Billy Crocker

Thoughts on marriage, family, post-military, PTSD, mental disorders, Christianity, and theology

There is no tangible way to explain with words what my “pill bottle” does for me. Thankfully, I am not talking about an actual “pill bottle”, but rather a metaphor for my service dog. Realizing that you have something like PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is difficult enough, but then when you start taking medications to relieve those symptoms and the side effects become worse in a different way from what the original problem was it can feel defeating. I am married to an incredible wife, and a dad to three amazing children, and so feeling hopeless with a mental disorder is not a good place to be in.

Prior to receiving my service dog, Dozer, in January 2017, I was basically locked away in my house not coming out to do anything. I tried working, and the stress of just driving to work by not being able to discern the threat levels of the traffic around me was too much to bear. Going to school plays were seemingly impossible. I even tried going to church, and I found it difficult to exchange pleasantries with people that I did not know. On top of all of this I was starting to have anxieties about everything under the sun. I was anxiety ridden about the food I would eat, cleaning chemicals (my wife always thought that one was on purpose), being bitten by a mosquito, etc. While these are fairly normal anxieties to have occasionally, I was literally consumed with these anxieties, including the ones related to PTSD. One of the often recommended therapies for people with PTSD is to find something that individual loves doing and go do it. This proved to be difficult as I had anxieties about the things I enjoy doing, like camping, fishing, hunting, hiking, and other outdoor activities. I even tried once to paint a model of the ship, the Titanic, and I lost it over the paint and cement that you have to use to put the pieces together. The waiting list to receive my “pill bottle” was a very long approximately two years. I remember as I got closer to this date fearing that my world was completely falling apart. My marriage was on the rocks, I was basically an absent parent, and my lack of employment, and poor financial decisions had left my whole world in shambles. I recall speaking with my wife about two weeks away from me going to K9s for Warriors in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL that I wasn’t sure if at this point any of this would do me any good. However, after much conversation, we realized that there was nothing to lose. So off I went to receive what has become my life saver.

Dozer, from day one began to change my outlook on life. While I have only had her for really just a few short months my life has changed drastically. I still have bad days, and wonder if she’s helping or not, but then those big dog eyes pierce into my soul, she nudges my leg, I start petting her, I feel my heart start slowing, and I can breathe again. I never go more then a few minutes in my anxieties these days. There has been only one change, and that has been Dozer.

So why do I give such a demeaning title to this remarkable dog that has changed my life? Well, unfortunately the stigma that seems to be associated with service dogs and PTSD, particularly among Christian circles has made having my service dog like rattling a zoloft pill bottle in front of peoples face as I meet them. There is so much misunderstanding about PTSD, and service dogs really that it is completely understandable to have a lack of understanding for these issues. On the other hand, judgment, especially from Christians is very disheartening. I would say that PTSD/mental disorders seems to be the most misunderstood and judged illness that comes from the Church. Nonetheless, I know what my service dog does for me. I thought that when I received my service dog that this would be the most uncomfortable thing, trying to deal with people in relation to helping them understand my need for a service dog. Instead, because of the amount of good she has done for me I am gleeful to explain what she does for me. Even when I do explain what she does for me I still get looks, and glares, and that is unfortunate.

There are probably a lot of people in the congregation at your local Church that struggle with gluttony, pornography, covetousness, humbleness, and more. After all, 1 Tim. 3 talks about the qualifications of a Pastor, and mentions “above reproach”, yet I have never met such a Pastor. Most good ones will be the first to admit that they are not above reproach. The other thing is this idea of transparency. In a world of social media, and texting, we no longer meet people where they are, but instead we meet people at the safe distance they want us to meet them at (which is typically as far as their perfect social media life will take you). For me, Dozer breaks down walls instead of builds them. She does make some people feel awkward, but I think it may be their own insecurities. We all have flaws, my pill bottle just wears a vest.

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“Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

Paul, A.D. 55, to the Church at Corinth (1 Co. 6:18-20, ESV)

The talk of traditional marriage has taken a back seat these days, apparently from the lack of political conversation on the matter after several legal reversals of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), and the “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” military rule on homosexuality. In some ways this a welcome result. It has always been disappointing for me, at least, to see the vitriol with which “Christians” would defame those who were promoting homosexual marriage and the lifestyle of those in that category. While I understand the slippery slope concern; that somehow accepting of homosexual marriage will lead to further sexual sins, that is not really the point here. The point is about the realization that we have never been asked to focus on anyone’s sin except those who are already Christians.

All throughout the New Testament when “sinners” were addressed from Jesus, while the sin was acknowledged, grace was shown consistently. The scripture here from Paul to the Church at Corinth is often used as an example on why these “heathens” need to leave their sin and turn to Jesus. Other verses on this topic come to mind as well obviously; the Bible is full of them. However, only when it comes to Christians is the idea of sexual sin being a much deeper sin discussed, including in this verse above (note how Paul describes his audience as being people with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit). Before a person accepts Christ, there is a consistent treatment of all sin as equal. It is only when a person becomes a follower of Jesus, that sins seem to start going into different categories. Now, I am not trying to say that this is unequivocally the way it is 100% of the time, but in context with all of these verses together it is clear that God does not expect someone who is not a Christian to be holy.

Let me put it another way. The only judgement that comes to a non-believer is just that, they do not have a relationship with our Lord, Jesus Christ. However, it is with Christians that this issue of each and every sin is called out, judged, and even punished (habitual unrepentant Christian sinners were excommunicated from the Church). The only command that God gives us as believers in reference to our communication with non-Christians is to show love, grace, and mercy in the same way in which God has showed that to us. I am very glad that God did not require me to get my act together before I became a Christian. Most of the time I don’t even have my act together now, after becoming a Christian. I am truly, a work in progress. If I am expected to have grace extended to me as a Christian, who has the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (as this verse from Paul describes), then why would not even more grace be extended to those who are outside of the fellowship of the Lord.

In closing, I do not think that our “anger at sin” is geared in the right direction. The world is expected to be sinful. You and I as Christians; we are the ones expected to be holy. I do not know about you, but I fail at that pretty regularly.

Blessings,

Billy J Crocker

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Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Gen 2:7 NAS)

Frankly, life is nothing without God. I am not speaking figuratively, although one could speak of God’s importance to life in that way as well. No, I am talking about literally, life is nothing without God. Without Him it never was; without Him life never would have happened. Yet, even with that breath of life from the creator, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords we still find a way to be physically present, but absent mentally, and spiritually. In the age of smartphones, Facebook, video games, Netflix, and things like it, we seem lost in this world of escapism. Seeking to remove ourselves from the figurative “dead” existence that we live.

The reality is that we are NOT dead. As long as we are still moving about we have a purpose for being here; no matter how significant or insignificant you feel you are. As a created being you were not made for just mere mundane existence. With Jesus Christ we have the opportunity to break through any barriers to our successes in life. Certainly challenges can come to any of us, no matter how dedicated we are to God. My life, since leaving the military in 2013 has been challenging. By far not the greatest challenges that one can face, but challenging nonetheless. However, I know looking back on these past four years that God was always right there beside me. When I was in the military as an enlisted Airman, I unfortunately had to witness a dead Soldier coming through our compound. I can still remember vividly the image of his lifeless body, with blood dripping from his legs. Knowing that there was nothing I could do at that point to help save this Soldier was heart wrenching. Here is the deal though, I have had to come to the realization that there are Soldiers, Sailors, Airman and Marines who have been through far worse then I have. That is the very short story of what happened on one of my deployments, and so there is more to it then what I shared, but it is still a far cry from what most military veterans have endured. However, when it is “your” pain, you can get kind of prideful with it almost. This feeling of sadness, hopelessness, and depression can quickly overcome you. Feeling sorry for yourself does not seem too far to grasp. After I got out of the military I sunk even further into this black hole of despair. Quickly adopting an attitude and emotion like that I was the only one that pain, and loss had happened to I was able to fade into a “dead” existence.

When I first got out of the military the “plan” was to get out, finish my undergraduate, get enrolled in a Masters of Divinity program and then apply for the Air Force Chaplain Candidate program. However, that did not happen on the path I thought it would. Instead, I had to go through the valleys of despair to get here. Not because of God, but because of me. God is NOT the source of our pain. Evil is. We are. God is not. With those valleys and detours God can make a beautiful redemptive story that leaves one only being able to give honor and glory to Him. Now here I sit in May of 2017, and by the looks of it by this time next year I will finally be finished with my undergraduate, and enrolled by the Fall of 2018 in the Masters of Divinity at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Additionally, if all goes as “planned” then I will also be in the Chaplain Candidate program by next fall.

If a pulse meter could have been placed on my soul during the past several years, it would have been flat lined. The devil would love for you and I to believe that our souls are flat lined. However, I am here to tell you today that you and I are NOT dead. We still have a purpose. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords created you for a purpose. He has a plan for you. Have you sought out His plan for your life? God can do amazing things when we let Him control our destiny. He is pretty good at those things. I have great hope today, but not because of anything I have done, but because of being reminded of the things God has done. You see, I am NOT, you are NOT dead because HE LIVES. That is beautiful

Blessings,

Billy Crocker

 

 

“in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2Co 4:4 NAS)

At the speed of light (depending on internet connection) one can find access to any information that one desires to learn. As long as you can navigate a search engine, one has rare need of actual research, and study. In the age of “Wikipedia”, and “Google”, it is hard to actually find a topic that you cannot find everything about in a matter of seconds. Hear a name on the TV that you have never heard? “Google” it. Trying to figure out that restaurant you heard your friends talking about last week? “Yelp” away. With Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and more and more “social” apps popping up day after day you can constantly see people’s opinions on every matter facing us today. Not sure what to think about the President’s latest “scandal”, just check out your Facebook news feed, and you can find out what Linda down at the local bakery thinks about it all. Wondering what kind of gossip your missing out on? You do not have to look far to find out everything you want to know about everything.

There once, during the “long 18th century”, was a time period known as “The Enlightenment”. During this time period you had philosophers like Isaac Newton, John Locke, Galileo, and more. These men were seen as pioneers for being objective thinkers to what the traditional thought process was. They wrote several articles that questioned the norm, most notably questioning the Catholic Church. This caused a lot of push back and even landed some, like Galileo on trial. Most of the works of these modern thinkers were banned books from the Catholic Church.

Many liberals today look at these men as martyrs for the “faith” of objective thought. Today, with anyone who can navigate a computer, you can question the norms of your society, and realize a world of controversial and different thoughts from your own circle. In some ways, without any real research to most of the thoughts put out there on the web, today could be considered a continuation of this “Enlightenment” time. However, one does not need to look far into scripture to realize that the folly of this argument, that enlightenment is in thoughts of man, is that true enlightenment is in “truth”. While some may feel that truth is objective, the reality is that a Christian knows full well the difference in “objective” truth of the world, and the truth of scripture.

Scripture is not hypothetical thoughts, but is truth in the “truest” sense of the word. I urge you to look to Jesus today, if you do not know Him as Lord, and allow yourself to see that true enlightenment comes from the scriptures.

Blessings,

Billy Crocker

Do you remember motorola phones? My very first cell phone was when I got my drivers license at 16, and it was a Motorola pre-paid phone. Enough talk and text (I think it could text?) to call the parentals in an emergency. Now we have “smart phones” and we have “apps”. The amount of “apps” that are available these days is incredible. Basically anything you want to know is at the tap of a screen. Several years ago I was diagnosed with a list of medical conditions supposedly related to a parasite I obtained while deployed to an undisclosed location in SW Asia. Don’t eat popeyes in some random country (free advice). Anyways, during the time frame following the parasite and them actually figuring out what all was going on with me I became pretty paranoid about my condition. Ultimately, I downloaded an app to have readily available to me, “WebMD”. While this app could be useful to some I am sure. It can become a haunting experience for someone who is already suffering from anxiety. I write this to you all tonight because I want to plead with you if you are like me and suffer with anxiety about medical ailments in particular, please do not download this app, and if you already have, go delete it now. It is only going to add to your anxiety and most likely for no good reason. If you have a medical concern then go speak to your doctor, go to the ER if you feel your symptoms are urgent enough. However, if you just spent the past half hour or longer mapping how this nagging elbow pain could be cancer, STOP! Put the phone down and step away! Delete the app, swear to yourself that you wont go searching Google either, and just relax. As I stated already, if you have a genuine concern then get off your duff and get to the ER. If it’s not urgent, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Do what you must, but for me WebMD was about to be the death of me. Resist the urge to cave to your fears and anxieties. We can do this! Trust in God, for He is peace.

“…Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, 

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

–Isaiah 9:6b, ESV

“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” –Matthew 5:23-24, ESV

Have you ever looked at a dogs eyes? I grew up with a chocolate lab for years, unfortunately we lived out in the country and he turned up missing, and we never found him. Since then I have always been around dogs. We rescued a German Shepherd, and my in-laws had a German Shepherd, and we have dog sat for friends. I now have a service dog, a yellow lab named Dozer. She has the most forgiving, loving eyes of any dog I have ever been around. I am currently in training to take my service dog home as I just received her yesterday. When I was working with her yesterday I started thinking about the way dogs are so forgiving of our mistakes, and constantly wanting to please.

Reading the Sermon on the Mount you come across several details of common character traits that one would expect of a decent person, and then Jesus takes it a step further. This section that I referenced above is specifically talking about the character trait of not murdering someone. That seems like a pretty simple task, but then Jesus states that we do not even need to come before God with gifts without clearing things up with someone we are at odds with. Going a few verses back we see Jesus say that to be angry with someone to the point that maybe we say “You Fool!” to them is just as bad as committing murder! That seems like a stretch, doesn’t it? This is no different though then the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, stretching our thoughts on what right and wrong according to God’s standards actually are. We, as people typically do not like this idea, of being angry with someone equating to murder, no more then we do not like the idea of having lustful thoughts towards someone meaning adultery. These are hard things to resist in the world we live in. Sure we can resist murder, but anger? Sure we can resist adultery, but lust?

What may be the most common excuse out there for doing these “extra rules” is to say, “but everyone else does it”! However, the problem with that thought is that “everyone else” is not our standard. It would be fine, I suppose, if everyone else was our standard to fluctuate morality and what is right and wrong. However, we have a very clear definition of right and wrong laid out for us in scripture. The result of that definition is that we all have to admit our shortcomings and accept our need for Jesus. This is the thing about forgiveness, and love. To extend love to someone even if we are not so happy with them is hard to do. That makes it all the more meaningful when we do it. Do we need to extend forgiveness, and love to someone? May we learn a lesson from man’s best friend, and God’s creation and realize that forgiveness is not just a recommendation, it is a command in striving towards perfection. Perfection after all is our standard. We may never get as close as dogs, but we can sure dog gone try.

Blessings,

Billy Crocker

Have you ever utilized a GPS? Nowadays you have them on your phone so most everyone carries them around in their pockets. I am approaching 30 years old and I can barely remember a time anymore when we used the old paper maps to get to our destinations. No restaurant icons on those maps. No alternate routes configured for you at the touch of a finger. The thing about these GPS’ is that they have no sense of what kind of road they are taking you down. I have learned over the years and using them that the best thing to do if you do not know where you are at anyways is to just trust the GPS. It may take you down some crazy roads, but it will, and I mean will, get you to your destination.

Today I had to utilize the GPS on my phone without any knowledge of where I was driving at. I was coming through Mississippi and before coming through Jackson my GPS decided that because of the icy roads (they just had some freezing rain and sleet here the night before), that it would be quicker for me to get off the interstate and go around Jackson. I reluctantly followed the directions of my GPS concerned about what ideas it may have had. Lo and behold I end up on a road called “Bush Bottom Rd”. Now, let me tell you, when I heard my phone tell me, “Turn right on Bush Bottom Rd”, I almost completely ignored it. Thinking that the GPS was for sure going to end up taking me to some backwoods moonshine factory. Well, other then the roads being worse on this back road, in reference to the ice, it was a quicker route then what I would have figured. Ultimately I reached my destination, and I will now do it all over again tomorrow morning to make it to Florida.

I could not help but think of my walk with God today while I was driving on “Bush Bottom Rd”. You see, I have been on some “Bush Bottom” roads in my life, and they have been icy, and I have often wondered, “why me?”. However, once I reach my destination I am able to look back and realize that while that road may have been icy, the GPS was only trying to have me avoid a much trickier route that I otherwise would have been determined to take. In the same way, once I reach a destination point in my life (ministry opportunities, marriage, kids, health), I am able to look back and realize that while that “Bush Bottom” road was not the greatest, God was only trying to have me avoid a much trickier route that I otherwise would have been determined to take.

…once I reach a destination point in my life, I am able to look back and realize that while that “Bush Bottom” road was not the greatest, God was only trying to have me avoid a much trickier route that I otherwise would have been determined to take

Taking a road with God does not guarantee no ice, but it does guarantee peace. Proverbs 3:5 tells us to “not lean on your own understanding”. Then in Philippians 4:7, in a chapter about not being anxious, Paul reminds us that when it comes to understanding, it is the “…peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. My favorite part of that verse is where it says it will “guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. What do we really know? I have always found it interesting that the tree God desired for us to leave alone in the Garden of Eden was the tree of the “knowledge” of good and evil. In today’s technological age we know too much in my opinion. This ruins our minds as far as I am concerned.

In old times now gone there was no opportunity to over worry because we were not bombarded on a 24/7 basis with senseless information. If you wanted to hear the news you could listen to the radio, and they would update you occasionally, or you could read the newspaper, and then there was the evening news on the television set. Now, we have the “news” at our fingertips. If there is anything you want to know about anything just hop on your smartphone and search away. Certainly knowledge can be a good thing when geared in the right direction. However, God seemed to know (go figure) that we would run away with knowledge and that it would be our downfall.

Throughout the history of this world we have thought that we know better, and we constantly as a human race seem to seek to prove it in one way or another. Here is the problem with this plan people, there is NO peace in our own understanding. That peace that surpasses all understanding comes from trusting in God, praying to Him, and humbling ourselves before Him. It does not come from internet searches, or FOX News, or CNN, or the President of the United States. It does not come in the national security of the USA. It does not come from how well we tackle the Zika “crises”.

Sure, these things, in proper context, and within boundaries can be used for good. We should not have our heads buried in the sand when it comes to this world. How can we reach the people if we have no idea about what the world is going through? So, I am not trying to suggest that we become isolated from the world. However, we should not be phased by the world. The chaos that the devil causes in this world does not need to shake us one bit. When this happens we show our lack of trust in the omnipotent, omniscient God.

No matter how hard we try as a human race to find peace, we will never find it apart from forsaking our own “knowledge” or “understanding” and leaning solely on God, where the only true peace can be found.

Blessings,
Billy