I've been shot at three times while preaching. None of those rounds ever came close and I was never in any real danger. My friend Jason, however, was kinetic for all but 2 days of his 9 month deployment. That's 268 days of gunfire. 6432 hours of tension in his body, waiting for an IED to pop or a cluster of men to appear with an RPG on a poorly-running pickup.
The more I think about Jason's life in comparison to mine, the more grateful I am for the privileges and securities of being an American. And Jason is not alone. My congregation is filled with soldiers, and I count them among my closest friends. Most of them are uncomfortable discussing their deployments. They don't want accolades and are quick to dismiss any overtures. So I've decided to demonstrate my appreciation in a different way.
Every day from Memorial Day to Independence Day, I'm praying for a specific veteran or active duty serviceman while performing "the Murph."
Named in honor of Lieutenant Michael Murphy, a Navy Seal who was killed in Afghanistan, the Murph is a crossfit workout that consists of a 1 mile run, 100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 squats, and a second 1mile run. This is performed wearing a 20 lb tactical vest and is commonly considered one of the most punishing workouts in any fitness community.
I pray while running for the safety and well-being of the soldiers and their families, and then conclude by reciting Psalm 91 as I cool down. Jokingly, I refer to this regimen as turning my "swears into prayers," since having a focus during the workout helps to galvanize my spirits.
And my spirits need lifting.
After the first six days, I dislocated my left shoulder. Not knowing what I'd done, I continued the workout despite tremendous pain. When I visited my physician to diagnose the problem five days later, he reset the joint and gave me every excuse to quit this foolhardy endeavor.
But I thought once more about Jason, and Charles, and Justin, and Kyle. I thought about my brother and all the men and women in my congregation. I thought about the 22 veterans who commit suicide every day (http://www.mission22.com/#memorial), and realized whatever discomfort I might temporarily experience was nothing in comparison.
So I continued my month of Murph.
Because I want my friends to know they're not alone.
Because I want my friends to know their sacrifices, their stories, and their continued happiness matter. To me. To us. To Christ.
Because I want my friends to know that they have not been forgotten, that they continue to inspire, and that we're trusting God to bring them home, healthy, and out of harm's way.
The response has been overwhelming. Every day I receive emails, messages, and texts from the soldiers and their families. Sometimes the replies are funny, but most days tearful. Many of the soldiers have performed the Murph at least once, so they know that I'm not simply reciting a poem before bed. These are serious prayers, shouted at heaven and accompanied by the incense of sweat. And it's not just the families of the serviceman that have responded. In fact, hundreds of people have expressed their solidarity with our soldiers; and, if there's any message I could pass on to the troops, it would be that your country is more grateful than you know, and you are covered in more prayers than you will ever realize.
You can follow my #MonthOfMurph on Instagram (@fossores) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/david.mcdonald.14268769). The final day, July 4 2017, I will be performing the Murph for the final time in the company of all those I've highlighted in prayer as we gather at Crossfit 517 in Jackson, Michigan.
Until then . . .
Happy #MurphDay fellas. We love you very much.
Dr. David McDonald
Author of How to be with God: a primer on Christian prayer and The Adventure of Happiness
Bishop Gordon and his wife have been blessed by God with three outstanding sons: Major Jeff McDonald in the United States Army in Special Forces, and Dwayne McDonald, the Chief Superintendent of the Surrey RCMP (Canadian Mounted Police), and Dr. David McDonald who is a pastor, writer, author, and Doctoral Fellow at George Fox University.]