Monday, February 28, 2005

Letters and Opsec

I'm following some suggestions to further edit Dan's letters. I've been fairly comfortable that Dan's letters are largely benign and vague enough, but there are a few minor operational details that we can live without--you can never be too safe. Fortunately most of Dan's letters contain information already quite public.

I hope these letters of his remind you to pray for his safety and his speedy return home.

The Burning Bush

I had a reality check the other day.

I was doing some yard work, since it was the first warm weather after the snow melted. I picked up sticks and some fallen branches and then took some shears and went about cutting down some bushes. I believe it's called fountain grass (picture a tuft of grass but four to six feet high, a foot or two in diameter). One bush in particular was larger than the rest and I could see that it would take too long to do it by hand. So I went and got fire.

It took about five seconds before the dry, yellow grass became a towering fifteen foot blowtorch roaring only inches away from my garage. In stunned disbelief, I tilted my head and calculated the response time of the local fire department, the cost of replacing my garage and it's contents, and the loss of face from everyone over five who understands not to play with matches.

As quickly as it started the fire died down to nothing, my garage unscathed. Meanwhile the grass in my yard had started burning and I quickly went about rescuing miscellaneous yard items from being burned.

After everything was under control, I stopped to consider what had happened. Did I understand how fire worked? Yes. Did I have experience successfully burning things without causing property damage? Yes. Did I understand that starting a fire two feet from an outbuilding without any handy source of water would be considered by most people "foolhardy?" Yes.

Then what was I doing?! Why do people knowingly do things that are likely to hurt them in the long run? Why do people lie, steal, cheat, and set their yards on fire when they know better? Do we have a death wish? Do we want to ruin every relationship, opportunity, and blessing we have?

It must be some unredeemed aspect of human nature. A reckless disregard for cause and effect usually visible only in men with power tools but present in every conniving scheme and manipulation in human experience. It will not be resolved by more education or more experience. And it is not the exclusive property of the poor or the dimwitted.

But it may be another indicator that we can't trust our own wisdom and that our hearts need help beyond what we can do for ourselves.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Letters from SSG Dan, Part 4

More letters from SSG Dan to his wife. Sherrie notes: If anyone has the time and can write to some of these guys, that would be great. I personally cannot imagine what it would be like to be 7000 miles from home and have no correspondence from anyone. Well, Danny and I want to thank everyone for your faithfulness in praying for these people. I know God hears and our men feel it. Love you all, Sherrie

January 16, 2005
Taji, Iraq

I got your letter yesterday and it is always the best part of my day when I hear from you. We left… for a mission to Al Asad and didn’t get back until [morning]. I slept part of the day, then got up, ate, cold sponge bath, and back to bed. We are going back to Al Asad tonight and probably won’t be back for [awhile]. It’s been really hectic around here.

I read a book called A Man Called Peter about Peter Marshall, the senate chaplain. It really made me think of us. If you get a chance, read that book. I know you would like it. (My pen keeps skipping.) No word on our leave dates yet. I told them it didn’t matter much to me, because some of the guys have kids graduating and babies being born. I hope to come home while you are out of school, but I’m not sure that will happen. I really look forward to coming home. I will probably get April or May or later in August or Sept. We will make that our goal: to look to that date and not worry too much about the rest of my tour. Who knows? Maybe the war will be over in August and everyone will get to come home. [Sherrie notes: He says these kinds of things so I won’t get too discouraged and always have hope it will end sooner than expected. I know his game though.]

I am watching the 1072nd load up their trucks for the trip down to Kuwait. They are leaving tomorrow and they are really happy!! I can’t wait until it’s our turn to head south. Well, I really don’t know what to write about. Our missions are interesting, but I’m not supposed to go into detail in case our mail gets intercepted. I thought of a few more things you could send me. A fishing pole and a small box with jigs and small spoons and spinners and a few hooks. I understand there are some lakes near the airport that have fish in them. Well, I’ll sign off for now.

P.S. Send pictures and fishing magazines
P.S.S. Tell Mary that one of my soldiers got a letter from her and he was so proud of that. He read it to everyone! Thanks Mary!
P.S.S.S. Keep praying for us!

January 16, 2005
Taji, Iraq

I have a few minutes so I thought I’d write a few lines. I’m kind of blue today and it helps to think of you. I’ve been trying to buy a used TV, but have had no luck. If I don’t find one soon, I guess I’ll buy one at the PX. I feel guilty that I’ve spent so much money on this deployment. I’ve bought CB radios, GPS’s, batteries, flashlights, and on and on. Every mission I go through about 15 or 20 batteries. I run my little E-TREX to map my routes and find grids and I use my RHINO for the 2-way radio and to check grids and mileage. I’m primarily the navigator on the missions I’ve been on so far. I don’t know what we would do without this stuff. It keeps us from getting lost. We drive at night most of the time and some of our roads are dirt roads that you can barely see. I went to the intel briefing. Before every mission they have an intel brief to tell us what routes are closed and where there have been attacks or IED’s (improvised explosive devices) We just try to be a little more aware in those areas.

[Jared notes: the Pentagon announced this week that IED attacks are becoming less effective if not less common. Instead of 90% causing casualties, it's more like 25%.]

January 19, 2005
Taji, Iraq

It was so great to talk to you yesterday. I really don’t mind driving 200 miles through Baghdad, Fallujah, Ramadi, and out across the desert through enemy territory, mines, IED’s, mortar attacks, small arms fire, and RPG’s if I can call you on the phone without waiting in line! I’ll bet there is not another person in all the world who would do all that just to talk to you on the phone! We made it back safely from Taji [earlier]. I got some mail from Anita, Melissa, Judy and the padded envelope from you. I’ve got to figure out some system for remembering who sends me what and when. My days and nights are all running together and I’m having trouble remembering things.

January 23, 2005
Taji, Iraq

These last few days have gone by in such a blur, I’m not sure what day it is. When I called you from BIAP (Baghdad International Airport) I asked for your prayers for my return. We didn’t have any incidents and got back safely… [Sherrie notes: Danny has said that they have been shot at before]. Thank you for the prayers.

I got back to my bed by 1am on Saturday and I didn’t have any mail. I was really expecting some, so I was kind of disappointed. I went to bed and when I woke up, I had a package and some letters!! IT WAS SO GREAT!! Candy, magazines, movies, etc. Then yesterday, I got another package, more letters, a fruit cake and some cashews. I’m so afraid I’ll not answer all my mail and someone will be hurt. Please tell every one thanks for writing and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to answer them all. I’ll do my best, but we are so busy and my days and nights are running together.

January 23, 2005
Taji, Iraq

It rained all day yesterday and all night last night. Our electricity went out and it is COLD in our barracks. I’m sitting in my chair writing with my coat on. Ross's Mom died yesterday, and Berry and I had to tell him. He just sat and sobbed. We hugged him and cried with him. I think he is going home today on emergency leave to attend the funeral.

January 25, 2005
Taji, Iraq

It is sunny today and pretty warm which feels good. Last night was in the 30’s and we still have no heat. I’m sitting outside in the sun right now. One of my guys [name withheld] never gets any mail. Maybe you could see if anyone drew his name or just write him a letter. Don’t say to him that I said he doesn’t get mail. Also [name withheld] didn’t get a package when Terri sent the box. See if someone would adopt him also. His name should be on the same roster as the others. I don’t know his first name. I hate it when people don’t get any mail. [Name withheld] doesn’t get much mail either. I think I’ve only seen him get one letter since we’ve been here.

January 26, 2005
Taji, Iraq

We are locked in for 5 days until after the elections. If we go outside our barracks we have to wear “full battle rattle.” I guess I’ll just stay indoors for 5 days. I guess they figure the danger is a little greater during the elections (my pen keeps skipping).

Anyway, I’m not doing any missions for 5 days, so I hope I will have time to write a few letters. I don’t think we will be getting any mail…(my pen is making me mad! I hate this pen! I will throw it away now!! Die stupid skipping pen! Die!!) OK, I have a new pen now. I don’t like this pen, but at least it’s not skipping! It’s really funny watching these smokers put all their body armor and helmets on just to have a smoke. Oh boy! I just got a big box from Mom and Judy. It has oatmeal raisin cookies and snacks. The guys jumped on the cookies right away. Tell my mom her cookies were the talk of the barracks. PFC Camblin said they were the best he had ever eaten!

Well, will close for now, Your long lost husband, Danny

Friday, February 25, 2005

The Time We're Given

You only have so much time in life and you better start making choices about what you'll spend your time on. You can only be good at just so many things.

I always use the example of golf. It's an activity I'd like to learn and I know I'd love it. I also know that it would consume a lot of time. But at this stage in life I have these precious little boys, a lovely wife, and this awesome (but incredibly time consuming) calling to ministry. So I only do two things in life, my ministry and my family. That means no golf for me.

I wish I could say that means I do both of them perfectly. I don't. Every week I look back at both areas and wish I'd done something differently. But at least I don't look back and see that I did nothing. I spent time on what's important and I learned how to do it just a little better. If I had sacrificed that time, it would be lost forever.

I worry about those who are mortgaging their present for a future payoff, i.e. "I'll work now and have extra time later." Sorry. That lie never pays off. Those people who "succeed" always find themselves in catch-up mode, shocked by how disconnected they've become. CEOs retire early to "spend more time with their family," which is code for picking up the pieces at home. If anything's left at all.

Today I had the day off. I wrestled my boys in the morning, took my wife out for lunch, worked in the yard with my little helpers trailing behind me, watched a sad movie with the love of my life, and tickled my kids 'til they were red in the face before I tucked them into bed. That's a good day.

Letters from SSG Dan, Part 3

More notes from Staff Sergeant Dan in Iraq. His unit drives cargo trucks called the PLS (Palletized Load System), among other vehicles.
Dan's PLS

More pictures of the PLS here.

January 6, 2005
Taji, Iraq

When we go on missions, our whole way of life changes. We… are usually out all night. We try to sleep during the day and just get up to eat when we wake up. It’s hard to sleep with everyone playing DVD’s and radios. Our chow hall is great and every meal is delicious! I’m really getting FAT! [Sherrie says: I cannot imagine that! Dan has always weighed the same NO MATTER WHAT! Doesn’t even seem fair to me. Jared notes: the chow hall and facilities at Taji are the best in Iraq, with a Burger King, Subway, and Pizza Hut and the largest PX in Iraq!]

As I write this letter, I have a million things to do. I should be up and busy but I have a mission tonight, so I need to get some more sleep. I think it will always be this way while I’m here. Sherrie, please pray for me. I have a tendency to get down. I try to think about all the Lord has done for me and I realize I should never be unhappy, but I find myself longing to be home to the point that I am blue. Please keep me in your prayers.

January 8, 2005
Mosul, Iraq

I am sitting at… Camp Marez waiting to pick up our trailers and racks. We came to Mosul… and spent the night in a mudhole. It was really cold but the stars were beautiful. I saw some mountains off in the distance and they reminded me of Colorado. I can’t wait till I come home and we can go back to the mountains. Northern Iraq is prettier than southern Iraq. There is some grass and a few trees scattered around. It is hilly and rugged and no sand. I think we will start back today.
Where was I? Oh yes, we’ll be back at Taji tomorrow or the next day. I’ll be glad to get back and take a shower! I’m so dirty and muddy.
I’ll try to call home soon. Whenever there is a soldier killed, they have a three day blackout on the phones so the family can be contacted before news reaches them another way.

January 12, 2005
Taji, Iraq

I did some plumbing today and it was kind of fun. We have to scrounge for everything over here so it was a real challenge to get everything hooked up. Time seems to be going by pretty fast, but I try not to think about it. I got my album out the kids made for me and was looking at all the pictures. Tell them how much I appreciate it. I was looking at some pictures of when we were together in North Carolina and Virginia Beach. Those are really neat memories. Our life has really become interesting hasn’t it? Just a few years ago I would have said it was kind of routine and predictable, but NOT NOW! I really think I’m ready for it to become boring again. Get up, go to work, come home, relax, go out to eat, mow the grass, sit on the deck, go to church, go for drives, go fishing, see my babies grow, vacation, fires in the fall. All these things seem almost like a dream to me. Someday, it will be a reality again.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Nerd Level

Here's a test that was suggested by someone who only ranked a 6.

I am nerdier than 71% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Some may be surprised to discover that I'm not higher than the 71st percentile, but being married and using a mac (the computer of hip people) worked heavily in my favor. But I'm still a bigger nerd than 7 out of 10 people (and a bigger person than 7 out of 10 nerds).

Letters from SSG Dan, Part 2

Here's more from Staff Sergeant Dan. These are mostly letters to his wife, Sherrie, which she has been so kind to share with us. While you pray for Dan, please pray for her too!

Sherrie edits Dan's letters, many of them handwritten letters. After that, I edit them again, reformatting and removing last names and such. If you have concerns about opsec let me know.

December 27, 2004

I am sitting in a hummer with gear stacked all around me, so I’m sure this will be pretty sloppy. I’m at Camp Arifjan today. We brought 12 trucks down here to get MTS systems installed in them. The MTS tells where you are at any given time anywhere in the world. We are still planning on leaving here the 2nd and going north. We are supposed to be at our new camp Jan 4th.

I will be glad to be at our permanent place so I can unpack my stuff and get organized a little better. The company we’re replacing is scheduled to go home by Jan. 17th, so after that, we will be doing all the missions. I really hope that after the elections, things will settle down a little bit.

December 28, 2004

I’m back! Doesn’t time fly? We were up last night till 11:30 PM trying to get spare parts and convoy clearance for our trip back to Camp Virginia. Camp Arifjan is a huge camp in southern Kuwait. I was here last year for a few days before I went to Oasis. Our sister company is at [Camp] Arlington, and I went over to visit them last night. I saw Tony, and Doug. Doug is in charge of operations and intel for the 778th [Transportation Company]. Remember when we played baseball with him and his boys at the picnic?

I want you to know I’ve been praying for you every morning before I get out of bed. I hope you feel secure in knowing that. I think of you all the time and I can’t wait to see you again.

January 1, 2005

I hope you had a wonderful birthday. I really enjoyed talking to you on the phone, although I know it’s an expensive luxury. We are leaving for Baghdad tomorrow afternoon so we have been busy packing and lining up our trucks. I’m sitting outside my tent in a lawn chair and it is absolutely beautiful out here. 70 degrees in the shade and a clear blue sky. The only bad thing is the noise from the generators. Our trip to Camp Cooke will take 3 days. The camp is about 12-14 miles north of Baghdad. I’m really glad when I get mail. I’m glad Gary and Marsha came to your birthday party. They are really good friends to us. Tell them I said Hi and that I love them.

P.S. I arrived in country on Dec. 12th, so we are counting down from there. By the time you receive this letter, it will be down to 11 months. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it? I really look forward to being at home and never having to leave you again. We can plan vacations and trips again and live normal lives.

January 6, 2005
Taji, Iraq

We are based at Camp Cooke, which is called Taji. It used to be an Iraqi base before the war. Our barracks are long buildings with 16 man open bays. I have a little cubicle I call my home. I have a bed, locker, a fan and a plywood storage area. It sounds like we will be very busy running missions. We are replacing the 1072nd TC from Fresno, CA. They said they were really busy all last year. I’ll be glad when we are training our replacements.

We will be drawing dates for our 2 week R&R starting soon. It will be like a lottery so no one will be able to choose their dates. Leaves will begin starting in February and ending in September. I would like to have mine in June or July, but a lot of guys have graduations in June, so I said I would trade if I got June. I can’t wait to be with my family again.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Letters from SSG Dan, Part 1

SSG Dan is a National Guard soldier from Kansas. A husband, grandfather, and church elder, Dan volunteered to go to Iraq in 2003 and returned to Iraq for a second tour in late 2004. His letters to his wife, Sherrie, are shared by her for your encouragement.

October 8, 2004
Ft. Riley, Kansas

We have been pretty busy in-processing: ID cards, medical, dental, legal, uniform issue, etc. I hope the days fly by until I'm home again. Our barracks are really cramped. The room I'm in has six guys in it. Each of us have two large boxes, two duffle bags and one large ruck sack, one green bag with our desert uniforms and vests, and at least one personal bag. It's really tight! I don't have any good friends yet so please pray that God will lead me to a good friend.

October 21, 2004
Ft. Riley, Kansas

Have you ever considered how sweet will be the reunion for those who have been long seperated? My heart is forever yours and I shall count the seconds until we are together again. While we are apart my promise to you is my unfailing love and constant prayer. When you lay down each night please know that wherever in the world I may be, in whatever circumstance, I'm praying for you and thinking of you. Someday, when this is all behind us and we are together again, we will be able to say with pride that we served our God and our country honorably. I long for that day.

Forever your loving husband, Danny.

October 28, 2004
Ft. Riley, Kansas

Just thought I'd write a few lines before chow time. A few lines before chow time. There, I feel better.

Love, Dan

December 21, 2004
Camp Virginia, Kuwait

It's really crazy since we arrived in Kuwait. We are staying in a tent that sleeps sixty. Most mornings we are up by 5:00am and our days don't end until 9:30 or 10:00pm. It is really hard, and we are all getting burned out pretty bad. I hope it gets better when we get to our permanent duty in Iraq. Our captain is pushing too hard. Everything you do here at Camp Virginia, you have to stand in line. [He hates standing in line.] It's been really cold here and has rained quite a bit, not the same as last year.

I hope this letter makes sense, I'm really tired. We spent three days in the field and didn't sleep very much at all, got back last night and had to get up at 3:00am to go to another range. It's noon and I'm trying to keep going the best I can. I hope you have recovered from your surgery by now. What a hard time with the holidays, surgery, and my being gone all the time. I hope you have a great Christmas and really get to relax for a couple of weeks. I hope I never have to spend another Christmas away from my family [This is his second Christmas in row.] Please write and tell me all about home and send pictures. Also send a goodie box if you have time. [Mushy stuff excluded]

Christmas Day, 2004
Camp Virginia, Kuwait

Merry Christmas. It's 12:30pm and we just had our Christmas meal and it was really good. I had prime rib, shrimp, sweet potatoes, eggnog, cake, pumpkin pie (not as good as yours), cranberry sauce, and ham.

It rained really hard last night and we even had thunder and lightning. Today is warmer and sunny, about 65 degrees. We stayed up late watching movies and playing cards and didn't get up until about 9:00am. It felt good to just relax. I have to go to formation now.

I'm back. We have the rest of the day off. I'm going to play ping pong with the Koreans. I'll call you when I'm sure everyone is awake. I'm going to talk for at least ten minutes!

I'll tell you a little about our camp. It is called Camp Virginia and is one of the oldest camps in Kuwait. We live in a big tent with eighty men. It is heated and air conditioned so it's not too bad. I live beside SSG Riley and SGT Maiava. We all have battle buddies but I pretty much hang out with Jackson, Berry, and Riley. Riley is my official battle buddy. We watch out for each other and always know hwere the other one is at all times. Break…

I went to the MWR tent and played ping pong for six hours. It was fun. The Koreans were there and we played doubles against them. They can all play really well. We won most of the games and I even played the best one of themand won 2 out of 3 games. I hereby proclaim myself the ping pong champion of Camp Virginia and all of Western Kuwait (sounds impressive).

I got to talk to you twice and it was just a great day! I also got to take a hot shower! We have a few shops here but there are always long lines. Our tents are in rows around the perimeter of the inner camp where the shops and medical tents are along with the command center. Outside of our tents are our trucks and outside of that, around the entire camp, is a berm and barbed wire. he have guard towers with automatic weapons manned 24/7, so I feel pretty safe here. It will be pretty much the same when we move to Camp Cooke in Iraq, only security will be much tighter there.

[Here's an article about an Army unit passing through Camp Virginia, and some photos of the accomadations.]

January 11, 2005
Camp Cooke, Iraq
Postcard to the Church…

Dear Church Family,

I hope all is well with everyone at home I sure miss you all and think of you often. I am stationed at Camp Cooke near Baghdad. We are very busy hauling supplies and ammo all over northern Iraq. Most missions are at night so we try to sleep during the day. It has been pretty cold over here at night and especially up north around Mosul. I'll be glad when it warms up a little bit and dries up all the mud. I hope to come home on leave this summer some time for two weeks. Please keep praying for all of my soldiers as it is pretty dangerous right now. I look forward to seeing you all again this summer.

Your brother, Dan

P.S. Thanks to all for the Christmas cards!

Going Back To Church

I've had several encounters recently with folks who are discouraged and demoralized. My suggestion every time, at least in part, is to get yourself to a place where people can encourage you. And often.

Go to church regularly, go to Sunday school and Bible study. Get to know people. How can that not help? It may not make all the problems go away, but what a lift it is to have others supporting you and encouraging you.

But isolating yourself (or remaining isolated) just guarantees that you won't get help.

Q. Will people notice that I've been gone for awhile?
A. They might. Most won't or at least won't say anything. And many have also been missing church themselves and may assume that you've been present in their absence. Only the regulars will know for sure and they are probably thrilled that you're back.

Q. Will people gossip about me if I show up all of the sudden?
A. The people in this world that gossip will do so with or without you. Your absence only encourages their speculation. Your presence dispels a multitude of myths. But gossip at some level will always be there somewhere; staying home doesn't make it go away.

Learning As I Go, Part 2

See my new quotes in the sidebar? I have a growing collection of quotes that cycle thru each day and I tweaked the quote box to blend in with background. I've been reading quite a bit about HTML on, and I'm using an HTML editor called Taco and several tools that I'm discovering which are built into my Mac. I like it all so far.

Thanks for all the suggestions I've gotten so far. I'm still working thru them.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Why I Care About Iraq

Please don't think I'm turning into a milblog (military news web log). I'm not interested in keeping you up to date on the latest news and I am certainly not wanting to promote the war. But a lot of the discontent in our lives right now comes stems from current events overseas. We get a steady dose of bad news and casualty reports from the mainstream media with little positive news. Combine that with our concern for our deployed loved ones and it can be discouraging.

I hope that I can balance that out by showing you the virtuous and encouraging side of what's happening there. It's not all bad. And those who have sacrificed have not done so in vain. If I can dispel some of the jaded cynicism floating around out there then I've done my job.

Which Translation?

The bottom line: use more than one.

If you're not going to learn Hebrew and Greek and laboriously translate each text every time you want to read the Bible, you'll need to depend on someone else's translation. Most translations seem pretty good but no translation can be everything to everyone. Because there are some legitimately tough decisions to make, it's highly unlikely you'll agree, or even be aware, of all of them. So seek balance by looking at more than one translation.

Things to consider:
  • It's helpful to note the difference between a translation and paraphrase. Translations are usually trustworthy from which to study where paraphrases are not. But paraphrases, like a good commentary, can open your eyes to new angles and be quite enjoyable.
  • If you've never heard of a particular translation, try to discover where the publisher is coming from theologically and whether they seem legitimate. There are translations that are compromised by their agendas. Ask other Christians, too.
  • Understand whether the translation is trying to show you the original words used or the original thoughts conveyed. It's hard, if not impossible, to do both at the same time.
I almost always use the NIV when I preach because it is so common. I appreciate the New Living Translation, New American Standard, Revised Standard Version, even the King James at times. Some of my books and computer programs use various translations, some of which are pretty obscure, but it's all helpful.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Best Bible Reading Plan

Even if you regularly read your Bible, it takes some discipline to read every verse of every book in the course of a year. The best plan I've seen for this is Discipleship Journal's original Bible Reading Plan. It gives you variety, flexibility with the amount and parts of the Bible you want to cover, and also has built in time off (or catch up time).

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Marines in Iraq, Part 2

If you depended on the mainstream media for your information about Iraq, you would be missing out on a lot of positive stuff. Not only reconstruction and other benevolence, but also great examples of bravery.


One noteworthy Marine is Captain Brian Chontosh, whose exploits you would think would get some attention but I'm guessing most people have never heard of him. He earned the Navy Cross (pictured above), second only to the Medal of Honor, but I've hardly heard anything outside of what I've tracked down. Chontosh went back to Iraq a second time, this time leading a company in battalion 3/5 in the attack on Fallujah last November (Fox News had a reporter imbedded with him, so you may have seen a real live hero getting interviewed and not known it). There may be a decent chance he'll show up in Bing West's book and movie, No True Glory, about the Marines in Fallujah--but no guarantees.


The youth group at church hosted a dinner and entertainment today and Shannon and I were invited to play in "Not-So-Newlywed" game. The high school and college kids asked the questions and it was a lot of fun.

We'd always said that, having been together since age 15, we were shoe-ins to win this type of game. As it turns out, we only got 3 out of 8 questions right, but that was still good enough to win.

We connected on the location of our first date, "our" song, and my best sport in school (which Shannon was always there to see first hand). We didn't agree on what kind of cartoon character I was or what perfume she wore, but many of the other couples didn't get these questions either.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Blogs of Despair

I'm hoping that this blog is the antithesis of the thinly-veiled-suicide-note blogs of despair that I keep coming across, like this one. The internet seems to encourage people to vent and there's a lot of angst out there.

I'm not claiming everything is perfect. But I know there's Someone who loves me unconditionally and that makes a huge difference.

Marines in Iraq


I just finished The March Up by Bing West (with Major Gen Ray Smith). West gives a great overview of the USMC's role in the invasion of Iraq. He was there as an advisor/observer, kind of like the embedded reporters, but different. Unlike other books I've read by embeds, who were often limited to one small unit's activities and an incomplete understanding of the military, West had access to the top commanders in the field and a comprehensive understanding of the Corps from his own experience. These assets result in a book with the best balance of gritty detail vs. big picture that I've read in a non-fiction work.

It makes me look forward to West's next work, No True Glory, about Fallujah, which is due out in May and is already being made into a movie, starring Harrison Ford as Major General James Mattis.

Reading The March Up paints a different picture of General Mattis than what you may have seen recently in the news. That many know him now more for his "killing is fun" comments than for his bravery and genius is disturbing. Ideally, Mattis' accomplishments and writings would have been well known, showing him to be an educated, rational, and reasonable professional. Instead everyone sees an anonymous old military-type and they dismiss him as insensitive and politically incorrect.

Too bad. Maybe that will change after the movie.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Just Don't Call Them Stupid

A lot of conflict in church (or anywhere in life) is kept alive by our reluctance to give grace to one another. We tell ourselves that the other side doesn't deserve mercy because of their evil motives. They become the enemy, a threat, out to get us and ruin everything!

Well, I came across something. It's called Hanlon's Razor. It says, "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity."

Maybe it would help if we first assumed conflicts were caused by innocent mistakes instead of vicious attacks. This may be the window of opportunity we need to go all the way and forgive that person, just as we've been forgiven.

Please Pull Forward

I'm not sure why this moose poking his head in a drive-thru window amuses me so. It just does.

Actually my first thought was "Where are the cars? In what country is there a McDonald's with no line at the drive-thru in the middle of the day?"

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

My Alarm Clock

The last few mornings my three-year-old, Tanner, has come into our bedroom, climbed up onto the foot of the bed, and performed a flying body slam on me as I sleep. He then gives a wet kiss to the side of my head and says, "Wate up Daddy, it time to go woolk [work]."

Words fail to describe how cute this is. It also makes me sad thinking that before I know it my three boys will be too old and too cool for this kind of playfulness. I'm so blessed to have these little guys, no matter how difficult it can be sometimes.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Gettin' S'phisticated

I'm trying to ratchet up the quality of my pastime.

Of course, I could just flip on a sitcom or one-hour drama on tv and veg out. But I can aim a little higher… at least part of the time. So I decided that I would start reading Shakespeare.

Arden Hamlet

That's easier said than done. I've only read three or four plays in school and that seemed a bit of chore at the time. But then I happened upon a copy of Hamlet, published by Arden, at a used book store. I was immediately taken by the footnotes and now I won't read Shakespeare in any other form.

Arden Shrew

I'm currently working on The Taming of the Shrew. I had to swear up and down to my wife this had nothing to do with her. But it does have some interesting thoughts on marriage. Maybe more on that later.

Hanging Thru Double Overtime

Some blessings in life are subtle.

This morning, I overheard my wife (not a sports fan by any stretch of the imagination) talking to her mother, complaining that a foul should have been called at the end of the KU - Texas Tech game last night.

I had thought she was sitting through the double-overtime game just because she was wanting to be in the room with me -- kind of like when she reads a book or takes a nap on the couch during a football game. But she was paying attention and asking thoughtful questions. She even wanted to talk about it the next day! To her mom!

Has she been converted into a sports-nut? No, but something like that is a pretty good indicator that she loves me. No pretending, just genuine interest because I was interested. Thank God for her.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Happy Valentine's

Guys, admit it, we have little or no sense about how to handle this holiday. My original take that Valentines was stupid and that my wife should just pretend it's the same as any other day--well, let's just say that that line of thinking is now officially retired.

I'm learning to consider what she wants. So we went to an Irish restaurant (which judging by the quality of the food, I'm not sure that the Irish actually have restaurants; I think they have bars that so pity their patrons that they're willing to feed them scraps--like the stray cat on your back porch).

I bought her a small rose bush, which was smart because she didn't want cut flowers.

And I also cleaned house after she went to bed. Take note guys, picking up after yourself is huge to any woman who has lived with you for more than a week. At first they were disappointed to discover that you were a slob, but after that point, any cleaning you do is gravy.

You just gotta listen to what's important to your spouse. It really matters.

Tanner and Me

I've added a photo of Tanner and me. He can be a real ham. Tanner and his brothers are usually wrestling me on the living room floor most evenings.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Learning As I Go

Did you see my new clock? It's the latest example of my new html knowledge. I've gone from zero to zero-point-nil in just a few days. I know at least enough to be dangerous! I skillfully cut & pasted that clock into the template that I borrowed, then I changed its color and size and time zone (by following the instructions). Watch out Google, I'm taking over!

In all seriousness, if you know of a effective resource to learn some html I would be in your debt. I'm open to books or online resources or whatever. I just need help. Thanks.

What God Has Promised

Here is some scripture that reminds us of God's role in our lives. The difficulties and inequities of life will frustrate us, but that doesn't mean God is not there.
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5,6 (NIV)
He keeps his promises.

Friday, February 11, 2005


Welcome to my blog!

Have you become convinced that the grass must always be greener on the other side of the fence? Does the nagging pain of discontent pull at you to pick up and leave from where you are? That little voice inside says you'd be happy if only things were just a little different. Is that voice getting louder?

I hope you'll share your struggles in finding joy and contentment in everyday life. As a minister, I am particularly interested in your struggles with church and organized religion. But you may also feel lost and unsatisfied by your marriage, your job, your body, or whatever. What do you do to keep on keepin' on?

And if you've surrendered to that voice and have made a change of scenery, in the words of Dr. Phil, "how's that working for ya?" Did you find the joy and happiness you sought? Or just a new set of circumstances with its own joys and sorrows? What did you learn to help the rest of us?

I'll try to post often. I look forward to talking you. God bless.