Seven Biblical Reasons Why Singing Matters

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Steve Rebus reblogged this post from Dr. Peter Cockrell — and I am reposting.

Have you ever wondered why God desires for his people to sing? What role should singing play in the life of a Christian? What is it about worshiping through song that is so important to God?

You may not know it, but God has already answered these questions in the Bible.

Seven Biblical Reasons Why Singing Matters

The seven reasons below answer these questions and unpack more important truth about singing in the life of an individual Christian and the church.

1. When you sing, you obey.

Singing isn’t an option in Scripture. It’s a command:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart… (Ephesians 5:18-19)

God’s people are more than just invited to sing; we are commanded to sing. When we sing, we’re doing what God asks of us!

2. When you sing, you dig deep roots in the Word.

Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly…singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs… (Colossians 3:16)

The Apostle Paul lays out this exhortation to let God’s Word dwell in us richly, and then, he tells us how to live out that command. The first, of course, is teaching. But the second, is singing!

Singing is one of the two chief ways in which God’s Word dwells in us richly.

And, as we observed in the last point, singing is a command. But this command comes with a promise: As we sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs together, we are promised that the Word of Christ will dwell in us richly, which is what we should crave as believers!

Our singing is more than a warm-up for the sermon or a filler in the service. Colossians 3:16 is clearly laying out for us that: Singing stands alongside of preaching as one of the two great ways that God has ordained for his Word to dwellrichly in each one of us!

C.J. Mahaney calls church singing “Take Home Theology” because the best songs we sing together serve as a 3-minute, easily memorizable, deeply biblical summary of important truths from Scripture. Take for example, “In Christ Alone.” There, in an easily memorizable form, you’ve got a thorough theology of the cross of Jesus Christ with clear and practical applications that you can use for your life this week!

3. When you sing, you build up others.

First, you build up fellow believers when you sing:

Note specifically here in Ephesians 5:19 that it says: “Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…”

We see the same thing in Colossians 3:13-16: the exhortation to sing comes on the heels of bearing with one another (v. 13a), forgiving one another (v. 13b), putting on love (v. 14), being at peace as one united body of Christ (v. 15), and teaching God’s Word to one another (v. 16).

When we do what the Bible says and sing together as a church family, we are hearing confessions of faith all around! We are hearing hundreds join with us and sing, “In Christ alone, my hope is found!” We are hearing hundreds of testimonies of faith all around us!

Also know that as you sing, you’re helping unbelievers. In Psalm 105:1-2, the Lord is calling the Israelites to be a light unto the nations, and to do this he tells them: “Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!”

Think of the impact on someone who doesn’t know Christ to hear those hundreds of testimonies, those hundreds of confessions of faith as we sing together! This is why Pastor Tim Keller says in his book Worship by the Book:  “Good corporate worship will naturally be evangelistic” (219).

4. When you sing, you make war.

Chances are you didn’t connect singing and warfare together, but it’s a theme visible in Scripture. In Colossians 3, Paul is challenging the Colossians to literally put sin to death in their lives, to kill sin. So all the commands to love and peace and forgiveness and teaching and singing are attitudes and habits of the believer that will kill sin!

We see the same thing in Ephesians 5, the command to address one another in song comes right on the heels of “[make] the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16).

And the more you think about this, it makes total sense: What posture must be more hated by the evil one than the posture of a believer who is singing? I can’t think of many stances you can take that identifies you with Christ and against Satan more than eyes, heart, mind, and voice lifted to heaven in song!

It’s very hard to lie, be greedy or to look at something inappropriate when, you’re “singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (Ephesians 5:19). Simply, a heart that’s doing that will not easily give in to temptation.

A singing heart is a heart at war with the work of the evil one and the power of sin.

5. When you sing, you are spiritually strengthened for trial.

Often times, we think only of singing when we’re happy and times are good, but singing bringing strength for trial comes out in Acts 16. Paul and Silas are unjustly imprisoned for the sake of the Gospel, and what do they do while they’re in prison? Sing! (Acts 16:25)

And this truth is confirmed in the lives of persecuted believers throughout history. Hear the words of one pastor recently imprisoned for his faith:

…When we were in prison we sang almost every day because Christ was alive in us…they put chains on our hands and feet. They chained us to add to our grief. Yet we discovered that chains are splendid musical instruments!When we clanged them together in rhythm, we could sing, ‘This is the day (clink, clank), this is the day (clink, clank), which the Lord has made (clink, clank), which the Lord has made (clink, clank). (

Our persecuted brothers are showing us the truth we see in Acts 16 with Paul and Silas. Singing strengthens you and helps you persevere in the face of trial. If it can strengthen them in the face of these trials, what can it do for you?

Even in suffering, sing!

Nina Walsh:  YES!  I agree with this!  As we watched our 35 year old daughter lying in a hospital bed slipping away from us, we sang to her for hours.  It comforted us and, if she heard us, I am sure it comforted her. 

6. When you sing, you walk a God-designed pathway to joy.

Here is a sample of what the Psalms say about singing:

  • Psalms 5:11: “Let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.”
  • Psalms 9:2: “I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.”
  • Psalms 51:14: “Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.”
  • Psalms 59:16: “I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress.”
  • Psalms 63:7: “For you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.”

If you still don’t believe me, here’s a clincher from James 5:13: “Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.”

As you study Scripture on this point, you’ll notice that sometimes singing gives birth to joy and sometimes joy gives birth to singing. But persistently in Scripture, joy, and singing are bound together. You can’t study one of those two biblical themes without encountering the other.

If you struggle for joy…sing! If you are joyful…sing! In God’s perfect design and understanding of the human condition, he has bound joy and singing together for his people.

The first six reasons get summed up with this:

7. When you sing, you glorify God.

True obedience, deep roots in the Word, building up others, making war against Satan and sin, persevering, finding joy in God: All these things bring glory to God, which is each person’s chief goal and purpose.

Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5 bring this out simply but powerfully, telling us to sing “to God” and “to the Lord” because he is the object of our praise. Ephesians 5:19 says, “singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” It is to him and about him that we sing!

Singing has such a unique way of bringing your heart, soul, mind, and strength together to focus entirely and completely on God. In an age of distraction, singing grabs the attention of all our senses and focuses us on God.

In Revelation 7:9-10, the Apostle John describes a glimpse of eternity with a great multitude of people from every tribe, peoples, and languages singing before the Lamb, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Eternity awaits.

On that day, will you be one of the great multitude that no one can number, singing the song of the Lamb, singing his praises? I hope you’ll be there, singing the song of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

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A Legacy of Love and Fate

Today, September 28, is the birthday of my daughter, Karin Michelle Walsh Faulkner.  Nine years have passed since we last celebrated her birthday in 2008.  This day will always be dear to my heart, stirring warm, sweet memories.  She enjoyed birthdays more than most and held a high standard for how she wanted to celebrate.

September 28, 1989, she turned 16.

We “adopted” Elsie McCollin, a local senior citizen who had no living family, as a surrogate grandparent and included her in holidays and other family functions.  On Karin’s 16th birthday, we invited her to our home.  Elsie stood from being seated on the sofa and, as she walked over to Karin, she removed the engagement ring she had worn since age 18, and placed it on Karin’s finger saying that it needed to be on the hand of a beautiful young woman.  Her fiancé had gone off to war and never returned. He served  as one of the unfortunate members of a troop known as Doolittle’s Raiders in WWII.  We found ourselves stunned that she would relinquish the most precious piece of jewelry she owned.

Karin wore the ring on her right hand until her final admittance to the hospital, December 9, 2008.  To keep Elsie’s memory alive and in the family, we gave the ring to our son’s wife.




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God Meets Us In Our Desert

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Last week before going to bed, I read some Facebook posts of people with whom I no longer have regular contact.  I found what I read to be upsetting.  Then I had even more disturbing dreams about these people.  I awoke feeling dejected about these broken relationships.

Last week was the first day of my new year in CBS (Community Bible Study).  We had a guest musician lead us in a couple of songs; one which I had not heard before.

Cartoon Desert

Desert Song

Video   (don’t skip the video!!!)

This is my prayer in the desert
And all that’s within me feels dry
This is my prayer in the hunger in me
My God is a God who provides

And this is my prayer in the fire
In weakness or trial or pain
There is a faith proved
Of more worth than gold
So refine me Lord through the flames

And I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon forged against me shall remain

I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here

And this is my prayer in the battle
And triumph is still on it’s way
I am a conqueror and co-heir with Christ
So firm on His promise I’ll stand

I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon forged against me shall remain

I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here

All of my life
In every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship

I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon forged against me shall remain

I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here

And this is my prayer in the harvest
When favor and providence flow
I know I’m filled to be emptied again
The seed I’ve received I will sow

Songwriters: Brooke Ligertwood

God sent this song for me.  I was in a desert.  It is time for the refiner’s fire to burn away all the impurities of these relationships which are not meant to be.  These relationships will only cause grief.

God spoke to me through this song.  Though breaking ties is difficult, I have a reason to sing; I have a reason to worship!  God intended it to be this way.  In the end, triumph will come and I will have experiences to “sow” with others who face similar situations.

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Angels in the Graveyards

A few years ago, two alive and healthy angels took on the task of sprucing up the tombstones in local cemeteries.  These widowed angels began the project when they found moss growing on the not-very-old grave markers of their spouses.  In the process of returning a few times to complete their task, they noted many neglected stones had the names and information obliterated by the growth of moss, lichens, and fungi.  They found the task of scrubbing, not taxing, and provided rewards.  It gave them a fun outdoor activity resulting in the improvement of the appearance of the cemetery.  Their greatest benefit—they anonymously helped others, including the deceased.  Even though family members, when visiting their loved one’s graves, may not realize their family stones have been cleaned, these angels still reveled in the fact they had bestowed a random act of kindness.  Cleaning the stone of a baby whose name had been obscured by moss fed their motherly inclinations.  They felt if their identities and deeds became known, it would diminish their generosity.

Historians and genealogists enjoy touring graveyards and reading stones. We can learn amazing things in a cemetery, sometimes comical.  While perusing the local cemetery, the stone of a classmate’s parents caught my attention. They included not only their birth and death dates, but their marriage date.  Knowing the age of their son, I chuckled to note they obviously “had to get married,” as it was termed in those days.

One of the angels told me, “I like doing things that make a difference.  Like shining shoes or ironing.  You can see what you have done.”  They certainly left a few cemeteries sparkling!

Since these angelic beings are no longer able to continue their work, if your stones need cleaning, follow these instructions —



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Dangerous, Funny Story

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      New alert!  I tried to kill myself (inadvertently)!!!  :-0   I decided I was hungry for something yummy. . . like gluten free brownies.  The Betty Crocker mix is quite good!  So I reached under the sink for PAM to spray the pan.  The spray looked white.  I thought that strange. . .  ??  Poured the batter in the pan, and baked it. After baking, the PAM still looked white, like white powder on the sides of the pan.  ??  And the brownies were VERY hard to get out of the pan.  It still didn’t click with me.  Enjoyed a hot brownie with ice cream.  Two hours later, while selecting my plane ticket for Thanksgiving, it suddenly hit me — I’ll bet that wasn’t PAM.  So I looked under the sink, pulled out the can I had used — EASY-OFF OVEN CLEANER – HEAVY DUTY!!!!  I felt fine until I discovered what I had done!  Now my stomach hurt (just a bit — probably imagination).  I called poison control.  They said that baking it at 350 for 26 min. would have neutralized the EASY-OFF.  Since I was laughing, he declared me to be fine.  Someone should call me in the morning to make sure I am alive!!!

Lessons Learned:

  1. My Easy-Off is in my utility cabinet.
  2. The PAM is in the pantry with oils.
  3. When something doesn’t look right, investigate!
  4. If you would like to teach me another lesson on WHAT I should use to grease a baking pan instead of PAM (Although, I have recently bought “PAM purely olive oil”).
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Can Brokenness Bring Blessedness?

Recently, I read two books on the conjunction of brokenness and blessedness.  First, Ann Voskamp’s The Broken Way: a daring path into the abundant life.  She points out that blessings can be found within our brokenness.  Everyone eventually suffers pain in life.

Paul admonishes Christians to rejoice in pain, sorrow, disappointment.  James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

The pain we experience brings new joys as we learn and gain strength.  Ann uses an Hasidic rabbi’s illustration:  you cannot have more water in a bottle until you pour some out.  Likewise with our lives, the more we pour out of ourselves, the more life we will experience.  She writes, “Love is not always agreement with someone, but it is always sacrifice for someone.”

Psalm 51:17  A broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”  God will help us to find solace and even joy in our pain.

The second book is Finding God’s Blessings in Brokenness by Charles R. Stanley.  Dr. Stanley says right from the start, everything God touches in our lives is done out of love.  God affects our lives to help us change, grow, mature in spirit, and to be healthy in mind, body, and spirit–all because He wants the best for us.  God wants to break us from our love of self to free us to love God, thus loving others more than oneself.  He wants us to recognize anything we have of value comes from God.  God promises to bless us and make us a blessing if we are obedient to Him.  But first we have to be broken to the point of needing God’s help more than anything else.  Then we begin to receive the blessings and can thank God for the trial He put us through.

While contemplating these books, I realized negative experiences happen in my life which exemplify God’s love for us, illustrating the blessing of brokenness.  A verse I cling to, and one you have heard me mention repeatedly, is Romans 8:28  “All things work together for good for those who love the Lord.”

It was lunchtime and I was headed out to pick up my grandson.  Being hungry, and knowing he would be hungry, I washed a large bunch of grapes, placed them in a bowl, and took them to the car.  My dog Toby also came along on this trip.  Upon arriving, I got out of my car to speak to my grandson’s older brother.  When I returned to the car, Toby had eaten all the grapes!  Just recently, I heard that grapes and raisins are poison to dogs, affecting their kidneys and possibly bringing death.

I texted my far-away nephew who is a vet.  He said I must get him to vomit.  I didn’t have the necessary products and with my vet’s office closed, I decided to endure the expense of the Emergency Animal Clinic and save my dog.  When the technician reappeared, she said, “Along with the huge amount of grapes that came out, was a Chick-Fil-A sauce package.”  A few days previous, I had purchased their grilled chicken wrap with yummy green sauce for my lunch.  I always eat half the sandwich and save the other half for another day.  I keep a box in my backseat for hiding things from a lurker.  I stuffed the wrap in there thinking Toby could not get to the bottom.  Well, he did, as I already knew, but I didn’t realize the entire package of the yummy green sauce was missing as well.  If we had not forced him to vomit, that package had sat inside him for three days.  It could have blocked some passageway in his system and required surgery costing much more than the expense of a forced vomit and been far more upsetting and painful for Toby.

A favorite saying of mine:  “When God puts a tear in your eye, it’s because He wants to place a rainbow in your heart.”

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Make Your Bed

Make Your Bed:  Little things that can change your life…and maybe the world

By Admiral William H. McRaven

Reviewed by Nina Walsh, June 28, 2017 at Chautauqua Institution

This is a magical little book that can bring one hope, healing, and health. It is the kind of book which is good to buy in quantity and keep in a closet, so that you can give a copy to a those you come across who need it.

Admiral William McRaven, US Navy Retired, used the ten lessons he learned as a Navy SEAL as the outline for the Commencement Address he gave in 2014 to the graduates at the  University of Texas at Austin. These ten lessons are basic, not only to the military, but to dealing with the challenges life brings. Since that speech, many who heard him that day wanted to know the back stories which shaped his life and inspired his career. So Make Your Bed was published this spring.

Lesson 1:  Start your day with a task completed. The Admiral’s SEAL training was at Coronado, across the bridge from San Diego.  The SEALs in training slept in a room with four beds and a closet for uniforms. Immediately upon rolling out of bed, a trainee begins the day by making his bed. A day he knows will be filled with uniform inspections, long swims, longer runs, obstacle courses, and constant harassment from the SEAL instructors.

The bed consisted of a steel frame with mattress. The bedding included a sheet to cover the mattress, a top sheet, a gray wool blanket which had to be tucked tight, a second blanket required to be folded expertly into a rectangle and placed at the foot of the bed. The single pillow needed to be centered at the top of the bed intersecting at a 90 degree angle with the blanket at the bottom. Any deviation from this standard was an automatic “hit the surf,” then roll in the sand until one was covered from head to toe with sand – called a “sugar cookie.”

The trainee stood where he could watch the instructor from the corner of his eye. The instructor checked the hospital corners, took a quarter from his pocket, flipped it in the air several times, then allowed the quarter to fall to the bed where it should bounce several inches allowing the instructor to catch it mid-air. The instructor then swung around to face the trainee, not saying a word, but looking in the trainee’s eye, nod. There was no praise, as he had reached expectation. The Admiral writes, “doing it right was important. It demonstrated my discipline. It showed my attention to detail, and at the end of the day it would be a reminder that I had done something well, something to be proud of, no matter how small the task.”

Years later, as a young SEAL aboard a special operation submarine, he was berthed in sick bay where the beds were stacked four high. The doctor insisted that the men make their rack every morning, remarking, “if the beds were not made and the room not clean, how could the sailors expect the best medical care?”

When Saddam Hussein was captured at the end of 2003, the Admiral would visit him once a day to ensure his soldiers were caring for him properly. He writes, “I noticed, with some sense of amusement, that Saddam did not make his bed.”

He ends the first chapter with these words: “…all understood that life is hard and that sometimes there is little you can do to affect the outcome of your day…soldiers die, families grieve, your days are long and filled with anxious moments. You search for something that … that can motivate you to begin your day, that can be a sense of pride in an oftentimes ugly world. … not just combat. It is daily life that needs this same sense of structure. Nothing can replace the strength and comfort of one’s faith, but sometimes the simple act of making your bed can give you the lift you need to start your day and provide you the satisfaction to end it right. If you want to change your life and maybe the world—start off by making your bed!”

Lesson 2:  You Can’t Go It Alone.  McRaven discovered in SEAL training that you must rely on someone else to help in difficult tasks.  During early training, they were required to carry a rubber raft everywhere.  If someone was ill or injured, others had to pick up the slack.  This lesson taught them you cannot make it in combat alone.  You need help.

Twenty-five years later, McRaven jumped from a C-130 Hercules at twelve thousand feet.  It was a doomed jump from the start as the propeller blast thrust him tilting forward.  Once leveled out, he then found a jumper directly beneath him who was just opening his chute, hitting McRaven at 120 miles per hour. He pulled his rip cord and somehow he managed to entangle both legs in his risers, each leg bound by a different riser.  Struggling to become free, when his canopy caught air, his pelvis was pulled apart.  He landed two miles from the drop zone, was quickly rescued and taken to a hospital.  His wife was given the duty of nursing him.  As he felt sorry for himself thinking he may never be a SEAL again, his wife gave him the tough love he needed.  He writes, “None of us are immune from life’s tragic moments. . . You cannot paddle the boat alone.  Find someone to share your life with.  Make as many friends as possible, and never forget that your success depends on others.”

Lesson 3:  Only the Size of Your Heart Matters.  Wearing and carrying their morning swim equipment, the SEALS in training stood on the beach for their instructors to harass them some more.  The surf was eight feet high that day and coming in lines of three.  The tall instructor asked the shortest recruit if he could survive those waves, encouraging him to think about quitting before he was hurt.  Then he leaned into the young man whispering something to him.  This short recruit was among the first to finish the swim that day.  McRaven asked what the instructor had whispered to him.  “Prove me wrong!”  And the young man did!  I have to say, when I read this portion, with the outcome, it literally gave me chills.  But now I have given it away and spoiled that cool response for you.  Sorry.

SEAL training was always about proving something.  While in college, McRaven was in ROTC and came to Coronado to visit the training facility.  In the hallway, he saw tall, muscular men who looked like SEALS.  Then he saw a slight, almost frail looking man studying the photos on the hall walls.  McRaven was thinking, only in his dreams could this slight man ever become a SEAL.  McRaven was called into an office to talk to a recruiting officer.  After they talked a few minutes, the officer called to the thin man in the hall.  He proceeded to introduce McRaven to Tommy Norris, the last Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam.  This man had rescued airmen deep behind enemy lines.  This quiet, reserved man was one of the toughest SEALs ever.  “Norris proved. . . It’s not the size of your flippers that count, just the size of your heart.”

Lesson 4:  Life’s Not Fair—Drive On!  For some unknown reason, probably just at whim, McRaven was ordered to make himself into a sugar cookie.  Dressed in green utilities, short-billed hat, and combat boots, he dove into the ocean, then proceeded to roll in the sand until every part of his uniform and exposed skin were drenched in sand. Nothing could be more uncomfortable than having sand down your back and in every crevice on your body.  Being a sugar cookie tested your patience and determination.  His instructor asked him, “Mr. Mac, do you have any idea why you are a sugar cookie this morning?”

“No, Instructor Martin,” he dutifully responded.

“Because, Mr. Mac, life isn’t fair and the sooner you learn that the better off you will be.”

Martin was known as Moki to his friends.  After completing SEAL training, McRaven had the privilege of working with Moki, a phenomenal athlete.  Daily, he rode his bike the 30 miles of the Coronado Silver Strand.  One day, he had a head-on bike collision.  The other biker was fine, but Moki was paralyzed from the waist down.  Through the years, he became an accomplished painter.  The author states, “The common people and the great men and women are all defined by how they deal with life’s unfairness:  Helen Keller, Nelson Mandela, Stephen Hawking, Malal Yousafizai, and—Moki Martin.”  Remember:  Life’s not fair—drive on!

Lesson 5:  Failure Can Make You Stronger.  While in the choppy ocean with his swim buddy, also from ROTC, the two came in last in the class.  Your swim buddy was very important to your success.  You had each other’s back, were physically tied to each other on underwater dives, partner on long swims, helped you study, kept you motivated, thus becoming your closest ally in training.  If one of you failed, you both failed.  Teamwork was of utmost importance.  The swim instructor harassed them with calisthenics, humiliated them, kicked sand in their faces, and pronounced they don’t deserve to be SEALs.  Then he informed them they made the Circus list, saying they probably wouldn’t survive another week.  In the Circus, they were given extra exercise, so that they were exhausted the next day, failing to achieve the standards again.  It was a downward spiral.  After two days of the Circus, McRaven writes, we “began to improve and move up in the pack.  The Circus, which had started as a punishment for failure, was making us stronger, faster, and more confident in the water.”

The final test in the training period was to swim five miles in the open ocean off the coast of San Clemente Island.  Completion within the time limit was essential to graduation as a SEAL.  After two hours, the pairs were so spread apart, they didn’t know where they stood in the pack.  After four hours, they reached the beach, numb, exhausted, and freezing cold.  The instructor yelled, “Drop down!  Once again you two officers have embarrassed your class.”  More pairs of boots appeared in the sand.  “You have made all your teammates look bad.  Recover, gentlemen!” As they stood, they realized they were the first to finish!  “You embarrassed them all right.” The instructor smiled.  “The second pair isn’t even in sight.”

McRaven’s admonition is “In life you will face a lot of Circuses.  You will pay for your failures. But, if you persevere, if you let those failures teach you and strengthen you, then you will be prepared to handle life’s toughest moments.”

Later, McRaven, as the leader of a SEAL squadron, was fired for trying to change the organization, the training, and the mission.  However, he was allowed to transfer to another SEAL team, in spite of his tainted reputation.  He could have quit, but he chose to weather the storm and regain respect.  Over time, he managed to rise as commander of all the SEALs on the West Coast, and eventually, was in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan as a one-star Admiral.  He realized his past failures had strengthened him and taught him no one is immune from mistakes.  His quote:  “True leaders must learn from their failures.”

Lesson 6:  You Must Dare Greatly.  Using a personal example, McRaven described how important it is to be risky to accomplish goals.  In a training course, a rope is attached to a thirty foot tower at the top and anchored to the ground one hundred feet away.  He chose to hang under the rope with his feet aiding to make his way to the end.  He knew that was the slow way.  It would be much faster, but riskier, to go head first down the rope.  An old vet said with contempt, “That obstacle course is going to beat you every time unless you start taking some risks.”  A week later, he took the plunge earning a personal best.  He said the lesson to overcome one’s anxieties and trust your abilities was a lesson to serve him well.

Operations which SEAL units were forced to work under, meant they always did risky but calculated procedures.  SEALS always push the limits of themselves and their machinery to be successful.  That is what sets them apart.  The motto of the British Special Air Service is “Who Dares Wins.”  McRaven believes each of us should approach life that way.  There is always the potential for failure.  If you operate within the fear of failure, you will not succeed.  It is essential to push the limits to know what is truly possible in your life.

Lesson 7:  Stand Up to the Bullies.  Another SEAL test was a four hour night swim in the waters off San Clemente.  The waters in which they swam were full of sharks – leopard, mako, hammerhead, thresher, and the worst – the great white.  Their goal, to become a SEAL, gave them courage.  Without courage, fear will define your path.  Bullies are the same as sharks.  MeRaven writes,  “They thrive on fear and intimidation…They are like sharks that sense fear in the water.  They will circle to see if their prey is struggling.  They will probe to see if their victim is weak.  If you don’t find the courage to stand your ground, they will strike.  In life, to achieve your goals, to complete the night swim, you will have to be men and women of great courage.  That courage is within all of us.  Dig deep, and you will find it in abundance.”  That is a great statement for graduates.

Lesson 8:  Rise to the Occasion.  The culmination of the dive phase of training had come, the most technically difficult part of training.  Looking across San Diego Bay at the moored warships, there was a smaller vessel, which was their target, between the trainees and the ships.  The men had learned to use the basic SCUBA and the bubbleless Emerson closed-circuit diving rig, known as the death rig as it sometimes malfunctioned.  The object was to swim two thousand meters underwater, place their limpet mine on the keel of that boat without being detected.  If they missed their target, they would end up in the channel where a Navy destroyer could be pulling into the bay.  Not a good place to be!

The divers were called into a circle where the chief petty officer in charge spoke, “Gentlemen, tonight we find out which of you sailors really want to be frogmen.”   He continued telling them how dark, cold, and murky it will be, and easy to become disoriented.  If they become separated from their buddy, he will not be able to find you.  “You must rise above your fears, your doubts, and your fatigue.  No matter how dark it gets, you must complete the mission.  This is what separates you from everyone else.”  That admonition stuck with McRaven for the next thirty years.

The remainder of this chapter details the moving, dignified ceremonies afforded every fallen warrior as they are taken home to their family.  He ends the chapter by writing that we all will have a dark moment at some time.  If it isn’t a death, it is something that crushes your spirit and jeopardizes your future.  He encourages us to “reach deep inside yourself and be your very best.”

Lesson 9:  Give People Hope.  McRaven called Hell Week the “seminal” event for Phase One of SEAL training.  I assumed seminal meant final.  But I looked it up to be sure.  It is one of those words you can use to mean any number of things.  The synonyms or definitions I found which seem to fit the use here include:  critical, important, crucial, distinctive, incomparable, extraordinary, innovative, unconventional, momentous.  But, you will note, these words are not synonyms with each other.  Hell Week is six days chest-deep in the Mudflats of Tijuana, punctuated with long runs, ocean swims, obstacle courses, rope climbs, endless calisthenics, etc., with no sleep and unrelenting harassment from the instructors.  Only those tough enough to be SEALs survive.  On day three, they were cold, hands and feet swollen, painful skin, when an instructor, using a bullhorn, suggested they join him at the fire for coffee and chicken soup, then relax.  All they needed was five men to quit, and everyone could have relief. The trainee next to McRaven started to move.  McRaven grabbed his arm, but he pulled away.  The instructor was smiling, because, if one gives up, four more will quickly follow.  But then, a Dr. Seuss Whoville moment came when one trainee started a song and slowly everyone joined in.  The trainee giving up, returned and looped his arm around McRaven’s.  The instructor grabbed his bullhorn and shouted for everyone to quit singing.  As the threats increased, the volume increased.  The instructor smiled.  The men had learned another important lesson: “the power of one person to unite the group, the power of one person to inspire those around him, to give them hope.”

Lesson 10:  Never, Ever Quit!  We are at the last chapter; the last lesson.  McRaven reveals 150 men started in his training class.  They were told on the first day, if they wanted to quit, all they had to do was ring the bell in the courtyard three times.  Six months later, only 33 were graduating.  He says, of those who quit, they will regret it for the rest of their lives.  He writes, “Of all the lessons I learned in SEAL training, this was the most important.  Never quit.”

In this final chapter, he relates the story of visiting one of his soldiers in the hospital who had stepped on a pressure plate mine.  His legs had been amputated, blast burns streaked across his body.  After only one week in combat, his life had changed forever.  The man seemed to be unconscious and sedated.  So McRaven touched his shoulder, said a prayer, and turned to leave the room as a nurse entered.  She explained his serious condition, but said his chance for survival was good.  He thanked her and turned to leave saying he would return when the soldier was conscious.  She said, “He is conscious.” He can’t speak now, but his mother is deaf, so he knows sign language.  She handed him a card showing sign language symbols.  What do you say to a man who has lost his legs?  How do you make him feel better?  The patient seemed to sense McRaven’s discomfort.  He began to sign:  “I—will—be—OK.”  A year later, McRaven encountered this young man again – wearing his dress uniform and standing tall on his prosthetic legs.

The last two paragraphs of the book need to be quoted.  “Life is full of difficult times.  But someone out there always has it worse than you do.  If you fill your days with pty, sorrowful for the way you have been treated, bemoaning your lot in life, blaming your circumstances on someone or something else, then life will be long and hard.  If, on the other hand, you refuse to give up on your dreams, stand tall and strong against the odds—then life will be what you make of it—and you can make it great.  Never, ever, ring the bell!

“Remember. . . start each day with a task completed.  Find someone to help you through life.  Respect everyone.  Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often.  But if you take some risks, step up when times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden, and never, ever give up—if you do these things, then you can change your life for the better. . . and maybe the world!”



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