between emptiness and meaning

between despair and hope
between surrender and faith


This was a week of contrasts. One starts a week orientated toward expectations, as one readies for a storm observed flowing in from the west. Monday was a beautiful day which saw me doing a long run early in the morning in the pre-spring coolness. I was looking forward to a number of morning and evening runs in what was shaping up to be a spring like week, but was not to be as a particular "nasty critter" (my doc's words, not mine) decided to a make a home in my innards.

This week I had the opportunity, indeed a most rare privilege for a chaplain of my position, of sitting in and providing logistical assistance for the COCOM Chaplain's conference this week. COCOM is military jargon for combatant commanders. Their senior chaplains conclaved this week. I had the opportunity to hear their discussions and the briefings from the various flag officers and our Chief of Chaplains to them concerning today and the expected future.

I have spent many weeks, months even, in formal military education since coming on active duty. I believe the last few days was the most horizon expanding learning I have received of them all. Of course having all that previous education, and SOS just recently which explores all the various interchanges of military organization, prepared me to make sense of all that was put forward. But wow. Comprehension blooming to some degree of the macro scale of military chaplaincy throughout the world, today and tomorrow.

Leaving the Pentagon in the afternoon of the final day, it was nice, warm and sunny. Walking tends to relieve the symptoms of my particular nasty uninvited guest to whom I am playing host, so I walked back to my vehicle parked at my designated spot at Arlington. With thoughts of grand strategy still echoing through my head regarding chaplaincy in the face of grand national strategy, I happened upon one particular grave in the infamous section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery. Perhaps it was the bright contrast of reds and yellows against the pure white marble, that drew my eye, but looking downward my attention was captured by a short line of script on a weathered card attached to still bright flowers.

"Happy Birthday honey. We miss you."

Encasing my new macro orientation was this reminder: this is what a chaplain's ministry is about.

As the soldier stands in the breech between murder and peace; mayhem and security, so a chaplain stands in the gap between emptiness and meaning; between despair and hope; between surrender and faith.