ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - More than 300 attendees to the APG National Prayer Luncheon at Top of the Bay March 19 listened to a message encouraging prayer and spiritual guidance during times of anxiety over personal and worldly matters. Army Chief of Chaplains Maj. Gen. Donald L. Rutherford assured APG Soldiers, civilians and contractors that they are making a difference regarding the strength of Army and its missions.

The program included remarks by Gary Martin, acting director of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command. Prayers for the Nation, Families and Workforce were offered by Chaplain (Col.) William Sean Lee, Maryland National Guard State Chaplain; Col. Jonas Vogelhut of PEO C3T; and Chaplain (Maj.) James Collins, APG installation deputy chaplain.

Chaplain (Lt. Col.) David Bowerman of the U.S. Army Public Health Command offered a scripture reading and Col. Warline Richardson of the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command introduced Rutherford.

The APG Praise Band provided musical selections and Renesha Robinson of CECOM, LRC sang the national anthem.

Rutherford talked about the "anxious times" we live in and how faith can provide the "survival skills" needed to overcome adversity. He alluded to Gen. George Washington who recognized the need for a faith-based Army as the nation?'s first commander in chief in 1775.

"What was going on in 1775 was that young patriot forces were going against the mighty British Empire," Rutherford said. "[And] Gen. Washington thought, `For this to happen, we need chaplains onboard.'

"'The blessing and protection of Heaven are at all times necessary, but especially so in times of public distress and danger,'" Rutherford quoted Washington.

"Today, we use words like anxiety; fear," he said. "The thing about the most capable leaders and Soldiers is they're able to go out and deal with this anxiety."

"Everyone sometimes feels overwhelmed by the complexities of life, he said. "You have anxiety at work -- promotion boards, retention boards, force reductions, personnel issues, being apart from your Family, financial anxieties, the economy, security, education, it goes on and on. You have to look over your shoulder all the time. You never know what's next."

The answer, he said, is finding the faith to overcome negative inclinations and develop the strength and resiliency to Soldier on. Focusing on the positive and minimizing the negative is integral to inner strength and resolve, he said.

Rutherford said he learned from Henri Nouwen, a Dutch theologian, Jesuit priest, altruist and academic, that people need to create space around themselves to become more spiritually connected.

"How do you create space around you, so that God can speak in your own life" he said. "You have to bring home that part of you that was left behind. That's not easy. Your grown-up self becomes very childlike sometimes. You want to feel safe. Sometimes, you feel loneliness."

"People are often afraid to confront their fearful, lonely side," he said. "Let it teach you something. Let it teach you wisdom so that you can live instead of just surviving."

"Think about the noble, the reputable, the authentic, the compelling and the gracious -- the best in the world and not the worst," he said. "Things to praise, not things to curse. Instead of worrying, take time to pray, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, God's holiness will settle over you.

"We're not always free to determine what's going to happen to us," he added, "but we are free to respond to what's happening to us. We have a choice. The person who maximizes the positive is in a better position to cope with whatever comes their way."

Rutherford told audience members that as Soldiers and civilians, they are making a difference.

"This is as important now as in any time," he said. "Our nation and our world needs all of the leadership -- our collective leadership -- and every good idea you have, and a thousand more. The challenges we face now are far reaching. So focus on the true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling and gracious, to make a difference to all of those we touch and teach every day."

Attendees warmly applauded Rutherford and Martin and CECOM Command Sgt. Maj. Kennis Dent thanked him for his message.

Col. Fred Hughes of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command called Rutherford?'s message "inspirational and timely."

"The Army is going through a period of change, but we've had hard times before" he said. "This was well-timed to the times we're living in."

Michelle Scott of ATEC said she was impressed with the luncheon?'s turnout and sense of fellowship.

"It was tremendous to be with a community of people with similar beliefs at APG," she said. "You see you are not alone."