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Jesus, the wolf, and me

The simple story of my walk with God
By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

Those who don’t know me very well ask if I’ve somehow, suddenly found Jesus.

But those who know me best, know that it is less a finding of Jesus as much as it is an absolute surrendering to His Love and Will.

Almighty God (the triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) has been tugging at me since I was about eight-years-old. Perhaps earlier.

I say this because I’ve always known God was there. As a boy, I could even see Him in my mind’s eye (always seeing Him during the Sermon on the Mount). Always sensing His presence in the sunshine and in the rain. As I saw Him in my boy’s mind (and even in my teenage, young adult, and – to a degree – middle-aged mind), He was always there high above the church steeples, stretched out enormously across the sky; calling me to do something in the furtherance of His kingdom, always leading me along a path to somewhere, though I never really knew – or thought about – where that path might ultimately lead. Nor was I willing to jump right in and commit to that quest on that path.

Let’s look at that path for a moment.

The path, as I visualize it today, is more of a dirt-road cutting through very deep woods or wilderness.

In my earliest boyhood recollections I remember walking along this path with Jesus.

I was always just behind Him or – at times – alongside Him. But never as fully committed to where the path was leading as He was (is).

At some point, probably from the very beginning of my life, I began to venture off the path into the woods on either side of the path. There I would explore the things of the woods. There was so much temptation in the woods (the wilderness).

I would never get too deep into the wilderness, though, that I would not be able to run back to the path and find Jesus.

As I’ve said, that venturing off the path and into the wilderness began as a boy. Today, as a 53-year-old man, I realize I have spent most of my life up to this point in the wilderness.


Throughout my time in the wilderness, I’ve always been able to shout back toward the path, “Jesus, are you still there?”

And He has always quietly – but in a voice loud enough that I could hear Him – say, “Yes, Tom, I’m still here.”

So being temporarily comforted, I would stay in the wilderness and play. If I got caught in a thicket or stepped in a hole, I would just work my way out and keep on playing.

There were (and are) so many temptations and false adventures in the wilderness. And there, on the fringes of the wilderness, always lurking was a dark shape, like a wolf, moving parallel to me.

As long as I was enjoying the fun of the wilderness, this wolf just sort of stayed on a parallel track with me, just beyond the trees and tall grasses.

This wolf never really bothered me.

He didn’t need to because he had me where he wanted me: In the woods.

Though he has always whispered lies.

The wolf has always said to me things like; “There is always tomorrow,” and “You can stay here a long time and enjoy all the fun,” and “being in the woods will make you strong,” and “the path is not as fun as the woods, so just wait and go to the path when you are too old to play in the woods. After all, all the fun people and beautiful women and sources of power and pleasure and possessions are here in the woods.”

The wolf’s lies were endless.

So I would struggle with the whispers I was hearing, and again, shout back toward the path, “Jesus, are you still there?”

And Jesus would again say, “Tom, I’m still here, and I’m never going to leave you.”

Sometimes, at various periods in my life in the wilderness, Jesus would say from the path, “Tom, You’ve been over there long enough now. Come to Me. You are always getting stuck in those thickets, and I don’t want you to get hurt.”

And Jesus would say this at the most unexpected times.

Sometimes He would say this when I was working my way out of a thicket.

Sometimes it was when I really wanted something and couldn’t seem to get it.

Sometimes it was when I was hurting.

Sometimes it was when I was happy.

At times it was like that night I was by myself guarding a nuclear weapons space aboard ship, and – as the hours ticked by and I stood there alone counting the bolts in the bulkhead – Jesus began to press on my heart to come to Him, calling me from the path.

Tom, I love you,” Jesus said. “Just come to Me. Trust Me fully, and I will take care of you and give you the desires of your heart.”

I said, “Yes, Jesus, I want to, and I will, sort of. But with conditions, because I’m still young and strong, and I have my whole life in front of me. So I’ll be a good person and I will pray and read my Bible, but I have to play a little more. The woods are fun, and I know they are going to get a lot more fun, and I don’t want to miss out. Besides, what will my family and friends think of me if I reject the world and totally surrender to you? I don’t want people thinking I’m weird.”

Jesus didn’t push the issue, because He had given me the ability to choose. But I did sense that He stopped there on the path and looked at me with that look that a disappointed dad gives a son, and I felt ashamed.

Meanwhile, the wolf said, “Don’t listen to that. You’re a good person. Just keep doing what you’re doing.”


Remember, Jesus gave me the choice. But the wolf did (does) not.

At times, I would say to myself, “OK, I’ve had enough of the woods, maybe I should just trust Jesus. I want to go to the path.”

So I would start toward the path, and I could see Jesus standing there smiling at me like a proud father in the distance waiting patiently on me. And there was this inexplicable love exuding from Him.

All of a sudden, the wolf would burst out from some tall weeds, roaring and knocking me down and tearing me apart. And so I would limp away bloody and broken and utterly terrified.

At the same time, I was crying to Jesus to save me, And He was softly and reassuringly telling me to keep coming toward Him.

But I was injured and afraid and too busy trying to fix my situation. And I didn’t have enough faith or trust that Jesus could save me because I was too deep in the wilderness.

You see the path where Jesus was standing was about a thousand yards away. And the wolf was either right on top of me and ripping me to shreds, or about 30 feet away, growling and ready to attack me again if I made another attempt toward the path.

So I resigned myself to a lukewarm, distant relationship with Jesus, knowing that He was there and that He loved me, but that was about it.

This terrible cycle has repeated itself time-and-again throughout my life.

That is until my race toward the path this time, last year

Yes, just like all the other times, as soon as I started toward the path, the wolf attacked; and it was horrible (every aspect of my troubled life began to meltdown even faster).

But this time I kept going.

As I drew closer to the path (closer than I had ever been since I first ventured off of it as a boy), there was Jesus, standing there, smiling, and holding His arms wide to receive me and saying, “Tom, keep coming. I’m right here, and the wolf will not be able to hurt when you finally get to Me.”

Anyway, I am still in the wilderness, I am running and crashing through the brush, stumbling, but staying on my feet, always running, desperately trying to get through the woods and to the path.

Yes, I am wounded and the wolf is on my heels in pursuit (he only attacks when I attempt to escape the wilderness). But the closer I get to the path, the greater the power of Heaven I am feeling. The wolf is still pursuing – and with greater resolve than ever before – but he is winded and losing ground.

Jesus is getting closer. His power is becoming more manifest in my life. And I will never turn back. I will never stop running.

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Posted in Articles

Leadership 101: The Awendaw Hump

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

In our ongoing LEADERSHIP 101 series, we’ve addressed the warrior (competitive) nature inherent in any true leader who has mastered the art, as well as the importance of the soul (an embracing of our spiritual nature). Remember the five mountains – Body, mind, intuition, emotion, and spirit?

There is also the sacrificial nature of the warrior leader – the willingness to give of oneself to the point of even the most extreme sacrifice – that we find when we combine the warrior’s competitive nature with the development of his spirit. It’s an interesting combination because the competitive leader wants to win. He wants to win to both achieve the goal set before him and to set the example as a leader. Yet if the leader is spiritually advanced, he is also purely SELFLESS. He has a deep desire to put others first, not necessarily desiring to achieve the goal for the goal’s sake, but for something much more altruistic.

What we find in such a leader is one who still desires to win on a personal level, but his motivations for wanting to win are also wrapped up in the responsibility he has to – and feels for – his men.

We’ll get into this in greater detail over the next few pieces in our series. But I’d first like to provide an anecdotal illustration of the idea that a truly competitive leader – desiring to achieve a goal for the goal’s sake – has an equally powerful need to set the example by achieving that goal. He (or she) is also bound by the transcendental laws of leadership to never quit on his (or her) quest to achieving a goal. And there are things of the spirit he (or she) may draw on so as to never quit in any quest of a goal.

This anecdote – minor as it may seem (and minor it is in the scheme of life) – is what we will refer to as the Awendaw Hump. Continue reading “Leadership 101: The Awendaw Hump”

Posted in Military History

Nov. 1 in U.S. military history

1904: The new U.S. Army War College opens its doors to three majors and six captains, among them Capt. (future General of the Armies) John J. “Black Jack” Pershing.

1943: The 3d Marine Division, led by Gen. Allen H. Turnage, invades Japanese-held Bougainville.

1944: Japan sends the first of some 9,000 hydrogen-filled balloon bombs towards the U.S. and Canada. By war’s end, only six Americans would be killed and a small amount of damage is inflicted by the bombs.

Meanwhile, the Tokyo Rose, a B-29 Superfortress reconnaissance plane makes the first U.S. flight over Tokyo since the Doolittle Raid of 1942.

1952: The U.S. tests the world’s first hydrogen bomb at Eniwetok Atoll. The thermonuclear weapon, with a yield 1000 times greater than previous bombs, gave the United States a temporary advantage over the Soviet Union in the arms race.

1983: 300 Marines from the 22nd Marine Amphibious Unit conduct an air and amphibious landing on the Caribbean island of Carriacou, 15 miles northeast of Grenada, in search of Cuban military forces.

Medal of Honor: On this day in 1942, a machine gun section led by Cpl. Anthony Casamento was hit so badly that all but Casamento were grievously wounded or killed. Despite his own wounds (he was hit 14 times during the engagement), Casamento single-handedly held his position and repelled numerous enemy attacks.

Adapted (and abridged) in part from “This Week in US Military History” by W. Thomas Smith Jr. at Human Events.

For more “This day in U.S. military history” content, visit the Center for American Military History

Posted in Articles

Leadership 101: Show, Don’t tell

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

We writers have a saying, “Show, Don’t tell.” In other words, we shouldn’t tell our readers something is “good.” We should describe the goodness. Rather than telling the reader that a woman is beautiful; we describe her attributes in such a way that the reader sees just how beautiful she really is.

Show-Don’t-tell works the same with leaders and subordinates. As leaders we shouldn’t simply tell our subordinates they’re doing good work. We should show them. DEMONSTRATE to them our appreciation for their good work. How? It’s up to us individually, and it depends largely on the circumstances. But if we are not demonstrating – and demonstrating regularly – our subordinates are either failing to perform, or we’re falling short as leaders. Perhaps both.


Keep in mind, demonstrating our appreciation for a job well done doesn’t require a lot. In fact, there’s a fine line between showing and telling. And it’s best to operate close to that fine-line so as not to spoil our charges with too much on the front end.

You wouldn’t award the Navy Cross to a sailor or Marine just because he had completed a task on time. Nor would you award top-tier medals to every rifleman in a platoon just because every rifleman is doing his job (though we do live in the age when every kid gets a trophy for simply participating in a sport). Lofty medals should be reserved for those who go far above-and-beyond their everyday jobs, else the awarding dilutes the value and salutary prestige of the medal itself.

Continue reading “Leadership 101: Show, Don’t tell”

Posted in Military History

July 30 in U.S. military history

1780: A force of 600 militiamen, led by Col. Isaac Shelby, captures Thickety Fort (South Carolina) from British Loyalists without firing a shot.

1864: In a special-operation that proves disastrous for the initiators, Union Army troops under the command of Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside detonate a mine, blowing a huge hole (or crater) in the Confederate defenses at Petersburg, Virginia. Several units of Union soldiers charge in after the explosion, but each unit is beaten back with heavy losses by Confederates under Brig. Gen. William Mahone.

1909: Days after a successful demonstration flight, the Army Signal Corps takes delivery of the “world’s first military airplane,” the Wright military flyer of 1909.

1919: The USS New Orleans (CL 22) lands a Marine detachment in Tyutuke Bay, Siberia, in support of a White Russian attack on Bolshevik forces.

1941: The river gunboat USS Tutuila (PR 4) becomes the first U.S. warship attacked during World War II when Japanese aircraft mistakenly bomb the vessel in Chunking, China.

1945: Days after completing its top-secret mission of delivering components of the atomic bomb destined for Hiroshima to Tinian Island, the USS Indianapolis is hit by a Japanese torpedo. The cruiser sinks in the shark-infested waters within 12 minutes, and only 317 of the original 1,196 crewmembers survive. The Indianapolis is the last U.S. ship sunk during World War II and is the greatest loss of life at sea in the history of the U.S. Navy.

1967: Fire erupts on the flight deck of the USS Forrestal when a electrical glitch launches a rocket into another plane’s fuel tank, resulting in a conflagration and series of explosions that would kill 134 sailors and destroy 21 aircraft.

Adapted (and abridged) in part from “This Week in US Military History” by W. Thomas Smith Jr. at Human Events.

Posted in Articles

Leadership 101: The “sharpening iron” of the family

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

 Any organization – whether military, business or otherwise – must function as a team to be successful.

To be successful while simultaneously surviving all trials and tribulations hurled against it, the organization must function as a family; not a dysfunctional family mind you, but a family whose members are selfless, devoted, loving, unwaveringly-loyal yet unafraid to discipline one another, and committed to the family as a whole.

The truly gifted leader recognizes this, and demands it of his subordinate leaders.

“We will relate to one another as family”

This month, the senior leadership of the S.C. State Guard held a strategic planning conference in Camden, S.C. in which overall “mission” was discussed, solutions to challenges were proposed, commanders briefed – and were briefed by – attendees, and directives were issued.

For the record, the State Guard is the state defense force component of the broader S.C. Military Dept., which also encompasses the S.C. Army National Guard, the S.C. Air National Guard, and the Emergency Management Division.

It was a fascinating conference for a variety of reasons – not the least of which was the setting (the palatial home and sprawling law offices of international expedition-leader COL Thomas S. Mullikin, who also serves as the State Guard’s deputy commander) – but there also was proffered the sense of a new, emerging culture within the State Guard: The culture of family.

Sounds trite perhaps. But “family” is something that all truly great leaders have always embraced, though the idea of family is not always articulated.

During his opening remarks, Brig. Gen. Richard Eckstrom – the commanding general of the S.C. State Guard (and a retired U.S. Naval officer), who also serves as S.C. Comptroller General and chairman of the S.C. Military Base Task Force – discussed the importance of his own family; how every member of his family is vital to the whole. He then referred to the State Guard as a family, and he said matter-of-factly, “We [the State Guard] will relate to one another as family.”

Continue reading “Leadership 101: The “sharpening iron” of the family”

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Leadership 101: Running with a Sledgehammer

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

I used to tell my journalism students, any professional writer worth his or her salt (pardon the cliché) is able to write with deftness and some semblance of authority on just about any given topic. At least he or she better be able to at the beginning of their careers if they hope to break into the business and earn a living at it.

Flexibility, adaptability, and capability are keys to success in the writing business.

It’s the same for truly good leaders. A skilled leader should be able to lead different types of groups; and he or she needs to be flexible, adaptable, and capable to do it.

The men I led (and the mission I had) when I was a young Marine rifle-squad leader was infinitely different than the students I taught (and the responsibility I had to teach them) years later when I was an adjunct professor. That said, many of the fundamental principles – discussed at length in this series so far – were the same.


The ability to lead different groups requires an artful hand and lots of tools in the belt. Talented leaders should be able to apply different hands and tools with equal effect no matter the group to be led. Some leaders may balk at this notion, preferring to lead only in their niche, operating in their comfort zone. But great leaders want to lead groups outside of their zones.

Continue reading “Leadership 101: Running with a Sledgehammer”

Posted in Articles

Leadership 101: Are leaders born or made?

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

Are leaders born or made? Should we even be asking the question?

We often talk about natural or “born leaders.” And there are persons with innate leadership traits to be sure. But no leader worth his or her salt exists without training and conditioning. And no leader will ever grow without experience and, yes, refining in the furnace of challenge and crisis.

So let’s get to the question, or – if you will – the debate. Perhaps there are variables that suggest some leaders are born to lead. But according to at least one expert, the born-vs.-made debate is fraught with problems for both those who will be led and the organization as a whole; and we’ll address those problems in a bit.


We first begin to recognize leaders among our contemporaries as children in the schoolyard. Always there are one or two kids who immediately “assume command.” For them, leadership seems so effortless. That’s because children who lead are indeed born-leaders for lack of a better term. At the schoolyard level, that’s all they really can be. But the child-leader is born-to-lead only in a primal and frequently very temporary sense.

Continue reading “Leadership 101: Are leaders born or made?”

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Leadership 101: Procrastination and Presence

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, arguably one of the greatest leaders in recorded history, valued time more than any other resource available to him. Churchill embraced time, never wasting an hour – often to the detriment of his health – and he refused to tolerate procrastination in any form, at any level, from any of his subordinates. He knew full-well procrastination meant failure and death; particularly in the time in history in which he was operating.

At some point in 1941, during the second year of Britain’s direct-involvement in World War II, Churchill began forwarding documents, dispatches, and memoranda affixed with a red sticker (similar to our modern day sticky notes) on which he had written three simple words, “ACTION THIS DAY.” This he did for the remainder of the war.

Time in war – just as time is in all high-stakes endeavors – is frequently that which decides the fate of nations. Sounds a bit dramatic, but it’s true. All truly great commanders and other leaders factor in the variable of time with the related variables of space, terrain, economy, chance, opportunity, risk, surprise, destiny and others. And time is always the most important variable.

When we look at the principles of war (which we will examine in greater detail in a forthcoming lesson) – depending on what nation’s principles – we see that time is either a principle, a sub-principle, or it is an unwritten absolute always factoring into a principle.

TIME IS the phantom cost 

Napoleon, at the height of a battle in 1803, purportedly said to a courier (just before sending that courier off with a message for one of his subordinate commanders), “Go, sir, gallop, and don’t forget the world was made in six days. You may ask me for anything you like except time.”

Continue reading “Leadership 101: Procrastination and Presence”

Posted in Military History

Apr. 22 in US Military History

1863: Union Col. Benjamin Grierson begins a two-week raid through Mississippi cutting the state’s telegraph lines, destroying two trainloads of Confederate ammunition, destroying 50 miles of railroad, killing 100 and capturing 500 Confederates – at the cost of three wounded, seven wounded, and 14 missing.

1898: President William McKinley orders a naval blockade of Cuba.

1915: German forces introduce poison gas when they fire over 150 tons of chlorine gas, devastating the French line at Ypres, Belgium.

1944: American soldiers land in New Guinea for Operations RECKLESS and PERSECUTION, beginning a three month battle that would claim the lives of 12,811 of the original 15,000 Japanese troops, compared to only 527 Americans.

1945: Adolf Hitler confides to his aides in his underground bunker that the war is lost and suicide is his only option. He will kill himself in eight days.

1987: The U.S. Navy is ordered to provide assistance to neutral vessels under Iranian attack.

2004: Pat Tillman, who left a multi-million dollar career in professional football to join the Army Rangers, is killed while on patrol in eastern Afghanistan.

Adapted (and abridged) in part from “This Week in US Military History” by W. Thomas Smith Jr. at Human Events.