spec_believer) to stay connected with Ryan as he continues the conversation about being a Christian in the military. If you have an idea for a guest, topic, or story that I should consider for a future episode of the show, send an email to email@example.com or visit OCF’s new “Be a Guest” webpage. As you listen to this conversation with Ryan, here are a few questions to ponder in your personal time or with a small group or mentor: How would you define a “testimony”? When was a time you saw the Lord work through someone sharing their testimony, and why was it so impactful? How do you stay “prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have,” as 1 Peter 3:15 exhorts? What’s the value of not only reflecting on your story but sharing it as well? Can God use failure both in your individual story and His bigger story? What practical step can you take to be bold for Christ and share the story He’s given you?
47 minutes | Jun 1, 2022
(S3:E1) One Marine's Journey to Live for God, Family, Country, and Corps
I interviewed Maj Chris Reardon, USMC, who shares his testimony as well as his experiences with integrating faith and profession. For some people, that can perhaps be an ambiguous topic. What exactly does it mean to integrate faith and profession? Chris unpacks what that looks like for him as a Marine and shares some practical application. In the spirit of the topic, Chris also talks about his nonprofit called Freedom Fitness America, a fusion of fitness and faith, as a means of integrating his faith and profession and helping others do the same. This conversation with Chris kicks off the third season of OCF Crosspoint, and don’t miss the episodes to come in the months ahead. If you have an idea for a guest, topic, or story that I should consider for a future episode of the show, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit OCF’s new “Be a Guest” webpage. Places to find FFA online: Website: https://freedomfitnessamerica.org Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/freedomfitnessamerica Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/fit4thefightlife LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/freedom-fitness-america/ LinkedIn Personal Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrisreardon7872 YouTube “Shoot, Move, Communicate” Channel:https://www.youtube.com/c/ShootMoveCommunicate Questions to ponder: As you listen to Chris’ story, here are a few questions to ponder in your personal time or with a small group or mentor: Chris shares that he knew from a young age that he wanted to serve in the military, but his father “was not keen” on Chris’ aspirations. How do we as Christians seek to honor our father and mother as we’re commanded to while also honoring what the Lord puts on our hearts to do? How did hearing Chris’ experiences of integrating faith and profession shape your understanding of intertwining those two facets of life? What does it mean to you to integrate faith and profession? Recall a time in your own life when you submitted to the Lord’s calling. How did obeying Him in that circumstance change your relationship with Him? What are your thoughts on Chris’ comparison of a Christian in the military to a palm tree? Chris shares that a friend often used tracts to share Christ with strangers while the Lord showed Chris He would use his relationships instead. How are these two approaches to telling others about Christ effective in different ways? How can you come alongside the chaplaincy in your own life to make an impact for the Kingdom together? Consider your own God-given skills, talents, and passions. How could God use these unique interests of yours to glorify Himself?
44 minutes | Nov 8, 2021
15. Nelson Chiaravallotti: “Enduring and faithful pursuit in the face of affliction”
This episode marks the end of season 2 of OCF Crosspoint. Thank you to each of our listeners, whether you’re tuning in for the first time or you’re a longtime listener. If you haven’t heard each episode this season, be sure to go back to episode 1 and catch up on some amazing stories. Was there an episode that really stood out to you this season? Maybe one that you could relate to on some level or that had some other significance? If so, I’d really like to hear from you. Share your favorite episode with me at email@example.com. Likewise, a big thank-you to all of my guests this season. I appreciate the willingness of each guest to share some deep and personal parts of their life stories. As we head into this break between podcast seasons and start working on interviews for season 3 in April, here are three ways you can help the podcast: First, if you have an idea for a guest, topic, or story that should be considered for the podcast, send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know. At least a couple episodes in season 2 happened as a result of listeners like you reaching with ideas. Next, if you think OCF Crosspoint is a valuable resource, would you consider leaving a review for the show wherever you listen to podcasts, and would you also tell someone else about this podcast? We’ve found that word-of-mouth advertising is extremely helpful in getting the word out to others about the show. And finally, since this podcast is a resource of Officers’ Christian Fellowship, be sure to find out more about OCF if you haven’t heard of our ministry. Otherwise, take a look at the website for ways to get involved in OCF, for additional resources to help you integrate your spiritual calling and military calling, and with winter approaching, check out the holiday programs at our two conference centers, Spring Canyon and White Sulphur Springs. My guest this episode is ENS Nelson Chiaravallotti, USN. Here are a few questions to ponder as you listen to his story of military life at the intersection of faith, family, and profession. Nelson’s childhood desire to become a Navy officer was sparked by his parents, both Navy commanders, and their friends, who he calls “role models,” for the way they lived out their Christian faith and character in leadership. Of those in your life who influenced you either positively or negatively, what are some of the ways you have built upon the positive examples? What about the negative ones? Nelson emphasizes several times about the quality of perseverance—which he defines as an “enduring and faithful pursuit in the face of affliction,” essential to the Christian walk, and is “built on your why,” which is trust in God. Consider this Scripture: “…we also celebrate in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character” (Romans 5:3-4, NKJV). How do all those things help hone Christlike leadership as military leaders? Nelson quotes John 18:8-9 as a backdrop to the importance of taking ownership as a leader of “what you’re doing, your job, your role, and your people most of all.” How does ownership of what Christ has entrusted to you as a leader impact how you lead others? Is it true that “their well-being is your well-being”? What are some of the ways you care for those you lead in ways that others leading you don’t do?
56 minutes | Oct 25, 2021
14. Liliane Delva: “I always use my experience as a testimony to help other people”
My guest this episode is MAJ Liliane Delva, USA. Liliane was initially interviewed for an article on Christian Mentoring that appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of COMMAND magazine. In this episode, Liliane talks about the significance of the 9/11 attacks on her Army career, how her parents immigrated from Haiti and made it a point to keep the family away from some of the voodoo practices they saw while living there, and she also talks about how trauma from a molestation as a child had a profound impact on her life, creating much fear and anxiety, before she followed that gentle nudging from God to get help and healing. As a reminder: If you have an idea for a guest, topic, or story that I should consider for a future episode of the show, send an email to email@example.com or to firstname.lastname@example.org. As you listen to Liliane’s story, here are a few questions to ponder in your personal time or with a small group or mentor. Liliane discusses joining the military at a time when a military career was “marketed” as an opportunity for college scholarships and developing skill sets, and how the events of 9/11 caused her to reconsider what her military service really meant. How does her resolve to fulfill her commitment, to “not go back on my word,” align with what Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:37 to “…let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’”? Liliane was born and raised in Haiti where the “blending of different belief systems” including voodoo was common. With a “reverence for God” intact from her Catholic upbringing, as a teen Liliane determined to “find out and establish a relationship with God for myself.” How does establishing a relationship with God differ from merely practicing a religion? “The way we envision the word ‘father,’ and the image that we see regarding ‘father’ or ‘dad’ is very important because it can influence the way we see God.” Liliane says she sees in God the Father the same attributes that she felt from her earthly father in how he loved, cared, and protected her as an authority figure. What is your view of God? How does that impact your life—or the way you treat others, especially if you have kids? Reflect on these statements from Liliane: “God is really in everything we do, and He is really present in every aspect of our lives,” and “There is a greater strength in you than you realize that allows you to overcome, and that’s the strength you find in God.” In what ways do these thoughts amaze you, especially in knowing these are from a woman who overcame sexual abuse?
41 minutes | Oct 11, 2021
13. Karis and Ben Meier: “God really opened my heart through what I’ve suffered”
Have you ever been in a situation where it seemed like God was using affliction to draw you to Him? Or maybe you’re in that situation now. How do you respond in those circumstances? In the face of a chronic illness that seems to have no end, Karis Meier chooses to respond in this way—give thanks. In this episode, Karis is joined by her husband, LTC Ben Meier, USA, and throughout my conversation with them, you’ll hear at least three themes in their story: First, marriage. Both Karis and Ben talk about the difficult aspects of marriage that often come along with the commitment to that marriage. Second, patience in suffering. Karis talks about contentment and endurance as she daily battles a disease and continually asks for healing. And Ben shares how not being able to help Karis with her physical health has taught him to be more compassionate. And third, sustainability. As a couple and as individuals, Karis and Ben talk about practical applications that have helped them on their marriage journey. Click here to visit Karis’ blog, Suffering Well. As you listen to their story of military life at the intersection of faith, family, and profession, here are 4 questions to reflect on: Seasons of change can often be difficult to adjust to. Karis talked about not only the change that comes from being newly married, but also the “new culture” of military that she had to get adjusted to and the start of what has been a mysterious illness. God brought Psalm 121:1 to her mind (“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?” ESV). What verses of Scripture have helped you during difficult seasons of change? Ben said that his 15-deployment to Iraq and Karis’s multiple health struggles were “opportunities” God used to grow their marriage, “to force us to learn to communicate in ways that we weren’t doing well,” and it was an experience “brought us to our knees and to each other.” Why is it so hard to communicate with others, especially spouses or family? What factors play into the difference between really communicating as opposed to a he-said-she-said dialogue? Read 2 Corinthians 1:8-9. Have you ever experienced a health issue or life challenge that has rendered you feeling burdened beyond strength, even despairing of life itself? Why do you think that even then, the tendency of humans is to rely upon ourselves, to find satisfaction in things other than God? What does that say about us in our walk of faith as Christians? Prayer and worship together, developing a key support system around them, and a 10-minute couch time to connect. Karis and Ben talked about specific and practical ways they’ve incorporated these disciplines into their marriage and family to help navigate the challenges stemming from Karis’ ongoing health issues and Ben’s career challenges as an officer in the Army. What are some of the ways that trusting in God makes it possible to confront the problems of life? Or does it? If not, what do you rely on instead?
41 minutes | Sep 27, 2021
12. Ron Bracy: “God wants me to simply trust and obey where He leads”
Some 2,500 years after the time of the prophet Habakkuk, Lt Col Ron Bracy, USAF (Ret.), found himself asking the same question as the Old Testament prophet: “How long, O Lord, will I call and you will not hear me?” I first met Ron back in 2019, and soon after, interviewed him for this podcast. We had a great conversation as Ron unpacked how God used Habakkuk to help him through some very dark days after the death of his son, Todd. However, I recently learned that on August 11, 2021, Lt Col Bracy had died. Ron graduated from the United States Air Force Academy and served 42 years in the Active, Reserve, and Guard components of the United States Air Force. Ron is a veteran of Vietnam with 183 combat reconnaissance missions, recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, 15 Air Medals, and other medals for outstanding military service. Ron also was an Air Force chaplain and was deployed throughout the "hotspots of the world" as he called them. His last active-duty assignment was at the Pentagon, where he was on duty the morning of the terror attacks on 9/11. He also earned a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies and Ethics; taught at seminary, college, and secondary schools; was a pastor for 25 years; and is also the author of Walk On, a book that uses Habakkuk to go deeper on topics such as despair, faith, and praise. In this episode, I want to share some of the conversation we had and tell you the story of Ron Bracy, and his journey through the valley of despair, and ultimately, how he reached the mountaintop of praise. This is Ron's story of military life at the intersection of faith, family, and profession. As you listen to his story, here are some questions to ponder. Read Habakkuk 1, where the prophet questions God about the lawlessness, wickedness, and the lack of justice surrounding him, and why God was not setting things right. Why does God allow us to see, even experience, iniquity and trouble in others? Or ourselves? Do those things lead you to God, or away from Him? Ron says that “every person who’s ever lived on this earth will deal with the issue of despair in their lives.” The death of his son on a training mission left him—a pastor—struggling for years: “My son was dead, and so was I.” In what ways has faith in Christ helped you cope with the despairs of life? Ponder this observation of Ron’s: “‘Be still, and know that I am God.’ Honestly, how many of us are ‘still’ in our lives? We fill our day with activity, we can’t stand the silence. We fill our lives with things, we’re never still. How do we expect to hear God?” Is that a true statement for you? What is your remedy? Ron’s book, Walk On, is still available at Amazon. To purchase a paper or digital copy, click here.
33 minutes | Sep 13, 2021
11. Amanda Yashack, part 2: “God is healing me and he is giving me my life back”
Hope and healing. If you've ever experienced a trauma, you need both. But how do you know when healing has actually begun? For Capt Amanda Yashack, United States Air Force Reserve, the genesis of the hope and healing that she so desperately needed could have easily gone unnoticed. It began in the back of a church after Sunday services, as a stranger offered Amanda a tissue and sat silently with her as she cried. In the previous episode, Amanda shared the first part of her story, which centered on the trauma she experienced as a result of a sexual assault. If you missed that part of her story, be sure to go back and take a listen. As I mentioned last episode, if you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please get help. Consider starting with the National Sexual Assault Hotline. They offer confidential 24/7 support, and their number is 800-656-4673. In this episode, Amanda concludes her story by sharing how God began to radically heal her heart and change her life through a series of events. As you listen to Amanda’s story of military life at the intersection of faith, family, and profession, here are a few questions to ponder: The kindness and dignity given her from an unknown lady at church, or the pilot school classmates’ “by a different playbook” life of faith that she wanted for herself—those are some of the ways other Christians impacted Amanda during her faith journey to Christ. Have you ever thought about how the way you live your life impacts others, both positively and negatively? Amanda came to believe that “God gives us the free choice to choose Him because real love does not force anybody to do anything.” By first recognizing God’s “free and loving choice to forgive me,” Amanda was moved “to understand that I can freely and lovingly forgive the people who assaulted me.” Is it possible to forgive others outside of loving them? What would need to change for forgiveness in love to happen? Amanda participated in RMH, an outdoor leadership program largely for young officers. What do you think this mentor’s statement from their Bible study sessions, “We shouldn’t live our lives to be better Christians but that we should seek Christ with everything, and the rest will follow”? In this episode, Amanda also mentioned: Episode 47, “Building Community in the Military Sisterhood” (47. Kristin Goodrich: Building community in the military sisterhood - Officers' Christian Fellowship (ocfusa.org)) Rocky Mountain High, OCF’s premier leadership development program for cadets, midshipmen, junior officers and Christian leaders (Rocky Mountain High – Spring Canyon Conference Center)
32 minutes | Aug 30, 2021
10. Amanda Yashack, part 1: “That morning at PT something inside me just completely broke.”
A caution for listeners: This episode deals with a topic that may affect some listeners. Part of my guest’s story involves trauma resulting from sexual assault. If you’ve experienced a similar trauma, if you have children around, or if you might be around someone who has experienced trauma, please consider coming back to this episode later and using caution when listening. If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please get help. If you’re unsure about where to get help, consider starting with the National Sexual Assault Hotline. They offer confidential 24/7 support, and their number is 800-656-4673. It’s been just over a year since I interviewed Capt Amanda Yashack, United States Air Force Reserve. In fact, at that time, she was still Amanda Blaschko and was just weeks away from getting married. Amanda’s story will be divided into two parts. In this episode, Amanda will talk about how her life spiraled out of control when she was in ROTC, largely as a result of the trauma she experienced, and then how that led to burnout, compartmentalizing her pain, and as she calls it…rock bottom. In the next episode, you’ll hear her story of hope and healing as God began doing a mighty work in her life. As you listen to Amanda’s story of military life at the intersection of faith, family, and profession, here are a few questions to ponder: We often hear from others that we can “be anything we want to be, do anything we set our minds to.” Are those true statements? How do they stack up against Jesus’ statement that “I am the vine; you are the branches…apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, ESV). Amanda describes suppressing her sexual assault experiences and instead relying on “all the little victories” in pursuit of her dreams as “building a world on a foundation of sinking sand.” Read Matthew 7:24-25. In what ways do you think building our lives on the rock that is Christ sustains us through the storms of life? Amanda cautions that “if you have anything you haven’t dealt with, it’s not a matter of if but when it will bubble to the surface.” By not dealing with her sexual assault experiences, Amanda says the “place I was in got even darker.” Is there anything in your life that has you trying to live life as if nothing happened? Does pride, fear, or embarrassment keep you from seeking help? Tune in next episode when Amanda shares the rest of her story.
19 minutes | Aug 16, 2021
9. Sam Alexander: “I realized that I need to really focus on bringing God into my work”
A few months ago, I received an email from LT Sam Alexander, USN, wanting to tell me how much appreciated hearing the stories on this podcast—especially in a hectic environment where it's not always easy to make time for the Lord, as he says. Today, Sam will share some of his story, and he’ll give a peek into submarine culture, how isolation can have an impact on one's faith, and the importance of developing a spiritual support system or a mentoring relationship. As you listen to Sam’s story of military life at the intersection of faith, family, and profession, here are a few questions to ponder: Reflect upon a time when you felt isolated, whether by the circumstance of life or because of duty requirements. Was your focus on only getting through it, or allowing God to speak to you through the circumstances? Would you react differently today if confronted with a similar situation? When the struggles of life come upon us, why is it easier to focus on a job, or the busyness of life, rather than spend time with God? What does our response to that say about our relationship with Him? Sam refers to Nehemiah and his leadership in the rebuilding of the wall in Jerusalem, that it was not about him, but rather focused on the mission and the king he served. Why is a kingdom mindset of mission and focus upon those you both serve and lead so important in Christlike leadership? Get to know your sailors. Be approachable. Be vulnerable—unafraid to share your fears. In what ways do those leadership attributes Sam mentioned contribute toward building community among those in isolated duty stations? Sam talks about the iron sharpening iron power (Proverbs 27:17) “that can mold you into something better” from seeking out community, valuing deep friendships, and in mentoring. What keeps you from these relationships if you avoid them—fear, distrust, self-sufficiency? Have you ever thought about bringing this before the Lord?
41 minutes | Aug 2, 2021
8. Hannah Johnson: “In order to glorify God, I have to have it all together”
This episode marks the end of an intentional four-episode focus on identity. Last week, I interviewed Grant Johnson about his dream to be a jet pilot and how he wrapped up his identity in what he hoped would be his military career. Today you're going to hear from his wife, LT Hannah Johnson, USN, as she talks about her struggles with spiritual perfectionism, and as she says, the fear of being a fraud or being found out. I started this episode with a short passage from Paul Tripp's devotional book “New Morning Mercies.” Here's what trip has to say about identity, and I hope it's an encouragement to you: “No need to search for myself. No need to grasp for meaning for my life or purpose for what I do. No need to hope for inner peace, that sense of wellbeing for which every heart longs. No need to hope that someone or something will make me happy or give me joy. I no longer need any of these things because grace has connected me to you, and you have named me your child.” As you listen to Hannah’s story of military life at the intersection of faith, family, and profession, here are a few questions to ponder: Have you ever asked yourself this question about your calling to the military: “God must not have called me to this because this is impossible and I don't belong here”? How did you work through the doubts? When it comes to your identity, if you had to give an elevator speech on who you are, how would you respond? Hannah said that she struggled with thinking that in order to glorify God, she had to “have it all together and get it all right.” Have you struggled with similar spiritual perfectionism? In what way? Fear of failure or of being seen as a fraud is a label that Hannah says she has struggled with during her military career. What fears are defining you right now? How can your identity in Christ help you combat those fears? Colossians 3:17 (and 3:23-24) are Scripture passages that Hannah says have been pivotal in her understanding of identity and also how that works itself out in her purpose. What Scripture references are your “go-to” verses in your understanding of your identity in Christ?
33 minutes | Jul 19, 2021
7. Grant Johnson: “Your identity is not wrapped up in the aircraft that you're flying.”
Think about something in your life that you really, really wanted. It was always on your mind, and when you had the chance to finally grab hold of whatever it was you were wanting or striving toward, you came up short. As we continue this multi-episode focus on the topic of identity, you’re going to hear from LT Grant Johnson, USN, as he shares his story of dreaming to be a jet pilot, only to come up short. If you subscribe to OCF’s COMMAND magazine, then you might have seen the article on identity in the Fall of 2020 that featured both Grant, and his wife, LT Hannah Johnson, USN. You’ll hear from Hannah in the next podcast episode. Today, Grant’s going to unpack his story from that article in a bit more detail. You’ll hear about how that experience of coming up short shook his faith and his identity, and also what he’s still learning about his himself. As you listen to Grant’s story, here are a few questions to ponder: Has there been a time in your life where you found yourself willing to ignore personal relationships, even your faith, to achieve a deeply held dream? How does mourning the loss of falling short of a goal or no longer being able to do it help you to accept what God wants to do differently in your life? Or does it? Think of a difficult time or circumstance in your life. What are some things from that experience that have made it possible to thank God or even be joyful about? Why is it important to recognize exactly what your identity is rooted in? How does what you deem as the priorities in your life negatively or positively shape your identity? How does processing your ambitions, goals, and dreams with God and trusted mentors or peers help you assess the condition of your heart concerning your identity? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Email me at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
30 minutes | Jul 5, 2021
6. Lynda Johnson: “I no longer see myself as the star of my movie”
In this episode, OCF Communications Intern Joshua Schumacher interviews MAJ Lynda Johnson, USA (Ret.). Who am I? That was the big question behind the article that I wrote for COMMAND magazine in the fall of 2020. The article, which focused on the topic of identity, briefly included the story of Lynda Johnson and how her identity was shaken after she was told she couldn’t run anymore unless she wanted to risk more damage to her health. As it turns out, there is a whole lot more to her story than what we covered in COMMAND. Today, you’ll hear both her life story and the story of how she found her identity in Christ as she shares her testimony of military life at the intersection of faith, family, and profession. As you listen to Lynda’s story, here are four questions to consider: Lacking her Christ-centered identity, Lynda’s self-described work ethic was a “dream for bosses” but a “nightmare for subordinates and peers.” How would those you lead describe your treatment of them? What do you think Lynda means when it comes to identifying in Christ that “I longer see myself as the star of my movie that God had already seen before”? “Embracing powerlessness in self” is an important aspect of developing our identity in Christ. How does the restraint of our power in our professional, personal, and societal relationships allow others to benefit? Meekness is fully grasping God’s grace, to receive what we’re undeserving of, such as eternal life. How does having our identity in Christ help us model the meekness He demonstrated in a world that scorns meekness as weakness? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Email me at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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