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 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.