Archive for July, 2012

John 1:5
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

In the early 90’s while serving in the Army and stationed in Schweinfurt Germany, I was selected by my company commander along with two other men to attend a German Ranger school by the name of Einzelkampfer. The translation for this means “One Fights Alone” or “Lone Fighter.” The nature of the school was to teach commando type troops, mainly German, how to fight behind enemy lines. It was almost 5 weeks long and I walked nearly 300 miles, swam rivers, rappelled cliffs (I have rope burn scars to prove it), was chased by bulls crossing pastures (at night), ambushed by German Infantry trainees who were promised 4 day weekend passes if they caught me with me knowing full well if I got caught it was automatic dismissal from the program. Needless to say they received an encounter unprecedented by their inexperience and were quickly subdued into breaking off contact. Some rat-a-tat-tat, booming from flash bangs, flares and other little gadgets proved too much for them even though we were outnumbered 100-2. They didn’t know that, we did which encouraged our fierce commitment to providing some serious resistance. Okay, it sounds like were really great however come to find out the infantile infantry group was only 3 weeks into the military. I was in my 3rd year of a rapid deployment infantry company designed to be anywhere in the world in 18 hours or less. Germans referred to us as “shock troops.” That night we definitely did a little bit of “shock and awe.” I finally graduated with blistered feet, rope burns and 30 pounds lighter.

So where is all of this going? The navigation of it all was the big killer. Failing the navigation portion of the program had zero tolerance. One fail and bags were packed and on the next bus home. My company commander told me I was picked for this program because of my navigation skills, something I was taught by many men in my life. My grandfather by reading the trees, my father a career Navy man who taught me about horizons and finding directions with no boundaries or markers, my brother a pilot who taught me some primary skills before the Army and then of course all of the instructors in the military and a Lieutenant who taught me how to navigate by the stars. I can look at a map, throw in down and walk the path. Bear with me, there is a point to this story beyond my rambling on about my military experience.

Navigation is a no fail experience. Passing the program depended on it, much the same as life. Having an internal beacon pointing the way is imperative to understanding direction. More on this later. Night Land Navigation in this program started at sundown around 9pm and terminated at first light about 6am. It was an all night walk alone and at times with another person or as a small squad sized team. The walk was usually around 35 kilometers which equates to about 21 miles. Here is the kicker, it was point A to point B, provided with a map which was quickly torn in half and given a choice of which part “you” want, beginning or the end. I always chose the end. Of which it was quickly torn in half again and asked “top or bottom” of which I always picked the bigger piece by this point. The bottom line is this, given about ¼ of a piece of map and traveling at night 21 miles in 9 hours in a foreign country kind of leaves a person with a sense of urgency. Remember, no failing this. We did this 3 times a week for 5 weeks and oh yeah, crossing mountains, rivers, chased by bulls and ambushed my amateurs. How could anyone possibly do this? Easy, only 20% pass. All drop outs are mostly due to failing navigation with not being on time the biggest killer. Once after getting twisted around I made it by only a few minutes. I watched countless candidates come in after me, panting, sweating after running all night in 50 lbs of combat gear only to be told “sorry, not this time.”

As time went on, I got faster at navigation. So much to the point I started showing up an hour early. They thought I might be cheating, thumbing a ride or a cab which was strictly off limits. Hey, soldiers have been caught taking cabs trying to make time. Denying all accusations they wanted to know my secret. I smiled and told them it was the lights. “Das lights?” “Yah, das lights.” “What do you mean?” Let me explain, it was so dark in the night that lights shining in the distance allowed me to determine many times my position. Before the maps were torn up we were allowed to look at them briefly. I didn’t look at the route, just the finish line and the towns. At night the lights from the towns performed as guiding lights. On the map I quickly counted the towns and their position and then I could count them off and stay on course during the night. My previous navigation experience allowed my internal beacon of direction to stay oriented (which is north) while I checked off my positions as I passed them. This way I could determine direction, time and distance to my goal and I could speed up or slow down based on my time.

I often asked look back where I have been in my life to look for clues that have led me to where I am today. I often ask myself and Christ what the purpose of my experience in the Army was to be. Later when I committed my life to Christ in July of 2000, I read about the lights that shine on a hill for all to see. It is very confirming to know that through the experience of life, a journey and walking endless miles in German countryside at night would have such great meaning later in life. Looking back it becomes obvious there are great men in our lives and there is the Great Father who teaches me how to not only navigate His creation but how to navigate life itself. Following the light, the light of Christ points the way to the end result, the never ending goal of eternity. It is about going the distance and watching out for where the light leads a person when walking in the darkness. Sometimes life is this way and at times we may feel that we are walking in the dark and there is no end in sight. These are the times to look for the light, even if on the horizon it’s just a dim glow, that will show the way and allow us to walk the way that Christ has pointed out for us to follow. The important piece is to look for it. Watch for the telltale signs that indicate where we are going. As the words of Paul who says we are to finish what has been laid out before us (2 Corinthians, 8:11). Navigate by the light, faith in Christ knowing that His light is what will lead us out of the darkness. It isn’t always easy and at times may feel like despair. Just like walking 21 miles in the night, hang in there and keep an eye on the prize and that is to finish and finish well.

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