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Trade Paperback
192 pages
Sep 2006

Faith in the Fog of War: Stories of Triumph and Tragedy in the Midst of War

by Chris Plekenpol

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The Calm Before the Storm


The tempest seen off to the west,
This day shall bring my greatest test.
With knuckles white I gasp for breath,
Sweat trickles down. I think of death.
Heightened fear begins to form.
It is the calm before the storm.

All alone I pace about
Trying to control my doubt.
ďWill I be okay? Will I know what to do?Ē
These thoughts I need the answer to.
I glance to heaven, but feel far away,
Canít think of the right words to say.
Inside I grieve, my heart has torn.
Agony, this calm before the storm.

If only Iíd walked and never stumbled.
If only my heart was truly humbled.
Had I not succumbed to the lust of the fl esh,
I might have comfort on this eve of death.
Of all the times to feel far away,
Of all the times, unable to pray.
I want to break through in some fashion or form.
I hate the calm before the storm.

Where do you turn when thereís no place to go?
Where to turn for rest for the soul?
In quiet desperation, I grasp toward Him,
Asking for peace beyond this sin.
Begging His presence once again.
Asking for hope when all is forlorn.
Hoping Heíll fill
My calm before the storm.

I watch clouds pass, the moon shines bright.
All in me wants to run from this fight.
Silence surrounds me. My heart is alone.
Then these words I hear from a Voice that I know:
ďWhy do you fret and why do you fear?
Why do I find your sweat and tears here?
Have I not told you in times before,
You are my son whom I cannot ignore.
I have known you since before you were born.
Iím with you now,
In the calm before the storm.Ē

He continues, His voice is silent and clear.
The power of His presence so oppressively near.
ďAs your Father, I have a secret I want you to know.
Take this with you wherever you go.
Whenever youíre faithless, I am faithful,
Even when sin has taken its toll.
For I AM the calm before the storm.
I AM here at the center of this storm.Ē

What a moment before was painful angst,
What before made me lose my heart and my strength,
Is now the source of what draws me close,
Makes clear Whom and what I value most.
Because this storm, as well, shall pass.
And Heís the peace thatís going to last.
His gifts of joy and pain reveal
A need in me I canít conceal:
I need a Savior, I need a Lord
Who is
The Calm Before the Storm.

Get That Hairdryer Out of My Face!

August 1, 2004

Itís 8 p.m. local time. Weíve just arrived in Kuwait, and the friendly airport people are driving over to us the stairs-onwheels that help us troopers disembark from the aircraft. My nerves are on edge just a little bit. There is a kind of excitement and fear in my gut that is making me slightly unsettled. However, I know this is the beginning of a great adventure. I look out the west window of the plane and see the moonóhuge and seemingly low to the ground. I stare, temporarily forgetting where I am. Iím startled back into the present by a slap of hot air against my face as I step off the plane. I assume at first that itís the jet wash of the Boeing 747 World Airline Aircraft. Then I realize that the engines have been stopped for some time now. The nonstop furnace blowing in my face is the desert wind.

Itís hard to imagine anywhere being 102 degrees at night, but I definitely feel like Iíve just stepped into a little kidís Easy Bake Oven. Ironically, 102 is the low for the day, and, as I will find out in the following days, itís pretty mild. Temperatures in the desert can peak at 150. Itís like someone sticking a hair dryer in your face, and you canít find the off-switch.

What can I expect in this big desert? In Korea I was surrounded by lush, green mountains. Now Iím scanning what looks like an endless beach. A beach that goes all the way to the ocean two hundred miles away. Everywhere I lookÖnothing. The term godforsaken comes to mind.

What do the locals think of their harsh environment? I donít think theyíre exactly thrilled that they live in a desert, but after centuries they have become accustomed to it. Most of them have seen nothing else. Theyíre surrounded by desert in every direction!

Now, I can understand living in a desert if you have no choice. But one thing Iíve always wondered about: What was the point of Jesus voluntarily going into the desert to be tempted? And what was Paulís pre-ministry desert sojourn all about? Moses spent forty years in the desert before leading Israel out of Egypt. Then he took them back into the desert for another forty years, before Joshua led them into the Promised Land. What is the big deal about hanging out in the desert? Nothing but scorpions, dead camels, and furnace heat. I donít get it.

Then a realization hits me. I pace about, letting the sand slide beneath my boots, and it becomes quite apparent that there are no distractions here. Existence is reduced to the basics. Sure, absorbing the sunís heat in quantities that would power about a million solar-powered calculators for a billion years takes some getting used to. But after you are done whining, and if you happen to be at all inclined toward the spiritual, you have all the time in the world to gain the proper perspective on God. What is the proper perspective? Itís this: He is everything and I am nothing. The desert sucks all pride out of you. It shows you your own need. It deepens your character, broadens your awareness, so that you begin to see the needs of others.

This is what Peter was saying when he wrote 1 Peter 4:1Ė3 to encourage Christians: ďTherefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to doóliving in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.Ē The desert exercised a powerful influence in the lives of our spiritual forefathers Paul and Moses. It burned away who they had been and reshaped and solidified them into who God wanted them to be.

The desert functions the same way in our lives.

I donít know where you are. Maybe in a desert, feeling as though someone is blasting you in the face with a hairdryer. Maybe you have trouble understanding why you are here or how you are to cope. But God lives in the desert with you. Maybe Heís using this situation to suck the pride out of you. It could be His time to show you that you are nothing apart from Him. The danger, of course, is that you might forget the refreshing love and forgiveness of God. The Kuwaitis here have no idea what a cool spring breeze coming up from a lush valley feels like. You may have forgotten what it was to live for the will of God. Maybe youíve quit trying. You may only remember your sinfulness.

Or maybe youíre living the wonderful Christian life and youíre totally comfortable with it. Youíve never struggled through any real trials, and youíre quick to judge others who are struggling. Since you have not experienced need, you have not experienced depth. If thatís you, I challenge you to put yourself in a position where God becomes an obvious necessity. Step out of the kiddie-pool and go dive into the deep end of the grownup pool.


Are you in the desert? Is your heart wandering around in the furnace, searching for an oasis? For rest? Do you have pride that needs to be purifi ed out? Have you been operating on Christian Cruise Control with no real challenges in your life? Has the ease of your existence left you a spiritually shallow person? What needs to change?

Remember: ďGod opposes the proud but gives grace to the humbleĒ (James 4:6; see also 1 Peter 5:5 and Proverbs 3:34).