Friday, December 18, 2009

She's Here!!!




Well, despite my last post's inference that our daughter would be born on the 17th, it wasn't until 12:56am this morning that Ellie came into this world. It was a long, draining day, but the results were out of this world!
Les and I showed up at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital around 7:45am; however, it wasn't until about 8:15-8:20am that we were escorted to the labor and delivery room. Our naivete set in around that time, thinking we'd get this ball rolling in a matter of moments. What ensued was countless hours of waiting...and more waiting!
Since she was getting induced, Leslie's providers decided to give her the liquid drug pitocin. She first received this around 11:00am; yet it takes upwards of two hours to begin working. Around 2:00pm, Leslie started feeling more intense contractions, and this lasted for almost 2 1/2 hours before she asked for an epidural. I'm sure she could've endured the pain for longer, but her contractions were only about 90 seconds a part. I don't know about you, but if someone told me I could either go to the plate with a wooden bat or an aluminum bat, I'm swinging some metal! (Note: At this time, apply the analogy above to the situation of going through labor natural, or with an epidural.)
After getting the epidural, Leslie had to wait another 6 hours before getting to push, as she wasn't fully dilated and needed more time for her body to prepare. Around 11:30pm, she got the go ahead to start pushing and a little less than 90 minutes later, we had our baby girl!
In short, it was such a surreal experience, and I'm so thankful for being given this gift; yet at the same time, it was a very gross process and I saw more things that I ever wanted. My beautiful bride is such a trooper and I'm so honored to be her soul mate, but I never thought I'd see her in "all her glory".
My daughter is healthy, as well as her mommy, and for that I am so grateful. But this experience has further solidified one thing in my life... THANK GOD I'M A DUDE!!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tomorrow

In the season finale of the West Wing, (arguably one of the greatest TV shows ever and a personal favorite of ours), outgoing President Bartlett was asked by his wife what he was thinking as they took off on Air Force One for the last time. His reply was simply, "Tomorrow." Although this was the last word spoken for the entire show, it represented a new chapter in the former President's life; much like tomorrow will be the first day of the next chapter in my life.
Tomorrow morning, Leslie will be going in for an induction and (good Lord willing) we'll only be hours away from becoming parents. It's been a long road with lots of growing pains (pun intended); but the time has finally come for our daughter to enter this world. It's honestly one of the most surreal moments of my life so far. To think that God has given us the privilege of creating and caring for another human being is such an honor. Despite the uncertainties that lie in front of us (for who knows how long), we are eagerly awaiting this experience. Leslie, in her best effort, is trying hard not to be overwhelmed with the birthing process, so I ask for your prayers during this tumultuous time. We're thankful for all your prayers and support up to this point and thank you in advance for your efforts in the near future.
I'll do my best to update everyone as soon as possible, but please don't feel slighted if things are a little delayed. We're not too sure what opportunities we'll have to communicate with the outside world, but rest assured that you're love and support will be felt and appreciated.
Take care and hold fast.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Countdown

I'm sure many of you think the countdown to fatherhood began many moons ago, and to a point I agree with you. However, with the recent news from Leslie's doctor, it has now become a very, very real countdown.
"I'm not going to let you go past next Friday," Maj. Gerber announced to Leslie at her appointment last Wednesday. "Either you'll go on your own before then, or we'll induce; but, it will need to be before the 19th." When she said that, it began to sink in that I was only days away from being a father. Shock? Anxiety? Excitement? What exactly was it that I was feeling? Honestly, it was a multitude of emotions; yet, none of them made me the slightest bit uncertain about this awesome new stage of life I'm about to enter.
Now that Leslie has finished her last day of work at Austin Peay (this past Friday), it's going to give her some down time to soak in her final days without a child. I think these days of rest and relaxation will be all her body needs to trigger the start of the birthing process and catapult us into the organized chaos that is parenthood. We are both very excited and ever mindful of the beauty and love that our Father has shown us.
With regard to informing our friends and family, we will both do our best to let everyone know what is going on and when. Lord willing, everything will work out and we'll have our newest addition home by the end of next week! Thanks to all for your prayers and support over the past several months and we can't wait to share our great news with you in the days to come.
Take care and Happy Holidays!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Obstetric Cholestasis

Also known as Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP), this is a potentially serious pregnancy-related disorder of the liver. It is estimated that 7 out of every 100 pregnant women are affected in the United States each year. In short, this condition affects the flow of bile (a liver-produced substance that aids in the digestion and absorption of fats) to a woman’s body. It results in a build-up of bile acids in the blood, which in turn can lead to severe itching, and in more rare cases, jaundice. More importantly, if left untreated, this disorder could lead to pre-mature birth, hemorrhaging, fetal distress, or even still birth.
I am writing all of this because Leslie was recently diagnosed with this disorder. Although it was caught early, and has been closely monitored for the past several days, it is yet another layer of uncertainty in the whole pregnancy process. The past two fetal monitor tests have given us comfort because little Ellie seems fine; but if things start to go south, they will have to induce labor and get her out. Thankfully, today marks Leslie's 36th week of pregnancy, a crucial milestone since 44% of all cases with ICP don't make it past 36 weeks before they have to induce.
Other than having very itchy hands and feet (a common, yet annoying symptom), as well as bouts of fatigue, she's in good spirits.
The immediate future holds a couple of scenarios, but the likelihood of her carrying to term is slim to none. Although we've been hoping to have our baby girl in this world before Christmas, our main concern is good health for both mom and daughter. Our biggest prayer is that the good Lord continues to guide and protect us all in the days and weeks to come, in the hope that we will meet our newest addition on His time and no one else's.
We will continue to keep you all posted on this process, but please don't get upset if I can't post again before anything happens!
Take care.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thoughts On Thanksgiving

It's hard to believe that I've already been home for a year now. I remember seeing my family for the first time on Thanksgiving Day for the first time since I went on the deployment and the joy in my heart as we embraced. Although I was only gone for about half the year, it felt like such a long time since we'd seen each other.
I can't help but think that this memory will always come to mind every Thanksgiving from here on out. Frankly, it's EXACTLY what I'm supposed to remember because it's what this holiday is all about. As everyone says, it's about giving thanks for all that you've been given in this life. For me, I can't help but thank God for the new life he's about to give me in my first child, Ellen.
It is my sincere hope that each one of you will give humble thanks to our Creator for what He has given you, whether good or bad. I know it's been a tough year for a lot of you, and there are so many reasons why shouldn't give thanks. However, in spite of all that, I pray that we can given Him thanks for letting His will be done on earth. I don't think I've ever heard someone say that we never learned anything through the tough times, and I seriously doubt that trying times don't contain any important lessons.
So, give thanks to all that He has done and all that He will do in the days, weeks, months and years to come simply because He is the giver of ALL things. I thank Him for the memories of last year and those I will cherish in the years to come. I hope the same for all of you as well....except for a deployment to Iraq!
Take care and Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Eagle Flight II

Sorry for my absence over the past several weeks, but I spent a couple of weeks "in the field" up at Fort Knox, KY. No, it wasn't a lot of fun and I didn't even get to "play Army" while up there, but some of the Soldiers got to and that's what most important.
Being a non-platoon leader officer in the field isn't very much fun...at all. Most of your time is spent trying to make sure everyone else's training is productive. In other words, I spent two weeks as an "event planner".
Eagle Flight I (back in July) was spent at the same place, but at the time I was still with my former Troop. This time, I was with HHT; yet, somehow I managed to do practically the same thing....run ranges! Every range that is occupied by a unit has to have an Officer In Charge (OIC). This is a somewhat dubious honor for any senior enlisted or officer, but the fact remains that we are ultimately in charge of everything that happens out there, good or bad. In July, I was the OIC for 4 separate ranges, while everyone else got to shoot weapons. This time, I got to watch platoons drive down a range in their trucks and shoot at pop up targets. Exciting? No. Monotonous, redundant, time consuming, and about half a dozen other synonyms? Yes. The only shining light in the whole ordeal was getting to spend time with the Soldiers. When you're stuck behind a desk all day, every day, it gets lonely and boring. So, having some down time where I can get to know them on a personal level is always a treat (no matter how messed up they might be).
In the coming weeks and months, I'll have a lot of updates on my personal life that I'll be discussing. There's just something exciting about starting a new chapter of my life that I can't wait to experience. If there's anyone out there that still reads this stuff, it will be a chance to find out what I've been up to...or will be up to soon.
Take care.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Getting Rid of The Stigma

It started off as a normal conversation. Wade and I were just talking about when we get together with other guys and hang out. Then, he said it. "When you're having relations with men...". He paused, then we both looked at each other. "Sorry, that didn't come out right", he muttered. We both chuckled, then I said, "Wade, why is it that what you just said has such a negative connotation in today's society?" Frankly, I think it's a very logical question. Wade used the term EXACTLY as it is intended. The term relations is defined as "A logical or natural association between two or more things; relevance of one to another; connection". This is what Wade was referring to in our conversation. He was referencing the act of relating to other guys, particularly when we are connecting on a more personal level. Nowhere in his thought process did the idea or notion of homosexual activity ever creep in. That is, until he realized what he said.
This is both sad and tragic. Why? Because we as men have somehow convinced ourselves that male relationships are either a sign of weakness or a misrepresentation of our sexual orientation. How does having a close, intimate relationship with another man make us gay? The term intimate means "characterized by or involving warm friendship or a personally close or familiar association or feeling". While the term is commonly used to explain a sexual relationship between a man and woman, that is not what it is supposed to mean. If we take Wade's statement for what it is originally intended to mean (and explicitly defined as), then there is nothing wrong with what he said. Our society has somehow commingled (to mix or mingle together; combine) references to heterosexual relationships with homosexual relationships. In other words, references to relations with my wife, whom I do have sexual relations with, by simply mentioning relations with other men, people almost instinctively think I am talking about having sex with them. That's ridiculous!!!
The reality is this: Until we can get rid of these stupid stereotypes and stigmas attached to having close relationships with men, we are destined to a life without them. As a result, we will miss out on so much of what God has intended for our lives. For some of you, this might not be a big deal, but that's just because you don't know what you're missing. Question: Are you willing to go the rest of your life wondering what you could have done better? Sure, we're all going to have regrets, but are you okay with looking back on life wishing you were a better husband, father, son, friend, etc? Well, that's what you're sacrificing by not engaging in life with other men.
In the near future, Wade and I are going to discuss male relationships, or what I like to call, menlationships. As close as the two of us have become over the years, we want to know how to become better friends, and we hope all of you out there to will want the same things for yourselves. In order to be the men we aspire to be, we MUST observe, engage and learn from other men. Eventually, the two of us hope to compile all these thoughts and discussions into a book that challenges the status quo in our society and encourages men to take up the banner that has been laid before us. It's time we start acting like men, just like those who came before, so that our successors can do the same!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Best College Football Conference

My brother from another mother extended a challenge to find out which College football conference holds the title of "best in the land." He limited the historical analysis to his lifetime (roughly the 1970s); but in a previous conversation, I mentioned the past 30 years. Since there is only a few years difference between them, I think it's safe to stay within that range.
I would like to start off by saying that I DO have a particular bias...and I don't think there's any question which side I fall on. Having exposed my partiality, I would like to posit my method of determining the winner.
Just about every week for the past...I dunno....10 years, I've always looked at the top 25 in each poll and counted the number of teams from each conference. Frankly, I think this is a legitimate account since it comes from varied sources and from people who make their living analyzing each team's playing ability. I know some people will take issue with this, but the fact remains that these people control the process and I don't think there's any predetermined bias that goes into their calculations.
I found the following information on another website. You'll notice it's bias just in the web address (http://www.secsportsfan.com/top-all-time-college-football-conference-record.html), but I challenge anyone to disprove these numbers. It should be noted that this data is based on the CURRENT conference affiliations.

Top 25 Top 50
SEC 6 8
Big Ten 3 6
Big 12 5 5
ACC 2 7
Pac-10 3 5
Big East 1 4

I would also like to note that if you consolidated the schedule strength of each team in their respective conference, it could serve as a respectable gauge. In this category, you would have to look at INTERNAL strength rather than overall strength. By simply looking at overall strength of schedule, you are forced to consider ALL the opponents a school plays, rather than just their conference opponents. This blog post (http://www.collegegameballs.com/2009/05/20/2009-out-of-conference-schedule-strength-by-conference-and-team/) uses the highest OUT OF CONFERENCE estimate, which obviously doesn't account for their conference opponents' strength. My argument against this is that the SEC has such good internal competition that it doesn't need to legitimize itself against another conference. After all, isn't that what the Bowl season is for???
Lastly, I was able to find this data from the past 10 years regarding conference strength.
SI.com's Conference Power Index (Based on a highest possible score of 42)
2003-08 1998-'03
1. SEC (40) Big Ten (35)
2. Pac-10 (29) SEC (31)
3. ACC (23) Big 12 (25)
4. Big Ten (22) Pac-10 (21)
5. Big 12 (19) Big East (18)
6. Big East (16) ACC (17)
If you average out these two scores, you'll see that the SEC wins by a landslide (of course, this is ONLY for the past 10 years).
Hope this information helps in solidifying SEC's title as "best in the land."
I'm sure there will be much more information thrown out there, but just wanted to add my two cents.

Monday, September 14, 2009

New Job

It's pretty common for an officer to change positions about every 9 to 12 months. Normally, they start out as Platoon Leaders before transitioning into either a staff position, of in my case, the dubious honor of XO.
The Executive Officer (XO) is second in the chain of command for a company or troop. Since I'm in a Cavalry Squadron, not a Battalion, we are considered troops, not companies. Being a Logistician usually means that I stay within the realm of Logistics, i.e. I stay within my support troop, move to another support company, or go to the Brigade Support Battalion (BSB) and serve on their staff. Notice I italicized the word usually. That's to emphasize the way things are supposed to go.
Right before the Labor Day weekend, my commander told me that I would stay in my current position, the Squadron Maintenance Officer/Platoon Leader, until roughly December or January. At that time I would transition to D troop XO position. Not even a week later, I got called into his office only to find out that I would be taking over as XO, but not for D troop. Instead, I would move over to the Squadron's Headquarters and Headquarters' Troop (HHT) XO slot.
Without going into too much detail, HHT consists of the Command Group (Squadron Commander, Squadron Executive Officer, Command Sergeant Major and all their staff), as well as the Headquarters' Troop, made up of the Troop Commander, First Sergeant, myself, a field artillery platoon, medic platoon, and a few miscellaneous soldiers. Although just about all XO positions require the same work, this troop has a little more headache. It's a very thankless job, with responsibilities ranging from property accountability, long and short-term planning, logisitical support and maintenance (the only thing I'm proficient in), physical security, and about a dozen other things.
If you're wondering how well I'm taking this change, the answer is... not so much. Logistics Officer usually stay within the realm of support, so going outside this sphere and being assigned to anything BUT a support unit is a big transition. So, things are going to be a little intense for the next several weeks/months. Lord willing, I'll rise to the challenge; but, I'm definitely not looking forward to the future's uncertainties.
Fran├žois de la Rochefoucauld once stated that, "The only thing constant is change." Things are definitely going to change for me.... the question is how much?!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Insanity

in⋅san⋅i⋅ty [in-san-i-tee]
–noun, plural -ties.
1. the condition of being insane; a derangement of the mind.
2. Law: such unsoundness of mind as affects legal responsibility or capacity.
3. Psychiatry: (formerly) psychosis.
4. extreme folly; senselessness; foolhardiness.

While I'm sure we've all heard the cliche, "Insanity means doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results," if you look up the term on dictionary.com, this is what you're going to get. The fourth definition, I think, best describes what I just witnessed during the UT v. UCLA game.
Leslie and I have a sincere love for the Big Orange, but seeing the performance of Jonathan Crompton today reminded me of the past four seasons (two with Eric Ainge and one with Crompton), not the Rocky Top Revival the Knoxville News Sentinel boasted on its cover page last week. Despite the strong performance by virtually everybody else who stepped on the field, #8 managed to defy every prediction that favored a UT win.
Now, I know many of you out there believe in the notion of keeping an under-performer in the game to either a) give him a chance for redemption or b) teach him a lesson by working through his shortcomings. However, this is where I think the definition of insanity (however you choose to define it) is applicable. Although I didn't get to watch much of last season because I was busy "defending our freedoms and liberties" in Iraq (just wanted to throw that out there for pity and defend myself against anyone who wants to argue with me); I'm pretty sure Crompton played the same way he did today. So, if one agrees that insanity is in fact repetitive action with the hope of different results, or foolhardiness, then he or she has to believe that continuing to play him will never yield anything but under-performance and failure.
I'm not saying I hate the guy and think he deserves to be thrown off the Henley Street Bridge, but let's at least see if doing something different, i.e. starting another QB, can revitalize the offense and get something going in the air. I seriously doubt Stephens can do any worse than 4 interceptions and a fumble. Yes, I'm counting the one he threw on the second to last play of the game even though it was negated by the UCLA off-sides because he technically threw an interception.
I await your responses....Wade!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

REFRAD

As I'm sure you all know by now, the Army (more generally, the federal government) loves acronyms. Because of this obsession, I am now considered a REFRADer. This term means RElease From Active Duty.
Yes, that's right, I have asked the Army to release me from my active duty contract. This can happen as early as a year from one's End Time in Service (ETS) date, which for me is 19 Sep 2010. This means that on 20 Sep of next year, I will no longer be on active duty; instead, I will either be in a drilling Reserve or Inactive Reserve component. This difference between the two is pretty self-explanatory, in one I drill one weekend a month and two weeks a year, while in the other I don't do anything, but can get put back on active duty if another conflict arises. If I haven't already stated this, an individual makes an eight year obligation to the military when he or she signs a contract. Mandatory years of active duty are really the only thing that distinguishes the commitment. I agreed to serve a minimum of three years active duty, while another might elect to only be in the Reserve.
Although technically I submitted my Unqualified Resignation (UQR), this distinction is very minute from the REFRAD. So, now I am one of those guys getting out before the Brigade deploys again (good Lord willing). Despite having over 365 days until I get out, it can arrive in the blink of an eye, so now Leslie and I are preparing for our relocation back home....in good ole K-town!
Hope all is well with you and yours.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Colbert Defends the Faith

I don't know what your personal thoughts are of Stephen Colbert and his show the Colbert Report, but I'm a pretty big fan of it. There's just something funny about making a mockery of American politics and culture, and I think he does it ever so well.
Last week, Colbert had Stephen Wright, author of "The Evolution of God", on his show and I think you'd be surprised at how deftly he defends the Christian faith. Regardless of his sincerity or authenticity, he does what I think many of us could do a better job at.
Below is a link to the interview. Hope you enjoy!
http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/247057/august-18-2009/robert-wright

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Ch. 15: Let Us Be Intentional

Eldredge starts off his final chapter with yet another great verse that spells out this journey we have made throughout the book.

"You have made known to me the path of life." (Psalms 16:11)

Frankly, it's a somewhat bitter sweet that Wade and I have concluded this long(er than we meant it to be) process of learning the various phases in life and how we are to journey through them. I've learned a lot about myself and what I must do in order to live this life He has given me.
Although Eldredge focuses practically all of the last chapter on his youngest son Blaine's masculine journey, he emphasizes his own need, and that of Blaine, to be intentional about their pursuit. Think of it as a call to arms for all men, regardless of age, race, creed, etc. We must all be intentional in what we do right now, in the future, and especially in our interaction with other men. We owe it to ourselves, and those we come into contact with, to make a concerted effort to maximize our time here on earth to His glory. Most importantly, we owe it to the youth to lead the way. This is what Wade and I seek to do.
Wade mentioned in an earlier post that the two of us are looking to write a book on the importance of male relationships. While this might be a somewhat lofty goal, the main purpose is to be intentional in our pursuit to grow as men and encourage others to do the same. What we have witnessed and experienced throughout this project is a lack of intentionality among today's men to grow individually as well as with other men. In order to get the utmost fulfillment in life God has provided us, we have got to be intentional in our RELATIONSHIPS.
Life isn't about fortune, fame, or anything associated with power or materialism. It's about relationships. I have yet to find ANYONE in this world (past or present) who can prove otherwise. So, it's imperative that we invest our time in relationships with other people. Yes, marriages are important and so is being a father; but I firmly believe you cannot be the best at either unless you are surrounded by a group of men that compel you to want to excel in those other areas of your life. This is what we felt is lacking in this book. We're not saying that Eldredge completely missed the boat on this topic, as it's not the book's premise. We just feel that he glossed over the importance of male relationships in growing through each phase of life.
I'd like to think of this as the end of the beginning. My dear friend and I have ended our first of many journeys together and we are excited with where the future is going to take us...together.
It's my sincere hope that SOMEONE out there has been reading these posts and has gotten SOMETHING out of it. However, even if there isn't, I take comfort in knowing that both Wade and myself have grown stronger in our faith and our friendship. If that's all God wanted us to get out of it, then we succeeded! He made known to us the path of life and now it's our responsibility to follow it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

We Must, Mustn't We?

Touche` Wade, touche`. My good friend strikes at the heart of our duty as the younger generation to engage our predecessors and learn from their experiences. Too often we dismiss our elders as out of date and insignificant, treating them as if they're children instead of the Sages that they are.

When I look at those who have gone before me, in whatever stage of life I might be in, it's in the way they walk, talk and act that shows me how they dealt with those obstacles idiosyncratic to each phase. If they're hunched over and passive in their approach to daily life, it seems as though their experiences have broken them. Yet, if they're walking with their heads held high, it's possible that the trials and tribulations made them a better, stronger person. In either situation, those individuals have SOMETHING to tell us, whether it's an "I should of" or an "I did."

Much like Wade, I aspire to be a Sage; but I'm not so sure that we have to wait until the twilight of our lives to be one. Can we not be a Sage of some sort in whatever stage we have gone through? Is it possible to be the Cowboy or Warrior Sage as we move on to our next phase of life? How relevant are our experiences in those phases, as opposed to those who went through it a generation ago?

Maybe the term Sage is somewhat relative, in that pieces of advice or counsel don't always warrant the title. If we have pass on some words of wisdom to the new comers of our phase as we move onto the next, does this mean we should be considered a Sage? In a vain attempt to answer my own question, I DO NOT think this should be considered the act of being a Sage; however, it's these very actions that prepare us to become the Sage of tomorrow. In this case, the old adage "practice makes perfect" is very applicable. We don't have to wait until we're at the tail end of our time on earth to impart wisdom to the youth, we can start by doing it now. By doing so, we could strengthen our Sage-ness abilities when we are firmly planted in this phase.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ch. 14: Sage

"The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old" (Proverbs 20:29). Not too sure if I'm ever going to have gray hair...since I don't really have any, but I think this scripture is alluding to the experiences that resulted in his gray hair (or lack thereof in some cases).
Honestly, what man doesn't want to be considered a Sage when he's old? To me, that's one of the rewards of overcoming the trials and tribulations of life. Moreover, there's a responsibility that the elders of our society have to the younger generations, so we can learn from their experiences and try not to repeat the mistakes of their past.
Eldredge only allocates one chapter to this stage in life, mainly because he admits that he's not able to provide that much insight since he's not experienced much of Sagehood. All the secondary chapters devoted to a stage focus on how to develop a man through this period in his life, yet the Eldredge chooses to only devote a section in this chapter to the aspect of raising a Sage. Although you can't exactly raise a Sage, it is possible to raise the Sage in a man. For instance, the author takes note of how an older man can be undeveloped. This occurs when he either refuses to take the journey, or take note of his journey. If he has failed to take stock of his experiences, then all we could learn from him is lost. However, if we can draw out those experiences through communication, or simply listening to him, we can bring out his words of wisdom. What is more, when I think about the term wisdom, I can't help but think of King Solomon, the man who asked God for wisdom, and was granted it. Arguably the wisest man to ever live (aside from Christ, of course), he wrote that "Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 1:7). This scripture delineates between mere knowledge and wisdom. In my view, man gains knowledge by what happens to him, but he garners wisdom by how he reacts to those experiences. So, when judging the Sage-ness of a man, one must look at how he reacted to those situations he faced throughout his life. By doing so, you can determine whether or not to follow in his footsteps.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ellen Suzanne Cragwall

Well, if you haven't already heard, it's a girl! Yes, Leslie and I are following the pseudo trend of many of our friends. We have counted up to 6 other people we know that are having a girl before the end of this year.
Although many would expect me to want to have my boy, it might shock you to know that I've always had a feeling that this first one would be my little Daddy's girl. I have two older sisters, who both played a productive role in my individual growth. They nurtured me, and beat the crap out of me too, so I guess I got the best of both worlds. Good Lord willing this won't be our only child, so we'll just have to pray a little harder for our boy.
When I first found out that Ellie (yes, we've already given her a nickname) was on her way, it made me think about a story Michael Deaver, a close advisor to Ronald Reagan, told when he informed the then Governor of California that his wife was pregnant. "Pray it's a girl," Reagan told Deaver. It's not that Reagan didn't like his sons Michael and Ronnie, as he loved both of them deeply. "Having a girl means you get to watch your wife grow up all over again." I just hope she looks like Leslie!
Thanks for your continued prayers and support.
Take care.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ch. 13: Raising the King

"Well done, thy good and faithful servant!" This is what I hope to hear when I enter the heavenly kingdom. Of course, I'm sure that's what we ALL want to hear when our time comes, but I've never really focused that much on the rest of the verse. "You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness." (Matthew 25:23). This is the crux of being the king God has enabled us to be.
As a King, we are in charge of things, as opposed to the general lack of responsibility and/or authority found in the preceding stages. In many cases, we're in charge of people, equipment, money (i.e. budgets), or simply in charge of ourselves. With the great authority comes responsibility, as the cliche goes; and as a King we're obligated to be stewards of what God has given us.
This resonates with my current position in the Army. As a Platoon Leader, I'm in charge of about 35 Soldiers, and several thousand dollars worth of equipment (and taxpayer money, might I add!!!), so it's important for me to ensure that everything is cared for, especially the Soldiers. Although this isn't always in the forefront of my mind, like when I'm told to complete the mission, regardless of the cost (which mostly comes at the expense of those very Soldiers I'm supposed to care for). While it's easy for someone to get caught up in the authority and power that might come with being an officer in the Army, it runs contrary to Christ's commandment that we love our neighbors.
What I find most compelling during this chapter is the notion that one must be worthy of the tasking, not entitled to the "throne". I can't tell you how many people feel they are deserving of the position simply because they've been around long enough. In college, some of my fellow teammates felt they deserved to be a team captain just because they were seniors; however, they're actions didn't always correlate with their classification! Moreover, some Soldiers (both enlisted and officer) believe their time in the service warrants being in a position of power. However, I hearken back to those timeless words of Lord Acton that "power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
This dictum has been somewhat of a mantra for me, always guiding me in the direction of moderation. This is not to say that seeking power is inherently corrupt, as it's almost the opposite. In fact, we as Christians are encouraged to take on positions of authority in order to serve others; HOWEVER, we must guard against those immoral tendencies often associated with power, like pride, prejudice, isolation, contempt, and practically everything that we find in the wreckage of a fallen leader. I can think of several men, both religious and secular, who succumbed to the pressures of power and eventually compromised their integrity.
THIS IS WHAT WE SHOULD FOCUS ON. While Eldredge touches on the issues, I don't think he spends near enough time emphasizing the disaster that awaits a man who doesn't guard against these temptations. God is the one who put us in that position. We should never think we are worthy of the responsibility; yet, we must embrace the opportunity He has given us to lead. Incorruptible integrity, immense kindness, humility, generosity, and justice are attributes that the author mentions when determining a man's ability to lead (pg. 237). Furthermore, I believe there's a difference between wanting to lead and being willing to lead. While the desire to do so isn't necessarily impure, a man's willingness to take on responsibility exudes a sense of deference to God, who is ultimately in control.
Men must be willing to lead, but those who exude those characteristics mentioned by the other (and a few more he didn't) are truly worthy of the tasking. Resumes and CV's might be the most common method of determining his abilities in relation to the task, yet it's somewhat difficult to put on paper a man's submission to the ultimate sovereign authority, and how he lives that out in his day to day life. I guess in this case seeing IS believing.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Good Times, Hard Times

I can't begin to tell you how much fun I had this past weekend! One of the few perks of being in the Army is that you're almost guaranteed a 4 day weekend for a federal holiday, and July 4th is definitely going to be one of them. It was a weekend filled with good times among friends and family, but also some hard times because it made me realize all that I miss about being away from HOME.
The weekend actually started on Thursday afternoon, when Leslie and I casually drove over to Knoxville to stay the night with the Sr. Cragwalls. We got in around 11pm EST (which wasn't that late for us since we live in CST), but mom and dad stayed awake long enough to welcome us to town. We got up the next morning and had breakfast with them at the good 'ol Cracker Barrel before making our way over to West Knoxville to visit our friends the Denny's. Becca and Leslie grew up together in FL, and they just moved to Knoxville last summer when Steve took over as the Athletic Director of Christian Academy of Knoxville (CAK). After lunch and some cute singalongs with their boys, Isaac and Micah, we headed over to Black Mountain, NC for an alumni retreat at Leslie's childhood summer camp.
For almost a decade, Leslie spent every summer at Camp Crestridge for Girls, a fun and exciting place that allowed her to develop her own identity apart from her family and friends back home. This is a side that I've never seen of her, and to observe her in this element gave me a greater appreciation for who she was before me, and who she has become beside me. We also got to see Rusty and Sara Osborne (Leslie's college roommate and fellow Crestridge Cutie Pie alum). They, along with their two daughters, Sophie and Eleanor, just got back from a year long mission in Cameroon, West Africa. Rusty served on faculty as a professor at the local Seminary, an experience that all of them thoroughly enjoyed.
By Saturday night, we had made our way back to Knoxville for another night with the Sr. Cragwalls and got to see a few fireworks off in the distance to celebrate this great national holiday. We spent Sunday morning attending our church home at Providence and got to see some familiar places and had lunch with the Stansells and Millers at another great eatery in K-town...Calhouns!!! Unfortunately, we weren't able to see the McNairs, who were out of town, but did get to spend some time with the Purnells, who introduced us to their new family addition, William (Liam) King Purnell. He's adorable and will look great in UT orange someday! We rounded the day with some good, quality time with my family and some great golf and baseball on the tube.
Monday morning, after dropping off the Volvo for a tune-up, we dropped by the University to hob knob with some old professors, employers and colleagues. Leslie and I both had a blast catching up with everyone and the campus still looks great.
Ok, as you can see, we had a jam-packed schedule throughout our time in TN and NC. It was great to see everyone and catch up on their lives, but we couldn't shake how much we desperately miss our true home. Although we're not that far away in distance, we will never feel at home until we return to Knoxville for good. It's because of these people, and the many others not mentioned in this post, that we continue to count down the days until our return. While it's hard to think about the next year that separates us from moving back, we take comfort in knowing that the Lord has a plan and will fulfill it on his time. Our only hope is that we can conform to it and not lose sight of why He has us here. That last sentence is mainly for me!
Just FYI, I'm about to head out on a two week training exercise, so I'll be "off the net" for a while. I'll continue the Wild Heart study when I return...so make sure you're caught up by then, Wade!
Take care.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Happy 4th!!!

It's kind of surreal to think that just a year ago this weekend I was crossing over into Iraq. Yet, at the same time it's hard to believe I've already been back for 7 months!
For many years I've looked at the 4th of July as a celebration of the stand our forefathers took against tyranny and oppression, and thankfully I can still look upon this day as one that changed the course of human history; but I cannot shake the fact that this day is one that changed MY world. I just don't look at life the way I did before being dropped into a combat theatre. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it might not be a good thing either. Frankly, it's a sobering feeling because it opened my eyes to the reality that other people don't think, act, speak, worship, or life everyday life the same as us, AND THAT'S OK! I don't want this to sound like a laissez faire attitude, as our pursuit of change to the status quo is exactly what led to the establishment of this great nation. Celebrating our successes, while also acknowledging our faults is what makes us so influential in the world.
You're inevitably going to be reminded of what this holiday remembers and represents. You'll be asked to think and pray for the brave men and women "fighting for your freedom" overseas, and there's nothing wrong with that. But shouldn't we also celebrate the motivation behind every man and woman who willingly goes off to war? YOU are the reason we fight. Just seeing YOU live your life the way you want to is what gives us the encouragement to do what we do. I submit that if you didn't continue to live your life without fear of being oppressed, there's no reason for us to fight anymore.
So.... celebrate your freedoms and liberties! Take comfort in knowing that YOU can do what you want (well, almost!). I thank the good Lord for each one of you that I know and hope you enjoy this holiday and find joy what it means to YOU!
Take care.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Ch. 12: King

The opening passage of scripture that Eldredge uses, to me, best describes the totality of what God has given us.
"The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth He has given to man."
- Psalm 115:16
Honestly, when I first read through the table of contents of this book, I practically dismissed this chapter as somewhat non-applicable to me since I haven't really done much in the way of my life pursuits/goals. Yet, after reading this scripture, I realized that God has in fact given me a little Kingdom in which to rule over. At present, I am a Platoon Leader, responsible for roughly 40 Soldiers, and I'm several months away from being in charge of another human being...all the livelong day!
Eldredge explicitly states that throughout life you are vested with certain authorities, whether it be over land, animals, or people. In other stages preceding the King, we are given sovereign powers over more than ourselves, and our actions during that time clearly indicate our true priorities. Do we care more about what we're in charge of, or do we use our power and authority to our advantage? For instance, think of your boss. Does he work hard at pleasing you and making your work environment more conducive or productivity? Or, does he use you and your co-workers to make his life better? It's these types of observations that expose the true heart of a man.
While reading this chapter, I frequently found myself reflecting on my interactions with my Soldiers, but also other people that I've been in charge of, or worked with over the years. While I seek to be the servant leader Christ displayed while on earth, I can't really say that I'm ALWAYS carrying myself in that manner. In many instances, I'll drop whatever it is I'm doing to assist a Soldier who's having a pay issue or even a personal issue. However, I can also remember times that I practically blew them off because I had a pressing deadline. It's almost like God is showing me where I've taken one step forward, then two steps back. He definitely let me know that I've got a lot more work to do!
If there's anything that will stick with me during this chapter, it's that in whatever opportunities God has given me to be in charge of other people, if I put myself first, I'm wrong. Simple as that. Just as David provided for his Soldiers and their families, we too must make a concerted effort to serve those under our sphere of influence. In doing so, we're honoring them and the Holy father, who gave us this earth in which to live and grow.
On a separate note, I ask for continued prayer for Leslie, as she still hasn't quite kicked the nausea of pregnancy. We're both getting pretty irritated with the uncertainty of each day, but Lord willing, it will finally end soon!
Take care.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Anniversary #5...and #39

If I've learned anything about marriage it's that you can forget YOUR birthday, or maybe even HER birthday (a close, close second), but you absolutely CANNOT forget your anniversary. Luckily, I have never done this, but pity on he who does!
For those of you who hit the 5 year mark a decade or two ago, I'm sure you probably don't remember this one as much as the others; but the funny thing is that I can't believe Les and I have only been married this long. Honestly, it feels like we've been together for so much longer (even though we dated for 1 1/2 years before exchanging vows). It's hard to even remember life without her and I definitely can't fathom having to go through life without her by my side.
Celebrating marriage, I think, is a beautiful thing and one that men need to take the lead on. It shows your wife how much you care about her and that you are honoring those words you spoke on your wedding day. Take pride in that and let others know you are excited about it.
If you're wondering why I put #39 in the title, it's because Les and I were married on the same day as her parents, who are celebrating their 39th anniversary today. Congrats Kelly and Susan! Les and I look forward to our lives together throughout the next 34 years...and beyond!
Take care.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Love Stands

Love came down to earth two thousand years ago
To mend a broken heart, to lead us all back home
The greatest example that there could ever be
Was right there on a hill for the world to see

These are lyrics from a beautiful song that my friend Jason Cox wrote entitled "Love Stands". The whole song is about how we as human have made mistakes, or knowingly chosen the wrong path in life; yet throughout all our shortcomings and failures, the love Christ has for us remains firm and never falters. For many of us, it's hard to believe that God loves us NO MATTER WHAT. Think of the worst thing you've ever done, said, thought, felt, or wished (for some of us, this won't be very hard) and then say to yourself, "God still loves me."
I know, I know. This kind of sounds like one of those self-help activities designed to make you feel better about yourself; but the truth is, he does! There's nothing you could possibly do to make God NOT love you anymore. Now, think about the worst thing SOMEONE ELSE has ever done, said, thought, felt, or wished upon YOU. How did that make you feel or react? Was it hard to love that person despite their vendetta against you? Right now all you are probably thinking, "Heck ya, man!" If that's the case, I submit to you that if we as Christians are called to be Christ-like, are we (to use that modern cliche') doing what Jesus would do?
Look, I know it's hard, almost impossible at times, to love someone when they're hurt you, but if Christ himself loves YOU despite all the bad things you've done in your life, how can we not forgive and show love to a person who's wronged us? The only way for us to truly have a positive impact on this world is to show his love in all cases, under all circumstances. By doing this we can show the world, especially unbelievers, that when all is said and done in this world, Love will Stand.
For more great works by Jason Cox (and his lovely wife Lena) check out their websites at
www.myspace.com/coxroxmusic and www.myspace.com/lenahoodmusic

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ch. 11: Raising the Lover

"Learning to be loved, and learning to love, learning to be romanced, and learning to romance - that is what this stage is all about." (p. 216)
Although it might be a nice, easy cop out to simply post that quote by Eldredge and move on to the mighty King-dom, I think this chapter/stage deserves a little more commentary. Mainly because it's so hard for MEN to think about being loved and romanced (especially the latter).
There's no doubt that thinking about God the Father makes it difficult to consider that He wants to romance a dude. Honestly, it sounds weird just reading it; but the reality is that God wants to show his love for us just like we want to romance our wives (and yes ladies, we do want to, we just might not do a very good job at it!). When He romances us, he's speaking to our hearts in a manner that appeals to our emotions and makes us feel loved and special, just like the woman in each of our lives wants to feel.
I think the above quote by the author falls short in that it needs a little more specificity. We need to learn to be loved and romanced by God before we can learn to truly love Him and love others (especially a woman). Just as love is a two-way street, so too is romance. I think we can romance God in return by pursuing him through prayer, reading of scripture, and our interaction with others. Just as the greatest commandment tells us to love God and love others, we have got to focus on loving God first. Through this relationship, our love can carry over into relationships with other people.
When I first began the pursuit of winning the heart of my beautiful bride (who's half a day short of going three days w/o puking!), she felt romanced through my daily walk with Christ. By putting that relationship above our's, it showed Leslie my priorities and enabled her to feel comfortable about me being the leader in our future family. Conversely, through my relationship with Him and the love I showed towards Leslie, I was romancing God.
I know this might sound kind of sappy and cheesy to you men, but scripture confirms how we should uphold this mentality and lifestyle. Look at the writings of the Psalmist, the poetry and songs he wrote to express his intoxicating love for the Creator. This is a man who had taken down the biggest, baddest dude in the land; had lived the life of a rambler in the wild to avoid being slain by the King of Israel; and will forever be known as the man after God's own heart. Think about that for a minute, a man who pursued the heart of God!
Our culture, with all it's masculinity and hardheadedness, should not overshadow the type of relationship we as men are called to have with God. Most importantly, I firmly believe that the strength of our relationship with Him will forever strengthen our marriages and the bonds of brotherhood with other believers. That's the kind of life I want to have.
P.S. Happy Father's Day to all you dad's out there...and the dad's to be like me!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Her Eggo Is Preggo


If you haven't seen the movie Juno, then you won't quite understand this title; but one of my favorite actors, Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute from The Office), played a convenient store clerk who uses this phrase to break the news to the young, teenages that she's pregnant. Thankfully, art doesn't imitate real life in this case, as my wife of 5 years (who's one bday shy of 30) is officially 12 weeks pregnant!

We had our first "Ok, we could be pregnant" moment on the morning of my birthday (best present I could ever get!), and at the beginning of this month we got to see our little addition in the ultrasound above. We go back to the Dr. at the end of the month to hear the heartbeat, but thus far everything seems to be on schedule....with the exception of the morning sickness going away.

Yes, my beautiful flower has been puking her guts out (almost literally) for the past 6 weeks and there's really no end in sight at this moment. And by the way, it's not just "morning" sickness...it's all stinkin' day sickness! I have no clue what I'm having for dinner each night because we have to wait and see what images of food pop in her head and don't make her want to blow chunks, hurl, spew, upchuck, unswallow or any other elaborate euphemism used in the cult classic Wayne's World. Lord willing, this too will pass and we'll be one step closer to having our evenings back to normal; but for now, just pray that Les can keep her food down since she's eating for two.

Sorry we couldn't tell all of you in person or at least individually, but it just seemed easier to blast it out blog style.

Hope all is well and we'll keep you posted on the progress. I'm not praying for a particular sex, so don't ask. I'm just praying for a healthy, complete little Cragwall.

Take care.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ch. 10: The Lover

So, I know I'm a little late in writing this post, but I have good reason. This past weekend, Freight Train (see 4/22 post for who this is) and I went up to Mammoth Cave for what we thought was going to be a canoeing and fishing trip on the Park's Green River. Due to some bad weather that swept through the area earlier in the week, the river rose too high for us to canoe, which also meant no fishing. After a bit of searching and creative thinking, we decided to take a tour of Mammoth Cave and drive up north of the Park to Nolin Lake and camp out on a remote strip of land (which we had to get to by canoe). Despite not catching any fish, the two of us made something out of nothing and this enabled us to take in some of the beautiful scenery around us.
I mention all of this because I had a similar experience to the one Eldredge writes about in the beginning of this chapter. It's hard to be outside in the wilderness and NOT admire the beauty of God's creation. Like many, I feel Him communicating to me through my admiration of nature, especially when I think about how God gives the birds of the air and flowers of the ground all the need to survive, so why wouldn't he give us the same? Too many times, we as humans worry about not getting what we need, when all throughout scripture we are told how he will always provide for us.... because he LOVES us!
In my opinion, the word love has become so distorted and bastardized in today's society that it's hard to tell whether, or to what extent, a person truly feels it. Most importantly, I question how many Christians really love God in the way we're supposed to. This is mainly due to the English translation of the word from Greek origins, which had four prominent words to describe love. First, and most importantly is Agape love, which describes man's love for God. Only He can receive the type of all-encompassing, all-consuming affection for our creator. Second is Eros, the passionate/romantic love that a man has for his spouse. This too is only meant for one being. Third is Philia, or love of friendship, which can be felt towards several people (think the disciples). Fourth, Storge is the love and affection we have towards our parents, siblings, and other family members. Although Thelema, or "desire", is considered to be a form of love, I hesitate to say it's real love since it is more emotional and not grounded in morality and godliness. Many equate this with lust or greed because it's based on one's desire for something.
I write all this to say that we have to focus on the first before we can truly and completely experience the others. Agape love is THE love because it lays the groundwork for our ability to exude and receive the other types of love in a way that fulfills God's will and purpose for our lives. THAT is what Eldredge encourages us men to focus on in the chapter since it supersedes all the rest. By doing so, we'll experience ALL of love, not just some of it.
I'm going to break this up since it's already a long post! So, more to follow.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Ch. 9: Raising The Warrior

Despite my little "Debby downer" post from last week, make no mistake, my feet are firmly planted in the Warrior stage! But again, this isn't just because "I'm a warrior and a member of a team" as the Army Soldier's Creed (not) so eloquently states. Being a member of the Army doesn't automatically catapult a Boy into the Warrior stage, but that doesn't mean a man's desire to fight for his country isn't the kind of noble pursuit that Eldredge describes. In fact, it's exactly the kind of fight he's talking about. Much of the reason I joined the service was due to an overwhelming sense of conviction to serve, and I personally think it takes an act of bravery to act on those feelings. The combination of these two characteristics is what can lead to the epic story the author mentions.
Now that I've thrown out my props to "America's finest", I want to move to why I think I'm a Warrior...which ironically doesn't have anything to do with being in the Army! While I'm sure some will argue that there is nothing more nobler than when a man fights for his COUNTRY, I submit to you that the greatest fight in a man is for his FAITH. That is where I want to be.
Through several cinematic analogies, Eldredge paints the reckless abandon found in each protagonist and his struggle to control those emotions and become the Warrior he is destined to be. When looking at my personal walk, I realize how much energy I have within me to do something worthwhile; yet, the question for me is what to focus all that time and energy on. Eldredge suggests doing mission work, or something else bold and daring, in an attempt to evoke all the passion and drive we have built up inside. That sounds very appealing to me and something I hope to do in the near future. He also talks about standing up for what you believe in, with both the humility and conviction Christ himself displayed.
I think this is where Wade and I have connected over the time we've known each other. We both have this desire to do something, but haven't had our own "aha" moments and realized what God has in store for us. It's almost like we're thorough horses getting herded into the barrier stalls, fighting against God because we don't know how long we're going to have to stay in such an uncomfortable place (i.e. boring job, town, church, etc), when all we want is to explode out of the gates and take off running as fast as we can with all our might. At times it's like I can hear God whispering in my ear, "Whoa boy... easy now.... just get in the stall and wait for the bell to ring." THAT is what it feels like to raise a warrior, having enough strength to run the race, but needing the discipline just to get in the stall!

Friday, May 29, 2009

I'm Going To Pick A Fight

One of my favorite movie quotes occurs in Braveheart, when William Wallace is asked by his good friend Hamish Campbell where he's going. "I'm going to pick a fight" he says in his thick Scottish accent as he rides off to provoke British Lords into a battle that he inevitably wins.
That, I think, is how we are to approach certain issues in our lives. Rather than be passive and wait for something to happen to us, we are to take charge and do what we think is right, no matter the consequences.
My personal experiences are almost the exact opposite from Wade, as my unwillingness to fight in those same instances have been some of my greatest regrets. Frankly, I didn't really care where I went to college, I just wanted to play baseball. So, I settled for whatever school offered me a chance to play. While I don't look at going to CNC as a bad thing (especially since that's where I met my wife), I have always wondered if I could have played Division I, or gone to a school with a better program. My passivity in trying to get a starting position on the team led me to transfer to a school that I didn't really have to fight for a position, it was mine to lose.
When determining where to go to graduate school, I just went with whatever school would accept me. Thankfully UTK was willing to let me in because I seriously doubt any other school would admit someone with my academic stature (or lack thereof). Once again, I don't look at this as a mistake, but I will forever wonder what could have been. When informed that I would be going into the Army's Ordnance Corps (which at the time I knew nothing about) rather than the Intelligence field I hoped for, I grudgingly accepted without even trying to seek a branch transfer.
Unfortunately, I can list off about a dozen other instances in my life where I just accepted my fate and moved on. My only explanation at the time was that if God wanted me anywhere else, he would've put me there. Man, was I stupid! You see, I was UNWILLING to fight. Rather than try to pursue an opportunity, I sat back hoping and praying that God's will would be in line with my own, when each time he might have been testing me to see if I REALLY wanted it. This pattern of reluctance is partly due to my habitual lack of self-confidence; but each time I was paralyzed by the innate passivity all men inherited from Adam when he failed to take charge of his family and overcome the temptation of Satan in the Garden. To think that man doesn't have to fight for practically EVERYTHING in life is one of the Devil's greatest deceptions.
It's been said that if you don't have to fight for it, then it's not worth having. Maybe that should be your standard for determining what you really want in life. I know that's how I'm trying to live my life now. I'll elaborate more in the next chapter, where the notion of raising the Warrior has resonated with me.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ch. 8: The Warrior

To use a golf analogy, we've "made the turn" on this study and since Wade's been taking the lead on each week's chapter, I think it's time I start "teeing off" first. So, I'm going to try to be the first one to post my thoughts on the reading and allow my counterpart to supplement the discussion with his musings.
If I were a betting man, I would throw down a hefty sum on the notion that every man wants to be a Warrior...or at least be seen as a Warrior. It's practically huMAN nature for a dude to fight in honor of something, whether it be his own personal pride or, dare I say, the common good for all mankind. Eldredge (and I) view this as an inherent trait that everyone possesses; yet we all exude it differently and on various levels. Both Christians and non-Christians fight, and I would submit to you that man fights either for himself or for Him.
Motives behind man's desire to fight are plentiful, and some fruitful; but his inability to act on those instincts can be crippling and take a devastating toll on every aspect of his life. Some were (to use Eldredge's oft-quoted term) emasculated by their father, older brother, grade school bully, or even a friend; however, each man made the conscious decision to quit fighting back and become habitually passive. THIS, it could be argued, has led to the degradation of Christian Warriors.
I view this chapter as a soberin gut-check because all it's asking the reader is the following:
What in your life is worth fighting for? Is it your career, marriage, family, integrity, personal legacy? Frankly, how you answer this question determines, not only your priorities in life, but the true state of your heart and soul. Are you fighting for you or for Him?
More to follow.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Train To Fight or Fight To Train???

When I originally started this blog, my intent was to publish some "insider" information about life in the Army. Throughout my deployment to Iraq, I consistently posted about my experiences in theatre, and even though I am back in the States and participating in (what I think is) a great discussion on being a man with my good friend Wade, I think I should still post about my tenure in the service.
Since my return to Fort Campbell, several people have asked me what I'm currently doing on a daily basis. It's pretty simple...we're training for our next deployment. What this entails though is a complicated process of replenishing our ranks with new personnel. About every 3 or so years, soldiers move on to different stations across the country and around the world, while others start making their way to Fort Campbell. Some will come from another duty station, while others are coming straight out of Boot camp and job schools. So, we have to train these new Soldiers how to fight the way WE fight. This consists of both classroom and on the job training (OJT).
However, without a doubt the WORST part of being back in the States is the paperwork/regulation abiding/planning/busy work we do every day. You see, the Army has to justify the massive amounts of money it receives from taxpayers, so its leaders make up all these requirements for us to do to fill time at work. Moreover, just like every other organization (both civilian and government) we have to abide by federal, state and local regulations. This is the kind of stuff that can drive a sane man crazy (present company included), and there's no way we officers can both plan AND train. I haven't picked up a weapon since I got back from Iraq; I stand around and watch people just to tell them what they're doing wrong; and I attend more meetings in one week that most people attend in a month!
So, for those of you who think those recruiting commercials on television represent just a normal day at the office....not so much!
Take care.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Ch. 7: Sam's Year

Where have all the initiators gone???
I hate to say it, but Wade's got a point. He's managed to pinpoint an historical right of passage that has become exactly that...history!
In an attempt to discern the various reasons for this dissipation, I think the greatest contributing factor is the modernization of civilization. Our ability to provide the basic necessities to sustain life has become much easier over the past 100 years and, as Wade mentioned, acquiring those goods have always been the primary role of men. The natural progression of this world has opened up a wealth of options for man to provide for his family without having to obtain it directly. I don't have to milk a cow, build a house, or chop wood anymore, since someone else can do it for me. There are more technical trades now than before, so man can learn a skill (or set of skills) with little effort or practice. Also, increased educational opportunities have contributed significantly to this evolutionary process.
In regards to Wade's discussion of the "group", Eldredge goes to great lengths (I think) to emphasize the importance of showing the strength that is found in the men that make up the group. Man can do a lot by himself, but without the help of his predecessors (i.e. their guidance, support, encouragement) he is less likely to excel. That's what Eldredege was trying to show his son Sam. He can't become a man by himself. It has to be done through the relationships with men, through MENtorship.
I've been part of clubs, organizations, cliques and the like. As a freshman and sophomore, I learned through observing juniors and seniors. Moreover, I took on more responsibility only when it was given to me by someone older and more experienced than myself.
In sum, I'd like to answer Wade's question with a question: Is initiation into manhood a thing of the past, or has it simply manifested itself in different ways that reflect modernity?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Oops!!!

Ok, I made a little mistake with regard to my synopsis of each chapter...I skipped Ch. 5! Oh well, thankfully Wade has kept on track and provided us with an idea of Eldredge's message.
Another good aspect of the book is that one chapter deals with the stage, while the succeeding chapter focuses on "raising" him while in that stage. Rather than discuss what I read last night in Ch. 7, I'll just respond to what my good friend wrote.
When thinking about doing something EPIC, sometimes it can be a life changing experience, or possibly the changing of a lifestyle. Going back to why I joined the Army, I have to admit that there was a commingling of several different reasons. First off, I felt conviction. After all, I was of age, physically fit and possessed a strong desire to serve in the public realm. Also, I'd been sitting in a classroom learning and debating the various aspects of what was referred to at the time as Global War on Terror (GWOT) and was ready to play an active role. However, there were some "opportunistic" reasons that also played a factor. With public service in mind, I knew that veterans receive preference when applying for federal jobs, so it was a good way of getting "a foot in the door." Also, if any of you know my history, in the past I've expressed an interest in running for public office, and again being a veteran is definitely a plus. HOWEVER, what I have experienced throughout my time in the service has been the exact opposite of what "planned." I no longer have a desire to run for office and working for the Feds isn't that appealing to me anymore. During this time "in the wilderness" I have begun LISTENING to God and seeking His will for my life. My selfish ambition has finally taken a backseat to God's will and a focus on serving him and others in another capacity has emerged. Honestly, I don't know where it's going to take me after my time is up; but just like Wade, I have a passion for the profound and am beginning to seek out ways that I can find the godly fulfillment in life that He wants men to have. Oddly enough, this doesn't mean going on another journey somewhere else, since Les and I plan on moving back to Knoxville. I still want to finish school and get the coveted "Post hole Digger", and we want to be close to our family and friends. Yet, something is stirring and I'm trying my best to listen to God and seek the counsel of godly men.
I encourage those of you men who are feeling that same desire inside of you to make a concerted effort to spend time in communication with God and find out what he's trying to tell you. Also, talk with important men in your lives and get their advice on what you should do. Taking these two steps will ensure that you're making the right decision and the Lord will comfort and ease the hearts of loved ones who might be a little skeptical of your idea. Don't give up and remember Phillipians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."
Take care.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Another Manlationship

If you haven't already noticed it, I'm getting a little attached to the term "manlationship." I think it's a great one word description for a particular relationship that men can have with each other. In honor of that, I'd like to describe another close friend of mine... a LIFELONG friend.
I've written about Freightrain Knox before, particularly our climatic and climactic ascent to good 'ol Rocky Top. It's a prime example of how two men can share a common love for adventure, but more importantly, a desire to SHARE that experience with ANOTHER man.
Wade mentioned how beneficial it can be to find a man to help guide you into another stage, or one who you can guide into the stage you're in; yet, I think it's just as important to find someone who's going through the SAME stage as you. Not only can the two of you share in those same experiences at the same time, but it's also a great opportunity to "compare notes."
Train was one of the first people I met when my family moved to Jefferson City, TN back in 1988. We spent 10 years together on the swim team, and we've spent another 10 years as close friends who genuinely care about each other. Unlike Train, I don't have any brothers (he's got two), but I can honestly say that he's the closest I'll ever come to having one. Sure, I've got a brother-in-law and Jimmy IS my family, but we didn't grow up together. Jeff, on the other hand, has been with me through ever stage of life. He's one of the funniest guys I've ever met and he's the most loyal, hard-working person you'll ever come across. Moreover, he's become a better man thanks to his "better half" Lindsay, just like Leslie's helped turn me around. He was my last roommate before getting married and he spent the last days of his bachelorhood at my house. We've been through some awesome adventures and the great thing is that the best are yet to come.
When I look at the relationship of Jonathan and David in the Old Testament, I can't help but think about much I care about him and want to see him succeed in life. Frankly, it's impossible for me to think that someone could misconstrue our relationship as feminine or "gay." More importantly, I can't see how men would WANT to go through life without a friend like that in their lives. Read through scripture and you'll find a host of verses that defend this type of lifestyle and while I'm not saying that men who don't have such a relationship are living outside of God's will, I do think they're missing out!
On to the next chapter!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bromance???

Leslie and I are active participants in a bible study with Officer's Christian Fellowship. We meet every Tuesday night for dinner and "the Word", something we look forward to each week. For the next several weeks, we have split up by gender and us guys have started a study of 1 Samuel, what Lt. (Luke) Rella accurately titled "Bromance" study!
I think this is somewhat of an adequate title for what Wade described at the end of his post. In his words:

1. We need to be looking for who around us is in the stage we're moving toward and able (by this I mean willing) to bestow on us their time & talents; and
2. We need to be looking for who around us is in the stage we're leaving that we can lead.


Actually it's not THAT relevant to what he mentioned, but it's definitely a catchy title! What Wade's talking more about is the notion of mentorship, from either end of the phase. Although it might seem difficult to discern what stage another person is in, it's not inconceivable. It's very possible to find someone your age who's already been in the Cowboy stage and is moving on the Warrior stage. On the other hand, it's very likely to have someone your age that hasn't quite grown up yet. So, you can't always assume that someone your age is in the exact same stage of life as you.
Going back to the bible study that my small group is doing, I think looking at scripture is a great way to, especially with another man, is a great way to transition into or out of a stage. This "road" isn't meant to be traveled alone and I think it's something God EXPECTS of us. A prime example of this is the relationship that Wade and I have developed over the years. While there are some life experiences we share, there are several things that he's experienced already that I'm going through now. Relationships like these shouldn't be one person giving to the other. Quid Pro Quo definitely applies to "man-lationships".
Here's a question I would like to pose, it doesn't have to be answered, but definitely pondered: Is there anyone in your life that you think might be able to help you transition into another phase, OR someone you can help foster into your current stage?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Ch. 6: Raising the Cowboy

I want to begin my post by saying that this chapter most definitely struck a chord with me. Throughout each page, all I could do was sit back and reflect on where I've been and where I want to go. Although I could ramble on for hours about this stuff, I'm going to focus more on what Wade wrote, adding a little of my own experiences and opinions to affirm what he was saying... with maybe a little dissension.
First off, I'm surprised Wade was able remember all the way back to his 6th grade dance parties!!! HAHAHA!!! (Sorry, had a throw a quick jab). In all seriousness though, I think his unique analogy holds water when looking at the initiative that man must take in order to get initiated by God. When examining the agent (i.e., action, statement, thought, etc.) that is needed to bring about change in a man's life, I think there's a little stirring of the Holy Spirit at work. I once had a friend ask what led me to salvation. Without hesitation I said, "I just felt this pulling at my heart, something inside of me that was leading me to Him." As if Bryan had predicted my response, he immediately asked me another question, "Where do you think that came from?" "The Holy Spirit" I said. "Exactly," he mused, "so did you choose him, or did he choose you???" Without going off on a predestination tangent, I tell that story only to argue that that most men seek to initiate change based on the movement of the Holy Spirit. I would even posit that this is the catalyst for transitioning from the Beloved Son to the Cowboy.
Walk with me on this trail, if you will: according to Eldredge, man yearns to feel loved, and he inevitably asks God this question, "do you love me, Lord?" To which He replies, "Yes, you are my beloved son....now get going!" I believe this is the moment when God tells the Boy that he is ready to become a Cowboy.
Now, to Wade's mention of where He wants us to go. Although Eldredge doesn't lay out any specific destinations, he does STRONGLY encourage a type of locale. This is where I feel a deep connection to this chapter, because over the past couple of years I have developed a sincere passion for the outdoors, particularly the mountains.
Despite growing up at the base of the Smoky Mtns, I can't say that I am much of an outdoorsman. I used to kid around that I loved to be outdoors, as long as it was fenced in! However, throughout my own personal masculine journey, I have started looking to nature as my "sanctuary", and that was before I joined the Army. This environment is where I think men should go when searching for God's direction for their life, especially those who do not normally partake in outdoor activities. If you were to look at practically all the major men in Scripture, each spent time "in the wilderness" with God. Moses, David, John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul, and a host of others all sought refuge in the wild when communicating with the great I Am. So, if you're feeling an urge to do something different, maybe you should go get a map of the nearest wooded area and start walking. I guarantee you He won't let you get lost!
Back to the dance for a quick point: we are all change targets, whether we like it or not. What we all need to discern is that agent in our individual lives. Frankly, I'm in the "wilderness" right now, aka the Army. God took Les and I away from our friends and family for some alone time, and what I'm trying to figure out now is what to do when we return home.
OK, this chapter has way too much good stuff to write one post on, so I'll save the rest of later.
I speak for both of us when I say that we eagerly await some responses!
Take care.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Calling All MEN!!!

It's been roughly a month since Wade and I have begun this "discussion" on Eldredge's The Way of the Wild Heart and we've both been enjoying our time spent on this project. HOWEVER, it's mainly just been the TWO OF US talking about how this book relates to our lives. After getting to spend a little time together this weekend, we've both been wondering who, if anyone, has been reading our blogs and/or the book. "What do we need to do in order to get a little feedback from guys?" Wade asked me yesterday. Unfortunately, I couldn't come up with an answer.
IF there is anyone reading either the blog or the book, WE WOULD LOVE YOU INPUT!!! It can be in the form of simply commenting on our blogs, or starting your own discussion board (aka, a blog) if you feel compelled elaborate on your thoughts. Honestly, we don't really care how you comment, JUST COMMENT!!! (I know the capital letters and exclamation points might be a little annoying, but I'm trying emphasize the tone of my voice).
We've gone through the first four chapters, but there are still several left and we really don't want to go through this alone. You don't even have to read the book, as I feel that two synopses should suffice in getting the author's point across; but I'm sure a topic or question has stirred something in your brain that is worthy of mentioning. While I don't want this to sound like a desperate plea for participation, it's definitely a call for assistance in learning more about becoming the man God wants us all to be.
Take care.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

God the FATHER

When thinking about raising the Beloved Son, it seems that there are many similarities between the way God raised Jesus Christ, HIS Beloved Son. There are many instances throughout the New Testament where we see how He delighted in his son. The most explicit account is when Christ is baptized. After he is raised out of the water and the heavens open up, a voice from heaven says, "This is My Beloved Son. I take delight in Him!" (Matt 4:17). Although these same actions didn't take place during my baptism, I can honestly say that I felt as though God was telling me this. Moreover, I remember how proud my father was that night, and he delighted in me.
Throughout this chapter, Eldredge focuses on the importance of feeling loved by fathers during boyhood, and there is some merit behind this way of thinking. However, I'm not so sure it's essential to being a man. The author recounts a story of a man who confronted his father about the lack of love and affection he received as a boy, and how he wanted his father to be proud and delight in him. "I can't. My father never did that for me" was the father's response. While I do not dispute this father's inability to do so at the time, does it mean he is forever incapable of exuding these fatherly characteristics if they were never predisposed to it themselves? I argue that he is capable, but it will take some time for him to develop them and give his son what he needs.
It's impractical to think that a man has got to seek and receive the approval of his father before he can begin to pass on those feelings to his son, and I don't think that's what Eldredge is trying to say. Instead, each man can look to the Holy Father for this strength and character, and THAT is what the author is pointing out. If you as a man/father think you are incapable of expressing the love and affection that is needed to raise the Beloved Son, then look to God for it. Just like God delighted in Jesus, he does the same with you. More importantly, he will SHOW you this in your life.
Here are some questions I want you to chew on for a bit: Do you think God delights in you? If so, how and why/not?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Ch. 4: Raising the Beloved Son

Wade has started the chapter off with some really deep, heartfelt answers, and I only hope to add a little of my point of view to it. Feeling like a Beloved Son, yet not feeling like I'm the most important person in my father's life is probably the most important aspect of my childhood that I took from this.
I really appreciate the story Eldredge tells of spending time with his son Luke while the rest of the boys were out of town. However, this is mainly how I felt most of my life growing up because I was the ONLY son. This doesn't mean that my father neglected my sisters, (quite the opposite) but being the only boy made it easier to have his attention when we were doing masculine things. Wade's point about the difference between raising boys and girls speaks to the relationship between him and my sibs.
Also, when thinking about bringing out the "inner boy" who needs to feel loved and protected, it's hard for me to think that's always necessary. Does he mean that a man has got to come to grips with the fact that he was neglected or abused as a child? Or that they need a good cry to get it out? Furthermore, I do think it's possible for a non-Beloved Son to raise a Beloved Son. A man doesn't have to let the inner boy out before he can be the kind of father that loves his son. This is evidenced by my dad, who I believe was a NBS (acronym seems relevant).
When I was young, one aspect of "quality time" with dad was watching movies, particularly James Bond. It is something he grew up doing and it was only natural that he expose his children to this world of imagination. Even to this day, we love going to movies together and critiquing them after we're done. This is probably the only time that we communicate with each other, but just being around him makes me feel loved.
I'm going to elaborate a little more on this topic later, but I have to attend to a banquet this evening and the wife is yelling at me to get ready!
Take care!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Youa Culpa!

Since Wade dropped the Mea Culpa bomb on his inability to stick to schedule, I won't hassle him too much; yet, my hope is that others will also jump in and hold him to his word...however "loose" it might be!
My good friend really hit on the crux of fatherhood, that of providing and protecting for his family. I think this particular facet is a great way to do a self-check (for you fathers), but also how to prepare for the journey (for those of us who aren't). More importantly, it's an opportunity to reflect on what your father did right or wrong.
To answer Wade's questions:
- My father didn't travel a lot, but he did work a lot. Two jobs in two different towns required a lot of his time, especially weekends. Although it took away from time at home, his sole priority was financially providing for me and the girls.
- There's no doubt that both he and my mother went without in order to provide for us. It seemed like every time they got their savings up, one of us did something that completely wiped it out. I think the proudest my parents have ever been of me was when I became financially independent from them (thanks to the wifey)!
- This one's a little tricky because it's a matter of opinion. I doubt my sisters would agree with me on this; but going back to the first bullet point, my parents were maybe TOO willing to help us financially, despite the lesson we could have learned. Don't get me wrong, my selfish nature would probably be really bitter at them if they let me go into serious debt rather than bail me out. While I never had a credit card growing up, that was mainly because I was living on credit with them! They both have a hundred stories of me wanting something at that moment and "promising" to pay them back!
There's no doubt that my father looked at his job as the means of providing for us, but he also viewed his work as service to the Lord, especially his time as the Director of the Media Ministry at our church. At times I resented him for going up to the church after teaching all day and spending maybe 30 minutes to an hour at the house; but when I got older, I realized his commitment to honoring the Father in his work. I know he would've much rather been at the house with us; yet, he was CALLED to serve and I sincerely regret any animosity towards him for that.
My ol' pal dad most definitely provided me with the protection and stability I needed to be a boy and grow up at my own pace. Furthermore, he allowed me to make my choices, regardless of the consequences, but was there to help me when I needed it.
When I look at Wade and Tori together, I can't help but think that he's doing the same thing! I just hope I can follow suit.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Ch. 3: Boyhood

I often tell people that I don't really remember much about my childhood. The truth is, I don't. Sure, I remember some of things I used to do on a regular basis, like go to the City pool or play at the Little League baseball field. But I honestly don't have very many memories of my childhood like many of you reading this probably do. It's not that my upbringing was abnormal or nearly as difficult as some I've met throughout the years, because I honestly believe I had a good childhood. Frankly, I think it's exactly the opposite. I had TOO MANY good memories to remember them all!
The boyhood phase, as Eldredge describes it, is the most definitive period in a boy's life. It's the time when he learns how to be a male, and the one who shows him how to do this is either his father or an older male who plays a prominent role in his everyday life. In short, this man shows the boy that he is the Beloved Son. Although the boy's real father is the most preferable male to play this role, Eldredge doesn't limit this role so specifically. Many boys live without their real fathers, so it's impossible to believe that a boy can't go through this phase without being raised by that ONE person. A grandfather, uncle, stepfather, or even neighbor could easily provide the boy with the masculine contact needed to feel loved and cared for.
Eldredge tells the story of how his father "checked out" of his life and the lasting effect it had on him. Despite being there in body, he was absent in mind and spirit. His father's alcoholism took the purity of boyhood from him and the scars are still present in his life. This has happened to many men; however, I'm so thankful to say that it's not something I can sympathize with. While I cannot look back on the memory of my ol' pal dad teaching me how to ride a bike (big sisters checked that box for me), there is one moment with him that I will forever cherish. He took me to the old intramural field at Carson Newman and threw BP to me until his arm was about to fall off. The smile on his face every time I hit one past him showed me that I was his Beloved Son.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Quick Update

Although I'm in the midst of examining the masculine journey, I've been informed by She Who Must Be Obeyed (ala David Feherty) that I still need to discuss Life in the Army. So, in that spirit, here are a few things that have happened to me lately.
First, I am no longer wearing a "butter bar" on my chest! For those of you less schooled in the rank lingo, that means I got promoted from Second Lieutenant to First Lieutenant. Despite still being an LT, I get a pretty nice raise and strangers have the impression that I could pin on Captain any day now. If only they knew the truth!
Another big issue has to do with my health. Unfortunately, things haven't been going very well for me lately. I attempted to start Air Assault School (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Army_Air_Assault_School) this past Thursday; however, it was cut short due to a nasty spill I took at the top of about a 20 foot rope. To make a long story short (too late), I've been having chest pains, shortness of breath, and dizzy spells. At this point, the doctors aren't too sure what's wrong with me, so I've begun a somewhat extensive process of tests ranging from x-rays and EKGs to heart monitors and echocardiograms. Lord willing, I'll get a better idea of what my heart is trying to tell me.
I hope this doesn't worry too many of you, because Leslie's taking care of that for the both of us. I'm trying to remain calm, but it's difficult at times. I ask for your prayers during this time and will keep you all posted on my status over the next few weeks.
Take care and tune in for more on the Wild Heart!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New Allegiances

I love my family...absolutely love them. It's hard for me to imagine living without my parents, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even though two of my grandparents have passed on, I've been blessed to have the other two throughout much of my life. Although I am fully aware of the fact that I could very well have to do so, it pains me even more to think of spending eternity apart from them.
One cannot dispute how important family relationships are to the Christian life; yet, Jesus Christ himself said that one's earthly family should never take precedence over his heavenly family.
"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring, peace, but a SWORD. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law - a man's enemies will be the members of his own household." (Matt. 10:34-36)
WHAT!?!?!? I must treat my own family as my enemy?!?!?! Absolutely... IF they aren't a part of your heavenly family. Christ is telling us that our eternal family is our REAL family, since eternity is a lot longer than a man's life. For some of you, this might be disheartening, especially if some of your loved ones aren't believers. I myself feel a sense of urgency when thinking of family and friends who haven't accepted God's sufficient grace and become part of "the family."
As depressing as this might sound, it's important to understand the role that YOU play in that unbelievers life and how much of an impact you can be on their ETERNAL life. After all, this is what we as Christians are called to do... especially you MEN!
Take care.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Ch. 2: True Son Of A True Father

"Are you saying Jesus Christ can't hit a curve ball?"
I felt is necessary to quote one of my favorite lines from the movie Wade mentioned in his blog, and not just because it's funny. Actually, I think it's very applicable to the topic at hand.
In the story mentioned by my brother from another mother, Sam felt as though God didn't want him to buy a kayak because he didn't think God wanted anything good for him. Although there have been a number of times that I've felt the same way, I have to continuously remind myself that it's just NOT true. Eldredge himself points to a number of verses in the Bible where God repeatedly assures us that he will provide for us (Matt. 6:26-28; 7:9-14).
One of my favorite aspects of Spring is the blooming of nature. It amazes me how plants and flowers can "hibernate" during the winter and suddenly regrow as it begins to warm up. While I'm not a fan of mowing the lawn, I can't help but admire the beauty of fresh, green grass. These are just some examples of how God provides for something much less important to him that you and me; yet we constantly feel like God is out to punish us. Does God want you to be happy? Of course! But the real question is WHAT makes you happy?
In answering the question of what brings me joy, I'd have to say that being with my friends and family makes me happy. Moreover, there are some activities, like hiking, golf, playing my guitar, that also make me happy; but I think what I do with my family, or those activities I enjoy should be a direct reflection of my relationship with Christ. For instance, if I enjoy binge drinking, fighting, stealing, and the like, it's hard for me to believe that Christ WANTS me to do that. However, if I find joy in godly things, like growing relationships or enjoying the beauty of God's creations, and it makes me cherish and want to preserve those relationships/creations, then why wouldn't God want me to be happy? Asking yourself this questions is yet another way to do a self-assessment or spiritual gut-check to determine where your true priorities are. Better yet, look at where you spend your money each month.
In short, do I think Jesus Christ can hit a curve ball? If he can do all the things I just mentioned, how could he not?
Take care.