One Solitary Life

He was born in an obscure village,
The child of a peasant woman.
He grew up in still another village,
Where he worked in a carpenter shop
Until he was thirty.

Then for three years
He was an itinerant preacher.
He never wrote a book.
He never held an office.
He never had a family or owned a house.
He didn’t go to college.
He never visited a big city.
He never traveled two hundred miles
From the place where he was born.
He did none of the things
One usually associates with greatness.
He had no credentials but himself.

He was only thirty-three
When the tide of public opinion turned against him.
His friends ran away.
He was turned over to his enemies.
And went through the mockery of a trial.

He was nailed to a cross
Between two thieves.
While he was dying,
His executioners gambled for his clothing,
The only property he had on Earth.
When he was dead,
He was laid in a borrowed grave
Through the pity of a friend.

Twenty centuries have come and gone,
And today he is the central figure
Of the human race,
And the leader of mankind’s progress.

All the armies that ever marched,
All the navies that ever sailed,
All the parliament that ever sat,
All the kings that ever reigned,
Put together have not affected
The life of man on Earth
As much as that

One Solitary Life.
~~Dr James Allen Francis, © 1926~~

What is different about Military Chaplain Ministry?

“Father, will you pray for me?” she asked.  “Of course, what is troubling you?” I replied.  “I need to improve my rifle marksmanship,” is her answer.

People frequently ask what it is like to be an Army chaplain.  The interchange above is just one example.  I hear requests from soldiers concerning their marksmanship frequently.  While serving a civilian congregation I heard the typical requests with which we are each familiar – illness, injury, jobs, etc.  Never though, did I have anyone ask for prayers to improve their shooting (not even during deer season).

There are many differences and typically, the obvious ones are cited when trying to explain what makes the chaplaincy different.  Your “parishioners” do not attend worship in your church, they are the people you work with everyday.  You can make unlimited visits to a “parishioner’s” work because it is your work also.  You train with them in the rain, snow, mud, heat, sand, and any other conditions that come along.  You have taken a sacred obligation to go forward with your “parishioners” into combat zones placing yourself at risk to ensure they can hear a word from God in their times of need.  You carry no weapon, instead trusting God to be your shield and defender.  All of these are true but the biggest difference, at least if you ask me, is much more fundamental than that.  The “parishioners” themselves are different.

Almost universally young, they face many questions, which older people have either answered through experience or decided not to answer.  In the time of their youth when corporate America would not trust them with an assistant manager position at a mini-mart, America – us, as a nation – trusts them to carefully manage deadly aggression in order to return peace to nations in turmoil.  Once in combat, at eighteen to twenty years-of-age most have endured more memorial ceremonies for friends who have died than the average American will attend before their “golden” years.  For an income that cannot be more than one third that of a civilian police officer, they have volunteered to police the world.  They keep people they do not know, and who do not know them, safe from harm.  When “kids” their own age are teaching one another how to do the latest stunts on skates and boards, they offer up their arms to one another.  They are practicing the starting of an I.V., ensuring they can each perform this life saving skill.  Because of the nature of the task that lies before them, these are the ones who ask a prayer request for improved rifle marksmanship.  It is not in any desire to harm another; rather, it is so that they can fulfill the obligation to keep others safe from harm.  These are the finest youth America has to offer.  These are the “parishioners” God has called the military chaplain to shepherd.  May God bless them, each and every one.

God Guard You and Keep You,


the Rev’d Dr SG Rindahl

Why is the Trinity so Hard to Understand – It is a Mystery

 I recently attended a class where the subject of the class was the Trinity – the Doctrine that God is one entity and is simultaneously three distinct persons.  The presenter began by saying, “I will be teaching some heresy today; I have to explain the Trinity.” then laughed and assured us that we would not really be learning heresy.  A few minutes later the presenter was well into a series of modalist explanations of the Trinity.  Modalism is the HERESY claiming that God is one entity and only known in different ways rather than being three distinct persons.

Modalism is among the easiest heresies about the Trinity a person can get themselves trapped into.  A common example is explaining that one man is a son to some, a husband to another, and a father to yet another or others.  The problem is that this examples has one man in three roles not three distinct men.

The first we see the Trinity distinct in Scripture is when Abram saw the Lord near the Oaks of Mamre (you will find the story in Genesis Ch 18).  In this account Abram sees the three men and addresses them singularly, My Lord.  Good – Three persons yet one God.

There are other heresies as well – google “Trinitarian Heresy” and have a field day reading the many attempts mankind has made at describing God in three persons and failing in the attempts.

For a humorous look at the serious subject of Trinitarian Heresy watch this video

The primary trouble with all attempted explanations is that people are trying to use the created to explain the creator and it simply cannot be done.  The second problem is that we, a portion of the creation, wants to understand.  In understanding we strive to contain God within what we understand.  All the while, the Bible reassures us that it is not ours to understand fully yet (1 Corinthians 13:12).

What was really troubling in the class I attended is that participants recited passages of scripture that clearly demonstrate the Trinity such as at Jesus’ baptism where Jesus was in the water, the Spirit descended and the voice of the Father sounded from Heaven.  The classmate exclaimed, “It is almost like God is three separate people – it is so confusing.”  Well, it is not that “it is almost like” it IS that God is three persons.

Sadly, the person “teaching” self-referred as “too old to learn this stuff.”  To that I reply – If you do not want to take time to learn then at least do not teach heresies that have been anathema in the Church for nearly 1700 years.  Try, instead, to teach what the Church has taught in its traditions and creeds since the days of the Apostles.  True – a person may still feel as if he or she does not understand but at least they will be trying to understand the truth rather than understanding and then believing a lie.

From the Athanasian Creed we learn:

That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity,
neither confounding the Persons,
nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father,
another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the
Holy Ghost, is all one, the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal.
Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost.

The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate.
The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible,
and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible.
The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal.

And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal.
As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated,
but one uncreated, and one incomprehensible.

So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty,
and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three
Almighties, but one Almighty.

So the Father is God, the Son is God,
and the Holy Ghost is God.
And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord,
and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords, but one Lord.

Easy right? – No, of course not – it is a mystery.  Thank God it is not by understanding but by believing we are saved.

God Guard You and Keep You,


the Rev’d Dr SG Rindahl

A Six-Word Essay

Six-Word Essays have been growing in popularity (Spoiler – this is not one of them as the first Eight words proved).  If you Google: Six Word Essays – a long list of websites will greet you including the story where I first heard about them.

The premise is to convey an entire concept, not just a complete thought, in six words.  A complete concept in Six Words – no more and no less.  Can you do it? Continue reading “A Six-Word Essay”

Exposure to the Sun/Son

It is Sunday afternoon and not too long after the family and I pulled into our parking space having returned from chapel.  It is cold here (Ft Drum, NY) and according to the weather report it was well below freezing at about 14/15 Fahrenheit or -10 Celsius (this is actually warm compared to the -16 F / -27 C temps of last week).  Regardless, as I pulled in behind my pick-up truck I witnessed something strange. Continue reading “Exposure to the Sun/Son”

Why Do We Settle for What We Want?

It is the 20th of January and (for those who acknowledge the Church Calendar) the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany.  Today the Gospel reading was the telling of the story of the wedding in Cana of Galilee.  A young couple gets married but runs out of wine at the party.  Jesus gets pressed into service by his mother, Mary, and viola somewhere between 120 and 180 gallons of wine are miraculously provided.  Continue reading “Why Do We Settle for What We Want?”