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.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Are You An Unfinished Man?

Although we've already touched on this issue/topic a little, I'd like to impart some of my personal experiences in the realm of being "initiated" into manhood. As Eldredge attests, the most important man-figure in a boy's life has always been his father. Despite the unfortunate growth in the "absent father" demographic, I'm proud to say that I've never lacked the father-figure in my life.
For those of you that know me (at all), my father is bound to come up at some point in just about any discussion we have. It's no secret that I have a deep, sincere love for my father, and I've often said that I am who I am because of him. Although he never taught me to fish, change the oil in my car, or tie a bowline knot, what he did teach me is far more valuable. Growing up, I learned about hard work, commitment, integrity, faithfulness, and discipline just by watching him each day. I'm not trying to put him up on a pedestal, as he's far from perfect; yet he strives for perfection and to give the Lord his all.
Honestly, it's hard for me to sympathize with someone who grew up without a father. Sure, my dad didn't make to everyone of my games, or effectively communicate his feelings; but he was always there for me. Something I wish HE could say about HIS father. One of the most tragic stories he's ever told me was being nine years old and running out to the driveway to welcome his father home after being gone for a little while. As a ran up to hug him, my grandfather stopped him and stuck out his hand. "Men don't hug, they shake hands."
It pains me to tell this story, and think of the many other ones dad's told me over the years. I just hope that none of you have these same stories. Hopefully, this book and these discussions will help us all in becoming the father we always wanted.
By the way, I'm almost 29 years old and I STILL hug my father!
Take care.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Ego Pollen

In typical Wade fashion, the group is now introduced to a pretty nifty idea, ego pollen. This boy (or should I say Cowboy?) wonder managed to concoct a term that I think best describes the normal pattern of men when they transition from one stage to another. For better or worse, men grow accustomed to certain characteristics found in each phase, and naturally carry them into the next. Sometimes it's a conscious decision, while at other times it's unbeknownst to him. The obvious question associated with this notion and posited by my good friend is who should be responsible for determining which stage the man is in? What is more, who determines when he has successfully moved into the next one?
In my opinion, the most important accountability partner for a man when assessing his current status is his "inner man." While this isn't nearly as catchy as ego pollen, I think we can all learn a thing or two when letting our conscience be our guide. It's very plausible that Eldredge's lack of attention on identifying individuals who help determine where a man is in his life could be intentional, so as not to force us to seek them out for answers. Moreover, because men have different types of relationships with other men, the author might give men free reign when choosing their "masculine mentor" or "stage guide." Personally, I think it's my responsibility as a man, and child of God, to do a self-assessment, or masculine gut-check, to see where I am at that moment, as well as where I've been and want to go. Knowing the various characteristics and tendencies associated with each stage enables reflective thinking; however, this is not the only method that should be used. In scripture, Christian men are called to hold each other accountable, and this is a great method for doing so.
Example: If a particular issue or problem takes center stage in my life, I instinctively think of what I did right or wrong; yet, it's impossible for me to garner all the answers. Throughout our friendship, Wade and I have often expressed our thoughts and feelings with each other (I know this sounds kind of feminine guys, but stay with me) and what I have found is that HE has aided me in assessing where I'm successful in life or falling short. While it's easy for me to talk myself out of certain things or feel like a failure, Wade has been there to provide objective interpretation and steer me in the right direction.
So, in an attempt to answer Wade's questions, I think it's my responsibility to assess where I'm at in my life, as well as yours. A wise old sage once said you can't go through life alone. In that spirit, this group is here to help each other through [every stage in a man's] life. The best way to do this is identifying the "stage habits" in a man's life.
What do you think?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Masculine Journey Cont'd

As exciting and fun as the first three phases of a man's life might be, I think it's these last three that will really define him and determine the "legacy" we all seek to leave.
Lover - This is an area of life that men tend to either focus too much on, or completely miss altogether. Not limited just to loving the woman, this stage awakens men to the beauty of life in general; however, it is during this phase that men focus on women, particularly offering himself to her.
King - Seriously, who wouldn't want to be seen as a King??? Whatever your "kingdom" might be, this is a period where you're in charge of people, whether as a boss, father, coach, etc. You rule over these people, and they look to you for answers or solutions. Although you are seen as the "head honcho" or "big man on campus", this is a time of great responsibility and accountability. This, along with being a Lover, are two of the most tumultuous phases because the decisions you make and the actions you take can have the greatest long-term impact on those around you.
Sage - When I think of a Sage, I'm reminded of the great ancient philosophers. Men like Plato and Aristotle established much of the concepts we still use to interpret and understand the world around us. There are probably several men in your personal life, or in America, that you look to for advice. The knowledge they impart to you seems to make life easier to understand, especially when going through tough times. Their "been there, done that" advice gives you what is needed to better navigate your way through each day. Some may say that it's in the sunset of a man's life that he reaches this phase, but I say it could begin as quickly as when he moves on to the next stage.
I have now summarized the 6 stages that Eldredge ascribes to each man's life. Next, I'm going to discuss some pros and cons to them and how other men can affect how long he stays in each one. Wade has touched on this issue in his post, but I'm sure he's got even more thoughts on the matter, as this is the crux of the chapter.
FYI, another good friend and former Marine, Barrett, is joining the discussion. For his thoughts on the book, and the Wild Heart in general, you can visit his blog at:
http://veteran.typepad.com/this_veteran_life/
Take care.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ch. 1: The Masculine Journey

LET THE BLOGGING BEGIN!!!

So, are you a Boy, Cowboy, Warrior, Lover, King or Sage??? If you're wondering how Eldredge defines each of these stages in a man's life, here's a brief synopsis of each category; however, it should be noted that the author doesn't really pinpoint a certain age to each phase, but tries to narrow it down to a decade or experience.
Boy - Pretty self explanatory, since a boy is a boy. He's discovering the world around him, despite being somewhat sheltered by his parents; yet, he's allowed to act his age and discover himself with little to no consequences.
Cowboy - Throughout his teenage years into his late twenties, he begins to push his limits and prepare himself for the future. I, just like the guys Eldredge describes in the book, learned how to drive, play sports, explored the many facets of college life, and started to develop lifelong goals.
Warrior - I know what you're thinking, but just because I'm a soldier in the Army doesn't necessarily mean I'm in this stage, or that just because you're not in the military, you can't be in this stage. A Warrior, I argue, is someone who finds his passion or interests and seeks them out. It could be a career, a hobby, or simply a challenge in life that you want to conquer. Although men always want to be seen as a Warrior, this stage is more prominent in his thirties or maybe forties. He learns the rigors of discipline needed to be successful, both in life and beyond.
Before moving on to the other three phases, I want to reflect on my time as a Boy and a Cowboy. Having two older sisters, I have to admit that I was forced to play and even act like a girl, albeit very reluctantly! About the time I became a Cowboy, I was able to defend myself better and make my own decisions, but luckily those instances were few and far between. I made a lot of mistakes as a Cowboy, but ones that I think helped develop me into the Warrior I strive to be each day, but I'm more concerned about being a Warrior for Christ, not my country. These decisions will forever overshadow anything I do on the battlefield.
After you read this, take some time to think about your life during each of these three stages and maybe how they helped prepare you for the next one.
Tomorrow, I'll discuss the next three and how important they are to being a father.
Take care.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Following The Wild Heart


It was shortly after New Year's in 2007 that my close friend Wade bought me a book called "Wild At Heart" by John Eldredge. This book has not only altered my life, but more importantly, my way of thinking. I can point to it as somewhat of a catalyst for getting me to where I am today, for better or worse (but mainly for the better). What Eldredge has sought to do throughout his many writings is evoke the Godly characteristics of masculinity within each man that has been long suppressed by modern culture and society.

Rather than provide a redundant summation of our relationship, I'll point you to Wade's blog http://www.tnfodder.blogspot.com/, which encapsulates just how close we've become in our roughly four years of friendship. The only thing Wade failed to mention is how much older he is than me (8 years). However, if we were standing side by side, you'd think I was older than him!

If there are still any people out there who take the time to read my posts, I ask that you also make it a point to visit Wade's because over the next several weeks, the two of us will be posting our own personal thoughts and opinions on another one of Eldredge's books, "The Way of the Wild Heart." Somewhat of an addendum to his first publication on the subject, Eldredge provides a "map" for the masculine journey. Rather than providing a step by step process that so many other authors try to propose, this author seeks to give readers "a lay of the land" and let them determine the route.

Let there be no mistake, these books are not about trying to become more manly, as guys who like to hunt, fish, watch football and drink beer aren't necessary men. Each male is divinely infused with certain characteristics that can only be found in a man of God, and it's our responsility to seek them out, not only for ourselves, but for our friends and family.

If any of you out there are interested in reading these books or just learning more about the book, I strongly encourage you to periodically visit our blogs. Both Wade and I hope to grow deeper in our faith and friendship with each other, but also provide encouragement for every man our there who wants to find what their heart is longing for.

Stay tuned, the fun is about to begin!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

You'll Always Be Home Sweet Home To Me

Before delving into The Way of the Wild Heart, I wanted to post a quick story about a great trip I took with my childhood friend Freight train. When I first moved to Jefferson City in 1988, Train was one of the first people I've met, and through thick and thin, we've remained good friends ever since.

Recently, the two of us did an overnighter up in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Although we didn't get very far into the Park on Saturday, we quickly set up camp and try to build a fire. Despite the mounds of wood we'd collected, it was all too wet to burn; however, I managed to spot a downed tree that was covering a dry patch of dry deadwood and some tinder. We got enough of a fire going to cook our hot dogs, but that was about it. With our bellies warmed from the food, we hit the sack for the night.

We spent most of Sunday hiking all the way up to Thunderhead Mountain, where the Appalachian Trail runs right along the NC/TN border. Not only does this trail have a magnificent view, but it also houses some beloved UT history. The second peak of Thunderhead Mountain just so happens to be ROCKY TOP!!! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Train and I took our passion for the Volunteers to new heights (pun intended) and below is our tribute to the Big Orange.

video

The only person I know that's topped this is Train's mother-in-law, who hoofed a Banjo up to Rocky Top and play the greatest fight song in the country while sitting on its hallowed grounds!

Hope you enjoyed. Take care.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Happy Birthday To Them!

For those of you who don't already know, today my beautiful bride turns 29. Although I'm sure not very many people would want to broadcast the infamous last birthday of one's twenties, I still think it's important to acknowledge this special day.
You might also be interested in knowing that today is her brother Jonathan's birthday....but they're not twins!!! Today is Jonathan's 32nd birthday, and these two individuals are the only ones I know that are not twins, yet have the same birthday. Pretty neat, huh? Leslie will tell everyone that she was the best birthday present Jonathan ever got, but I'm sure he'll beg to differ.
What's even funnier is that if you count back from their birthday 9 months, you come to the month of June...which just so happens to be their parents' anniversary!!! HAHAHAHA!!!
Happy birthday Leslie and Jonathan. I'm so glad I married you honey and thanks to Jonathan for keeping her alive all these years!
Take care.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

EQO

I believe I've mentioned in an earlier post that one of the many duties I've been assigned since returning to Post is that of the Environmental Quality Officer for the Squadron. The title alone is pretty self-explanatory, but I'm sure it's hard for many to believe that the Army even cares about the environment. Well, in some cases, it doesn't; but when it comes to CONUS installations, such as Fort Campbell, they are required to follow almost all federal regulatory policies regarding the environment.
This week I have been attending the EQO course that "certifies" soldiers to take on the responsibility of ensuring that their respective units are adherring to federal law. Moreover, we have been learning a lot about how all the various departments on the installation aid and assist in maintaining the proper procedures. For instance, you'd be surprised to know that Fort Campbell recycles its own water, solid waste, and the like. Because people, like me and the wife, live on post, there are several programs involved in providing us with the necessary amenities afforded to people who live off-post. These are things like, garbage pickup, recycling, water provision, etc. At least 1/4 of the over 25,000 people who work on this installation are in some way involved in these various services. While I could spend hours explaining all the different things that the Army does to help the environment, I won't bore you with the details. I just think it's good for you "civilians" to know that the military is doing its part in helping preserve Mother earth.
Have you hugged an environmentally conscious soldier lately???
HA!
Take care.