Cole, who has three strikes against her-being a woman, an African American, and disabled-discusses how life's skirmishes are spiritual battles. With sensitivity and determination, Three Strikes outlines a training program and battle plan that will help you accomplish the following:
• Know and understand the nature of the war in which you are engaged
• Recognize the cunning and deception of the enemy
• Analyze your strengths and weaknesses
• Equip yourself with the weapons and protection that will help you to fight effectively
• Fortify yourself with the spiritual disciplines to bolster your courage and persistence
• Lean and depend on your greatest ally, God
The guidelines presented in Three Strikes will help you to become a good soldier and claim victory in life regardless of your circumstances and disappointments. With resolute spirit, inspired strategy, and God standing as your commander, you will find that no weapon formed against you can prosper.
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Three StrikesA Soldier's Story
By Diedra Cole
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Diedra Cole
All right reserved.
Chapter OneCole, Reporting for Duty
I am an American Soldier. I am a Warrior and a member of a team. I serve the people of the United States and live the Army Values. I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade. I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills. I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself. I am an expert and I am a professional. I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat. I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life. I am an American Soldier.
The Soldier's Creed in the U.S. army is designed to help you realize that setting high standards of ethical and moral conduct can be achieved. Through the Soldier's Creed, the U.S. army maintains high standards of conduct through integrity, honor, respect, self-discipline, selfless service, loyalty, duty, and personal courage. I valued these principals of the military, which were the driving force behind convincing my sister to enlist.
Nikki, on the other hand, had a mixed reaction. She was excited to venture out on her own, but the uncertainty and unknown left her apprehensive. The question what is my future jumbled around her brain, along with all of the emotions and anxieties that any young adult would tackle when they leave home for the first time. She made it through basic training and I could see her maturity and growth. She reflects back:
I always took away from each of my experiences what made me better at my job duties, as with being a better leader to my soldiers. It is always about taking care of your subordinates under you. The drive, the competitiveness to excel to the higher grade in rank, as with position, meant never settling for less despite the odds.
I desperately wanted to obtain these lessons, be a part of a disciplined structure, and be pushed to the limit. I yearned to get the unparalleled training and the chance to prove to myself I had what it takes. The uniform itself symbolizes a level of status and respect; people understand what the material signifies. You get a chance to integrate discipline, order and structure in life. Someone with little opportunity can get an education and integral life lessons.
I took a vocational test and my scores placed Army at the top of the list for relevant careers pertaining to my personality. However, the written test could not see my whole story and joining would be unobtainable because of my first, and most visible, adversity strike.
I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy (CP) at three months old when my nurse, who did not reveal this until much later, dropped me. My mother was informed that I had CP; a condition brought on by various elements, one being a sharp blow to the head. Caused by damage to the motor control centers, CP can occur during pregnancy (about 75 percent), during childbirth (about 5 percent) or after birth (about 15 percent) up to about age three. It affects the brain and while it is not curable, there are means to contain the negative progression or perhaps even reverse the muscle reaction to the brain damage. As an infant and throughout my adolescence, professionals advised my mother to place me in an institution. Countless times she was told that I would be unable to function in society. Both my mother and grandmother stood firm in their belief that I would worsen in an environment where my condition was encouraged instead of challenged.
God was with me in my situation from the onset. I was able to stand on the shoulders of those who came before me. As an African American disabled female, history dictates that all three strikes had to gain the right to be educated. I had a disability from early childhood and had to attend special classes in grade school. But despite my perceived handicap, I persevered and in junior high school, I was mainstreamed. I managed to keep up with my peers and usually exceeded what was expected of me. In 1997 I graduated on the Dean's list from Morris County College with a degree in Business Management. After graduating, I worked for eight years at a Fortune 500 Corporation.
From a personal standpoint, I have come far. However, it was not society that put me here. We often limit ourselves to what society says we are and can become, but that is not always a true reflection of who we really are. I have always wanted more for my life than what was expected of me, which in many instances was not very high.
With my family's strong spiritual foundation, it was apparent that God had other plans, and in accord with His divine providence, all things would work for the good. From the beginning, instructors, family and friends often encouraged me to focus on my abilities and not my limitations, even though sometimes I could not see my potential.
You might have strikes that reach outside the scope of my own issues or we might have similar adversities. The point is to know they are there and yours to control: either use them as excuses or accept them. Sounds simple enough, but it is actually quite difficult, as you probably already know.
Throughout history, those like me with the strike of a disability have not only been limited by choices, but society believed we should not have any choices. As a soldier in the military, to become an "Army of One" meant more than most would know: one body, one race, and one mold. Since we live in a country driven by appearance, our strikes stipulate how we are perceived and treated in the world. Instead of these characteristics being seen as beautiful, they are signs of weakness. However, the fight for independence is not just social. Some, if not most of the struggle, is psychological. We battle for freedom in our own minds. How can YOU master adversity?
There is a connection, but it goes deeper and perhaps broader than simple bigotry or elitism. One of the problems is that we live in a performance-based society. When you couple performance based acceptance with our need to feel accepted, when we don't perform we feel rejected. The people that are rejecting may not accept us because they don't accept themselves. It's a dangerous thing to allow yourself to be defined by someone else's dysfunctions - to assign worth based on the requirements of someone who doesn't know his or her own worth. With God, nothing happens by accident, but by Providence.
I believe the real reason for this boils down to ignorance. What we do not know or what we do not understand both threatens and befuddles us. Even if women take lead roles in academia, business, and political positions, the idea of subjugation will still exist. Even with the dramatic societal advance of the first black president there will be racist remarks.
What can we do then? We cannot depend upon social norms to change. We must teach ourselves to ignore these roles and put ourselves into situations where we burst through the glass ceiling and advance to our own potential.
Three strikes have molded me into the person that I am today. But before I could love myself I had to embrace the person that God created. I am an African-American disabled female. How can I hide behind strikes that are so visible? That's the discovery. When I found out who I was in Christ, I no longer felt compelled to hide behind anything. God began to use them to change my life, uplift others and glorify his name.
An army recruit enlists as a raw individual; you are ready to be molded into the soldier you will become. You walk in an eager (probably more frightened than you would like to admit) whisper of a soldier, and strut out a full-fledged warrior with a hardened shell and a persistent core. This training is not for the weak-of-heart or the timid. Some recruits just cannot hack it, which is perfectly understandable. However, we are already enlisted in the battle of day-to-day operations; we have seen the worst, or at least a portion of it ... So who or what can get to us?
I had no proper training to prepare me for the battles I have seen. I got my strength from knowing I had three strikes against me and I had to train my own mind to accomplish the obstacles I would face. We have confrontations directed at us that cannot be controlled. What you can control is how you battle them. Fight for yourself, you are an army of one. God's celestial body encompassing yours, we are soldiers in His army.
Chosen in its original language means to enlist. God chose us, we didn't choose him. Military terms are peppered and punctuated throughout this book because the same criteria that may disqualify you from the physical Army, just may qualify you for the spiritual Army.
Five Ways He Enlists Us
Amidst the chaos we go through daily, it's easy to forget there might be a bigger purpose for the "storms of life." Look for the following relating terms peppered and punctuated throughout our training:
1. Attention - a capacity to maintain selective or sustained concentration and focus on the specified orders of your "Drill Instructor."
2. About Face/Change Direction - "Drill Instructor" instructs you to change direction.
3. Forward March - Begin walking in a new direction.
4. Company Halt - "Drill Instructor" instructs you to stop.
5. Fall Out/Rest - The final command into ever lasting joy.
In every decision we make we have a choice. WE have choices that will steer us in the direction we set for ourselves. Men and women in the army choose to be soldiers. Others are fighting a different kind of war, internal conflicts with the path we are on. Why not choose to be a soldier in your own life? Isn't that worth fighting for? The obstacle course will be difficult, yes. By persevering through and choosing to reach the end you are fighting for what you choose to be your path. All That You Can Be.
The Soldier's Duty - Soldiers have to be able to adapt to different terrain and usually it's not by choice. You have to deal with difficulty as a good soldier of the Lord. Jesus said, "In this life you will endure tribulation." Endure in Greek means "absorb" like a paper towel - absorb it and squeeze it out. Soldiers have to be able to adapt to different terrain and usually it's not by choice.
Paul tells the church in 2:Corinthians that the weapons of warfare are not carnal but mighty through God, the pulling of strongholds. He tells Epaphoditus who is a part of the Church at Phillipi, he is my fellow soldier in Jesus Christ.
"Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight" (1 Timothy 1:18).
The Soldier's Discipline - No soldier on active duty gets caught up in civilian activity. Once you give your life to the U.S. Army there are some things you cannot do. That is the same for God's Army. We're in the world, but we're not of the world. Our conduct should be consistent to our Commander-In-Chief.
Instead of following the way of the world, follow the path which God has set before you. By recognizing and accepting God's will, you will allow him to change you in ways which will improve your life and give you a deeper understanding of God's will.
You need to encompass climate control, not move with the elements of the grasshopper effect. The grasshopper effect moves with the temperature of the environment, whereas climate control has the ability to change the surrounding like a house heater or air conditioning. The difference between the two is the desire to change the surroundings and the action of turning on the switch. In order to change the world, you cannot adhere to certain customs of the world. In the army, camouflage is used to disguise military personnel by enabling them to blend in with their surroundings. However, in our case to blend in is to surrender. Let's discard the intention of camouflage - accept your uniqueness and your individuality. When a soldier wears the uniform, everyone knows what it represents: honor, pride, accomplishment, and most of all, unity. We can unite as well as the soldiers of adversity. We are not bound by the similar colored fabric, or the tailored design, but by our own displays of character that we should wear proudly.
It is a battle day in and day out. There is no substitute for standing against our spiritual and physical enemies. (Keep in mind the enemy is not always what you think it is, which we will discuss in Chapter 10: What is Spiritual Warfare?) For the issues in your own life:
How can God help with the spiritual issues?
Keep moving forward; don't throw in the white flag of surrender. Life will throw adversity in your path. The real test is how you can handle the challenges. The obstacle course will be different every day. Soldiers in training are expected to show up everyday regardless of personal problems and illnesses. These elements might weigh someone down in terms of performance, but that does not mean you crawl in a hole and take cover. You fight through the pain. Mind over matter and control over subordination. There are fellow soldiers there to help you when you slip up. It is every man for himself, but in essence it is humanity and God's will for you to help each other when facing battle.
What can be done about the physical issues?
Did you ever notice that people always pray and want the lame to walk. What has been revealed to me in my life is that people are too consumed with physical wholeness. They cannot conceive that God may not change the physical situation for a bigger purpose.
In the University of Adversity, I stated that I would constantly ask God to take away the strike of Disability. I said, "my humanity suffered because of my disability."
I did not throw in the white flag of surrender and look at me now. All to Jesus, I surrender.
The Power of Three
The tone or cadence of this book is turning your strikes from working against you to working with them. I have acknowledged I have three strikes, and that the power of three can be twisted into a positive. Blacks, women and disabled soldiers in the physical army have these strikes of adversity to become the versatile. If we look at the significance of the number three, we can see that strength and completion can come within.
Two straight lines cannot form a closed shape. Geometrically, a third line is needed to form a complete structure. Without this third line, you cannot have something that is solid or complete; if your structure is not complete, it cannot be substantial. The number three is important, not just geometrically, but in many different aspects of life:
God embodies three necessary powers: omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence.
We divide our time into three parts: past, present, and future.
Grammatically, we have three points of view from which to describe the world: first, second, and third person.
Humans interact with each other and the world in three ways: thought, word, and deed.
Arguments, the oldest and most effective way of explaining one's point of view, are composed of three parts: the major premise, the minor premise, and the conclusion.
Scientifically, we divide our world up into three different categories: mineral, vegetable, and animal. The completion of the number three, when referenced in Scripture, is considered to be Divine.
Therefore, the number three points us to what is real, essential, perfect, substantial, complete, and divine.
Instead of submitting to the battlefield, I twisted my disadvantages to be my own military agenda. I look at my CP as my Command Post, and have placed myself in a position of strength and empowerment. This training is geared towards acknowledging your strikes and the issues in your own life. Instead of ignoring your stigmas, I want you to embrace your strikes and let them be your control posts.
First, we need to START - Strategies for Teaching And Recognizing Ternary
Take out a sheet of paper and write down your strikes. These are characteristics that have been used against you or have boxed you into a certain mold. In defining your personal strikes you must be honest with yourself. Now circle the first three: these are your control posts. Get control of your list before it controls you. I want you to hold onto this list; we will need to refer to it throughout the book and understand how they can be used to your advantage.
In the University of Adversity, I concentrated on pinpointing our strikes so we can build up strength, whether that's getting an education or taking steps towards a goal in which you thought you could never achieve. This book digs deeper into the realms of the trials that come as a result of taking on your mountains. After you have laughed adversity in the face, there are implications and hindrances still. You have come so far to disregard your stigmas, so how come everyone is throwing them in your face? This is life. This is our challenge. This is our soldier's training. When change comes, the repercussions are so strong and mighty that we get whiplash. When you are faced with physical and spiritual warfare, how do you rise above?
Excerpted from Three Strikes by Diedra Cole Copyright © 2010 by Diedra Cole. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Cole, Reporting for Duty....................1
Chapter 2. The Seen vs. The Unseen....................9
Chapter 3. What is it Good For?....................13
Chapter 4. Buffalo Soldiers....................21
Chapter 5. Femme Fatale....................26
Chapter 6. Broken Pieces....................33
Chapter 7. Change Direction - Forward March....................40
Chapter 8. Are You Ready to Serve?....................47
Chapter 9. VIS - Vessel In Service....................55
Chapter 10. What is Spiritual Warfare?....................67
Chapter 11. Getting Ready for the Battle....................76
Chapter 12. Balancing the Extremes in Life....................85
Chapter 13. Equipping to go on the Offensive....................89
Chapter 14. Building up a God Defense....................96
Chapter 15. The Master Battle Planner....................104