Chaplain's Corner: Are you ‘holding the horses’?

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Capt.) William K. Thornton
  • Tinker Chapel
We are still on the front end of a new year. How is it going for you so far? And how are your New Year's resolutions coming along? Often, the first thing broken after Christmas is the New Year's resolutions! I hope yours are still intact.

I think of the scripture in Joshua 3:1-5, when Joshua, the new leader of Israel following the death of Moses, spoke of what should take place when the nation of Israel entered the land of Caanan. Joshua said, "For you have not passed this way before." And they hadn't gone that way before. It was a new day in a new land. They didn't know what to expect. And neither do we know what will happen in 2009. We do not know what this year will bring, because we have not passed this way before.

A new year represents new opportunities and a renewed hope. But it will also bring its own challenges, and change. It will be different. And some do not easily adjust to change. But change comes in a lot of forms. It takes place on the job, with our health, in our family, in our outlook, etc, etc, etc. But it happens. Things do change. Change is a normal part of life. Robert C. Gallagher once said, "Change is inevitable - except from a vending machine." Lot of truth there. We have to deal with the changes of life.

Historian Elting E. Morison, founder of MIT's Program in Science, Technology and Society, published a collection of essays entitled, "Men, Machines, and Modern Times." It is a book about the relationship of history, technology, change and adaptation to change. It is very relevant for our day, when change comes at us like water erupting from a hydrant.

One essay is entitled, "Gunfire at Sea: A Case Study of Innovation." Morison tells the story of a "time and motion" efficiency analysis of a British field artillery piece done during World War II. This particular weapon was used in World War I, and actually dated back to the Boer War. But due to the short supply of armaments, was put back into action. Originally pulled by horses, these guns were now hitched to trucks, and were to be used as mobile coastal defense guns.

It was felt that the rate of fire from these guns could be increased. Experts were called in to study the gun and gun crews, and to make suggestions as to how to raise the rate of fire from these particular field pieces, or at least to decrease the required number of people to do it. Sounds like 6S Transformation!

The experts watched the carefully orchestrated movements of the gun crews in action, in their loading, aiming and firing routines. The process had been carefully choreographed over time for maximum efficiency and speed. But the experts were puzzled by certain actions of the five man teams manning the guns. They noticed that moments before the firing, two members of the gun crew ceased all activity and came to attention, one on each side of the gun, shortly before and after the gun fired. Shortly after the gun was fired, these two stepped back in to help.

This movement made no sense. Puzzled, the analysts began looking for an answer. The whole loading and firing process was carefully scripted, extremely orchestrated, right down to individual movements and roles. There had to be a reason why two of the soldiers just stood there part of the time. Nobody seemed to know why; they just all agreed that it had to be done that way. It was the way they were taught, and that was the way it was done. Period.

They asked the old artillery colonel about the firing procedure. The veteran answered, "Well, those two are holding the horses." "What horses?" "Why, the ones that used to haul the guns. If you didn't hold the horses steady when the gun fired, the horses would bolt."

Well, now there were no horses present. The guns were pulled by vehicles. But the old pattern was so reinforced, that change was not allowed. Sometimes, change is necessary. Let me ask you a question. What in your life needs to change? Are you "holding the horses" or are you open to positive change? Yes, I know change often makes us uncomfortable. But sometimes positive change is necessary, even essential. And we can make changes for the better in life, on the job, in the home.

If you're not satisfied with where you are physically, go to the gym or track. If you're not happy with where you are financially, sit down with someone who can help you budget your finances. If you're not satisfied with how you spend your time, find a mentor to help. If you are not satisfied with your marriage, seek out a marriage counselor, maybe your pastor or spiritual leader. Believe me, marriage counseling is a lot cheaper than divorce, and a whole lot less stressful for everyone. Are you satisfied with where you are spiritually? Visit your base chapel, local church or other house of worship. There are people there who will welcome you with open arms.

But whatever needs to change in your life, changes that will make 2009 the best year ever for you, do it now. As Joshua said in Joshua 3:3, "When you see the ark move, go after it." Joshua was saying that change was about to happen. Go after it. Get with it. I hope 2009 is the best year ever for you!