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 and

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"'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!