Parenting

The Applause of Man

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“It doesn’t matter if the world knows, or sees or understands; the only applause we are meant to seek is that of nail-scarred hands.” Ron Owens (former Director of Worship at the International Mission Board)

IMAGE-BASEBALL-HOF80 years ago today, on January 29, 1936, the U.S. Baseball Hall of Fame elected its first members in Cooperstown, New York. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America chose the five greatest superstars of the game as the first class to be inducted: Ty Cobb was the most productive hitter in history; Babe Ruth was both an ace pitcher and the greatest home-run hitter to play the game; Honus Wagner was a versatile star shortstop and batting champion; Christy Matthewson had more wins than any pitcher in National League history; and Walter Johnson was considered one of the most powerful pitchers to ever have taken the mound. Today there are over 300 members of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The overwhelming majority of us will not end up in any hall of fame; however there is something intoxicating about the power of our fellow man’s applause. Maybe it is just me, but deep down most of us love it….the affirmation, the sense of worth, the praise.  It can become addicting.

As a leader, parent, or spouse, consider how many decisions you are called on to make in any given day—some in private and some in the public arena. Every day presents multiple opportunities to make applause-generating decisions. However when our daily self-worth and identity come primarily from the applause of those with whom we work or live, we are finished. Why? Because (1) it will never be enough and (2) it will one day go away.

One of my wife’s favorite singers is a young lady named Francesca Battistelli and one of her favorite songs is titled, “He Knows My Name.” Consider the lyrics to Francesca’s chorus:

I don’t need my name in lights / I’m famous in my Father’s eyes / Make no mistake / He knows my name /  I’m not living for applause /  I’m already so adored / It’s all His stage / He knows my name

There is something freeing about no longer working for the applause of man. You still strive for excellence…you still steward your gifts and talents well…and guess what – the applause still comes…however your motivation is based simply on the fact that you are already fully and completely accepted by Him!

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus encourages us to seek first His kingdom.  What do you seek first?  The applause of others? The affirmation of man? The answer to this question will determine the legacy you leave behind.

 

 

The Myth of Balance

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MythbustersExhibitHave you ever watched the TV series Myth Busters? It is about a couple of guys who take well-entrenched cultural beliefs or adages and test these things to see if they have any basis in reality. Pretty cool show. I wish I could tee up a concept for them to test…the balance of life.

There are a lot of definitions of balance but I like this one best: It is a point of equilibrium between two or more countervailing forces. A point of equilibrium –  it’s neither going this way or that way.

So we’ve got forces wanting to push down or pull up or twist sideways, but our lives somehow are supposed to find this perfect point where it all balances out.

baby mobileMaybe it is just me on the hunt for this thing called balance…where our work, leisure, family, and all these things come into some lovely equal poise? You know, where it all floats around elegantly, delicately like a little mobile. These things never clash against one another and they perfectly weigh out against the other. Isn’t everybody looking for that, balance? I hear it all the time.  I’m just trying to live a balanced life. I think it’s a myth.

Do you have in your head what I call the “if-only,” and the “as-soon-as” clauses? The “if only I had more money,” or “if only I didn’t have this job,” or “if only I lived in that house.” Or we also say things like “As soon as I’m done with this season of my life,” or “as soon as these three weeks go by and this crazy time is over.” If-only and as-soon-as derive their authority from this sense of something like “in three weeks my life will become easy.” Has that ever happened? No…why? Because balance is a myth.

I remember years ago once listening to a sermon on this very subject. To paraphrase the Pastor: “Can you think of one person in Scripture who lived a balanced life? When you think of King David, do you think, Oh, there’s a man who has got it all together? I mean, whether that guy is living in caves or he’s ruling the kingdom, he is a man after God’s own heart right? What about Nehemiah…spending twelve years busting his chops to accomplish what God called him to do. What about the Apostle Paul, does he strike you as somebody living a balanced life?  Jesus came myth-busting, didn’t he? I love when he routinely says, “You’ve heard it said … But I say to you.” He uses this statement to drive home the truth. To bust myths!

crossSo what am I getting at?  I believe this:

In Scripture and in Christ what we see modeled is not balance but a great deal of consistency, a great deal of peace, a great deal of certainty and purpose in the midst of some pretty dramatic and out-of-whack circumstances. Simply put…A great deal of surrender!

My challenge to you…don’t worry about a balanced life. Instead shoot for a surrendered life.  Nothing is more powerful than a surrendered life in the hands of God.

My Top 10 Books of 2015

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10K. Chesterton once remarked that “there is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and a tired man who wants a book to read.” This past year I have found myself floating back and forth between these two categories so the book choices below reflect that (study and leisure).

A couple of disclaimers first:

*The majority of the books I read this year revolved around leadership, church strategy, and family ministry. This list reflects that.

*These books are not in order by preference. They take on many different styles so I choose not to rank or compare apples and oranges.

*Most of these books are faith based books written by authors with a Christian worldview. However some of them (and others I read this year) are not. Several of these books are thoughtful accounts of history, leadership lessons, and practical life hacks. They will be profitably read through the lens of an intelligent Christian worldview, though the books themselves are often not written from such a worldview. To quote Al Mohler, “The world needs more careful Christian readers, who can read honestly, reflectively, thoughtfully, eagerly, and well.”

Leadership Axioms: Powerful Leadership Proverbs. Bill Hybels.  Hybels is the founding and Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois.  He has become known worldwide as in expert in training Christian leaders to transform their communities through the local church.  I have read many of Bill’s books and this possibly ranks as my favorite (Courageous Leadership is excellent as well).  In this book, Bill provides 76 Leadership Proverbs that can (and should) be used by leaders in the marketplace, military, and ministry!  This would be a great book to walk through with the key leaders of your organization.

Be a Better Dad Today! 10 Tools Every Father Needs. Gregory W. Slayton.  Slayton does a remarkable job setting the tone for the importance of fatherhood.  He believes “the future of civilization depends on how we (fathers) do our job.”  With humor, empathy, common sense and stories from his personal experience, Slayton provides his “Ten Tools of Fatherhood.”  I read this book with one of my best friends.  We read a chapter every day or so and emailed each other our responses to the “For Further Reflection” section.  A group of men at our church completed it together as well.  The major draw for me was the practical and down to earth tools Slayton provides.  Highly recommend it for dads young and old.

The Mission at Nuremberg. An American Army Chaplain and the Trial of the Nazis. Tim Townsend. The Nuremberg Trials were intended to bring those most responsible for the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust before a court of justice. Adolf Hitler and some of the most senior Nazis escaped the court, but more than 20 senior leaders of Nazi Germany stood trial before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. The most significant trials were held between November of 1945 and the following October. In the end, twelve death sentences were handed down against those who were found most responsible for crimes against humanity.

But a largely unknown story within that well-known account concerns Rev. Henry Gerecke, a U.S. Army chaplain assigned to the prisoners throughout the trial, and eventually to the condemned. This Lutheran minister found himself face to face with those who had plotted the extermination of 6 million Jews and had brought the world to the horrors of a global war. Even more moving, was the reality of how Gerecke faced the deepest personal and theological questions imaginable, specifically how much he believed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is an extremely powerful book. Consider this excerpt:

For Gerecke, the decision to accept the assignment wasn’t easy. He wondered how a preacher from St. Louis could make any impression on the disciples of Adolf Hitler. Would his considerable faith in the core principles of Christianity sustain him as he ministered to monsters? During his months stationed in Munich after the war, Gerecke had taken several trips to Dachau. He’d seen the raw aftermath of the Holocaust. He’d touched the inside of the camp’s walls, and his hands had come away smeared with blood. The U.S. Army was asking one of its chaplains to kneel down with the architects of the Holocaust and calm their spirits as they answered for their crimes in front of the world. With those images of Dachau fresh in his memory, Gerecke had to decide if he could share his faith, the thing he held most dear in life, with the men who had given the orders to construct such a place.”

Decisive. Chip & Dan Heath.  Recommended to me by my Senior Pastor, Decisive tackles one of the most critical topics in the workplace and in our personal lives: how to make decisions.  The Heath Brothers present research to suggest that our decisions are disrupted by an array of biases.  Their book revolves around what they have labeled the “Four Villains of Decision Making.”  They provide strategies and practical tools that enable us to make better choices….a key for any great leader.

Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof.  A few months ago I was on my way to work and was listening to Carey Niewhhof’s podcast.  On this day he and Reggie were discussing their book so I picked it up.  In this book, the authors describe how the two powerful influences of church and home can be combined together to widen the capacity of our parenting.  Perhaps the best chapter is the chapter on “Making it Personal.” As parents, we can’t pass on what we don’t have, and if parents are going to maximize the potential for their own kids to love and follow Jesus some day, then it must be true in their lives as well. Fairly easy read with great practical advice.

Working with Emotional Intelligence. Daniel Goleman.  This book is a follow up to his best-selling book Emotional Intelligence (EI).  Goleman continues in this work to discuss the important of emotional intelligence.  He basically states that the old days of hiring based off of IQ or proficiency alone has passed.  He presents facts and stories to show that IQ explains surprisingly little of achievement at work or home. He states that companies (and leaders more specifically) should look for people with high emotional intelligence.  He categories EI as: self-awareness, motivation, empathy, and adeptness in relationships. Although a little scientific at times, this book is a definite read for those at the executive leadership level of any organization.

American Creation. Joseph J. Ellis.  Ellis is one of my favorite American Historian Authors.  If you have never read Ellis, I highly recommend him.  He is a master story teller.  His Pulitzer Prize winning book Founding Brothers is one of my top 5 books of all time.  In American Creation, Ellis continues his examination of the last quarter of the 18th century….perhaps the most politically creative era in American history.  He spends most of the book focusing on Washington, Jefferson, and Madison; specifically analyzing their successes and failures. Overall it is a fairly easy read that will give you a greater appreciation of the “human nature” of the Founding Fathers without tearing them down.

Manage Your Day-to Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, & Sharpen Your Creative Mind. Edited by Jocelyn K. Glei. Super easy read!  Time is valuable.  Time is limited.  If you are like me, you try to manage your actions each day to effectively steward the time you have been given.  With wisdom from 20 leading creative minds, 99Us’ Manage Your Day-to Day helps equip you with pragmatic insights and tools for using your time wisely and making your best work.  This book was recommended by the author of a blog I follow and it did not disappoint.

Don’t Waste Your Life. John Piper.  A re-read for me.  A good friend and fellow Pastor (Omar Garcia – www.gobeyondblog.com) was recalling a few stories and lessons from this book which prompted me to read it again.  I didn’t regret it.  Piper warns us not to get caught up in a life that counts for nothing.  He boldly writes that God created us to live with a single passion: to joyfully display His love and sacrifice in all the spheres of our life.  This is a great book to start your 2016 reading with!

Counter Culture. David Platt.  In Platt’s newest book, he shows Christians how to actively take a stand on issues such as poverty, sex trafficking, marriage, abortion, racism, and religious liberty.  According to David, in a day when social issues are creating clear dividing lines, neutrality is not an option for those who believe the Gospel. Drawing on personal accounts from around the world, Platt presents an unapologetic call for Christians to faithfully and lovingly follow Christ into the cultural battlefield.  This book challenged me to look beyond the specific social issue and have a deeper understanding of who God is and how He relates to everything around us.

What about you? What are some of your favorite books of 2015.

Hunting and Life Lessons

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I love the outdoors – fishing, hiking, riding 4 wheelers, I could go on….but I especially like hunting. When Liz and I first got married I remember talking about taking our kids hunting.  I couldn’t wait for that day.  We even named our first child Hunter! (I can also share with you offline how Liz vetoed my recommended name for our second son).  Well God has been especially generous; we now have two young boys who are roosted on our family tree and are already bearing camo-clad fruit on the branches of our heritage as hunters.

hunting boysEach year we take at least one hunting trip with my father in law. The boys love hunting with their Dad and their Grandy; while my father in law and I simply love spending time with the boys.  This past week we completed this annual tradition again.  As we have now returned from our week in the woods I begin reflecting on the lessons hunting teaches my kids (and all of us).

Stay in Your Stand: Sometimes you see deer, sometimes you don’t.  Patience and endurance is KEY.  The longer you are willing to wait, to stay in your stand, the better your chances of having a successful hunt. Hunting teaches us that a lack of patience and endurance bears little fruit.

For my boys, there will be a day in their future when they will stand before a beautiful young lady and vow to be her husband. I hope they remember, like their deer stand, they should not climb out of it.  There will be great times and there will be tough times.  Hopefully they will remember, “Stay in Your Stand.”

Or maybe like me, they may find themselves standing in an airport about to board another flight for another tour in Iraq or Afghanistan and thoughts of “why am I doing this again?” pops in their head. Hopefully they will remember, “Stay in Your Stand.”

Stay Awake: Last week I read an article in a hunting magazine that stated the #1 reason why hunters are typically unsuccessful is that they fall asleep during key moments of the hunt.  I personally know how hard it is to stay awake.  Arriving in the woods before sunrise and sitting still for hours is the perfect recipe for a nice nap.  Add some cold weather and bundles of warming layers and even the best hunter is tempted to close his eyes for a moment.   In its most raw ways, hunting teaches us that comfort based decisions are costly and rarely produce results.

I want my young men to know that there will be many times after a long day at work that they will want to go home and rest, to check out for a while…however their wives and kids will require time and attention. I hope they seize the moment to spend time with their family.

Throughout their life, I hope they put aside personal comfort for the sake of others.  Hopefully they will remember, “Stay Awake.”

aim 1Know Where to Aim: The first thing we always do during our hunting trips is conduct some refresher training. We go over gun safety rules, the hunting laws (what we can and can’t shoot), and most importantly, when the right time comes, knowing where to aim.  Anyone can shoot a gun, but knowing where to aim and how to hit your target makes a successful hunter.

As both my boys go through life I want them to have a crystal clear focus on where to aim. The world will present cheap targets with brief, momentary satisfaction. My prayer is that throughout the struggles and setbacks, the successes and victories, that my boys will always keep their aim on Christ and Christ alone.

There will be a day when both my boys sit in a deer stand alone….no longer needing me to supervise or assist. They will be able to make their own hunting decisions. The clock is also ticking toward that day when they pull out of the driveway and into manhood. Among the many things I hope they remember forever, I’ll add the simple hunting principles of “Stay in Your Stand, Stay Awake, and Know Where to Aim.”

3 Lessons From Youth Football

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It is mid-November. In my house that means we are putting the final touches on another season of youth football.  We started practices in early August and are now in the final rounds of playoffs.

football pic 2

As I reflect on our season, I don’t dwell on the wins or losses, or the touchdowns or tackles; I instead think about the 3 lessons my fellow coaches and I have attempted to instill in each of the young men on our team.

(1) A Simple Motto. We ask our boys numerous times during each practice, “What’s our motto?” They respond at the top of their lungs, “Hard Work.”  Their habit of hard work should stretch from the football field, to the classroom, to the doors of their home. We teach them to work hard not for our benefit, but because it gives them both dignity in a job well done today and the tools and character to succeed in the future as adults.

(2) Response-ability: As my good friend and our head coach Mike continually tells our boys, “It’s not if you face obstacles, but when.”  Sports provide a great avenue to teach our kids that life is full of obstacles.  In light of this, we remind our team of their “response-ability” – translation – they have the ability to choose their response to each situation they face in life.  They are not powerless when it comes to their choices.  Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, once wrote, “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread.  They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s response.”  It’s important our youth learn this lesson now!

(3) Identity: This is the most important lesson.  From the first day of conditioning practices to the team party at the conclusion of the season we tell our boys, “You are loved.”  Their identity is in no way tied to their position or performance on the field (for better or worse).   For the Christ-following athlete and fan, identity in Christ becomes immeasurably important at this very point. Understanding that in Jesus we are loved unconditionally (Ephesians 1:4–5), forgiven freely (Romans 4:7–8), pursued endlessly (Psalm 23:6), and given meaning and purpose that stretch far beyond the scoreboard (Ephesians 1:5; 2 Timothy 1:9) can free us to rise above the scoreboard in victory and defeat.

football picI understand and respect the debate concerning youth sports. There are healthy arguments for and against competition at young ages.  But ultimately I believe sports are a gift, a good gift, which God gave through human creativity for our enjoyment. And just like all of life, we ought to approach it with thoughtfulness, discernment, and intentionality.

From the cheerleaders who provide enthusiasm and spirit, to the parents who trust us with their boys, to my fellow coaches who sacrifice so much of their time, and most importantly to the boys we are blessed to lead, I am thankful for football season….and the lessons we all learn.

Conversations With My Grandfather

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papa 2One of my favorite places to be as a kid was in a 1978 Chevy Truck with my Grandfather. It didn’t matter where we were going.  Many times we were pulling a boat to the lake.  Other times he was dragging my brother and me with him to the railroad yard where he worked.  Regardless of where we were going, it was the time in his truck that I remember.

I loved asking him questions. Questions about the Korean War, questions about the country music stars he had played with, questions about faith, questions about life, questions about nothing at all.  Without a doubt, these conversations had a profound impact on my life.

Deuteronomy 6 is an oft-quoted passage of many family advocates, and rightly so.  Verses six through nine of this dynamic chapter challenge the families of Israel as to how the wonderful book of the law should be used:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9, ESV

Did you catch that? Right in the middle of this passage describes “when” we should have these conversations with our kids. “Talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”  TRANSLATION: During everyday life!

There are things that every one of us do each day of our lives that we can use to teach key life principles to our children. These events move beyond regular family devotions to what many call “devotions in motion.” Even mundane activities like walking the dog, washing dishes, or driving to football practice can be used to share timeless biblical truth and principles….simply by having conversations with our kids.

Papa 1

As I further reflect on these conversations, and their role in forming the hearts and minds of my two boys, I cannot help but see the connection with our Heavenly Father. How much more should our conversations with Him mold and shape our hearts ? As we pray and read His Word, He speaks to us. In a sense, He is sharing Himself, His thoughts, His will, and His values with us….a powerful conversation!

As a dad now, I know that the conversations I have with my two sons will have a lasting impact on them as they continue to grow up. They will help shape and mold their hearts and minds, just as the conversations with my Grandfather did for me.

Leadership Minute: Picture Perfect Parenting

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This morning on the way to work I was listening to a podcast and the following question was asked, “Is your family the picture you had in mind.”

That question got me thinking. Whether we admit it or not, we all hold pictures in our mind of how we think our family should look or how our family should “behave.”

Before I got married and had kids my picture looked like this: Dad’s in charge, we have morning devotions together before our breakfast, relaxing evenings together, we never eat fast food….you know…every morning our children wake up and call their parents blessed.

YPE_038Well we soon all come to grips with reality and say, “that’s not us” but we (or maybe it’s just me) still feel an incredible pressure for it to be “us.”

The truth is, there is a degree of dysfunction in every family. After all, a family is merely a gathering of flawed human beings. So don’t buy into the myth that we have to make more lists, get more organized, spend more money, and never make mistakes in order to be successful parents. Unrealistic pictures paralyze parents. Remember….our role as mom or dad is not to impress our children with our ability to parent. Our role is to impress our children with the love and nature of God.

I love the following statement by Reggie Joiner, “The family exists, even in its imperfection, to display the heart of God to every generation.”

Instead of looking at your family and wanting a “Better Picture” – shift your thinking and look at the “Bigger Story.”

Family Core Values

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COREVALUES

In my previous organization, we had a list of 3 core values: Honor, Courage, and Commitment. As Marine leaders, we consistently led numerous discussions on how these values were lived out and demonstrated by individual Marines and collectively as a warfighting organization. More importantly, we were expected to model them on a daily basis.

Realizing the importance of core values in my “job” solidified the need for my family to define our own set of values. Over time and after much prayer and discussion we came up with five.

Our Core Values are:

Prayer with Expectation

Truth with Compassion

Scripture with Application

Generosity without Reciprocation

Leadership with Humility

(*I’ll save future blog posts to describe each one and why they are important to us*)

The purpose behind defining your family core values is not to have something nice to put in a frame or hang on the fridge, but a clear list of values that drive your decision making and provide focus for how you “do life.” To paraphrase author and leadership consultant Will Mancini, core values are the shared convictions that guide our actions and reveal our strengths. Simply put, they should be a constant reminder of what is important to your family.

When you don’t know or you haven’t clearly defined your values, you end up drifting along in life. Instead of basing your decisions on an internal compass, you make choices based on circumstances and social pressures. Conversely, when your family’s core values are clearly defined the benefits are numerous:

  • Provides a framework to make individual and family decisions
  • Helps ensure unity
  • Makes life simpler because it frees you to say “no” to certain things and “yes” to better things
  • Most of all: core values allow you to do more of what you do best!

Your family already has a certain set of core values….maybe you just haven’t clearly defined them yet. They are underneath the surface of your daily activities. Your role as a leader in your home is to pull them above of the waterline. The more your family knows about itself, the better it’s able to deal with life. Trust me… there’s something about actually writing down your values that makes you more committed to living them out!

 

 

Talking With My Kids About Terrorism

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Thursday was a mix of emotions for many, my family included.  Earlier in the morning, a dear friend of mine, returned to his family after a lengthy deployment. His unit was gone over 7 months. Similar to the other Marines he was deployed with, he missed birthdays, school parties, anniversaries, and holidays. His wife and two kids simply missed him. On this day, their countdown was finally over. A husband came home to his wife. A daddy came home to his kids. The joy of reunions are indescribable to those who have not experienced them. This was a great day for hundreds of Marines and their families.

usmc mourning

Then a little after 11am news broke that a young man named Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez sprayed an Armed Forces Recruiting Center with gunfire before driving seven miles away and killing four Marines at a Navy Reserve Center. Although the investigation continues, there are no answers that will truly satisfy our desire to know “why?”

Within a few hours on Thursday, a number of families were reunited with their Marine while four other families, through an act of terrorism, had the fabric of their lives destroyed.  The contrast in emotions was overwhelming.

My boys had questions about both events.  As I spoke with my children over the next two days I wanted to ensure they understood four things:

#1: There is evil in this world.  This cannot be ignored.  We can refuse to watch the news or read the articles but that will not make it go away.  In fact, one of the great fallacies of our modern life is the assumption that we have the right to live in peace and security. The plain truth is Jesus never promised us safety in this world…quite the contrary.

#2: Our response to this evil is not simple to explain or understand.  There is no one right way to face evil. God may call us to fight and conquer like Joshua, submit with hope like Jeremiah, or preach like Jonah.  But, even in light of these examples, we must remember that the One we are told to emulate is Jesus…His love and His sacrifice.

#3: I reminded my boys that strong people always stand up for victims .  That’s why we have a military, local police, first responders, etc… All of these men and women are willing to sacrifice to allow us to sleep peacefully in our bed each night. They sacrifice their personal comfort, their freedoms, and many even their lives, to protect and defend us.  However the burden to protect and serve others does not fall  solely on their shoulders….we must also do our part to protect those who may be weak.  Regardless of our response, to overcome this evil, service and sacrifice is required.

#4: Perhaps most importantly I remind them of who wins in the end. “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” – Revelation 20:10.

Courage Under Fire

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July 1st 1863….

152 years ago today, the largest military conflict in North American history began when Union and Confederate forces collided at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The epic battle lasted three days and resulted in a retreat to Virginia by Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

Throughout my military career, and even still today, I am an avid consumer of military history. When it comes to the Battle at Gettysburg I have continually been awed by the decisions and actions of Colonel Joshua Chamberlain. I have read Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer-prize winning novel “The Killer Angels” and watched Jeff Daniels remarkably play Chamberlain in the movie “Gettysburg.” However it was not until I had the privilege of taking a group of my Marines to the actual battlefield that I truly understood this tragic conflict.

gettysburgTogether we climbed the slope of Little Round top and walked the path of Pickett’s Charge. We studied the defensive positions on Cemetery Hill and continually discussed the decision making of opposing Generals Lee and Meade. From human factors to combined arms, we immersed ourselves in the significance of this three day battle.

During a moment of reflection on the hallowed ground of Little Round Top, I paused to think about the decisions Chamberlain had to make. Against all odds, he stubbornly and courageously rallied his forces. Many historians claim his actions saved the day and possibly turned the tide of the Civil War. For his actions, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. His citation simply stated: “For daring heroism and great tenacity in holding his position on the Little Round Top against repeated assaults, and carrying the advance position on Big Round Top.”

It has been five years since I was last at Gettysburg. I no longer view Chamberlain’s actions through the lens of a fighter leader. I now view his actions through the lens of a father leader. The battlefield I must now protect and hold is called my home. At stake is the hearts and minds of my wife and children.

The world will continually tell my wife and children lies about their identity.

They will be continually be presented with expectations that drown their worth.

They will continually be attacked….

But like Chamberlain I will not back down. I will continue to love, lead and serve well. I will continue to point them to the Father who created us for His glory.

I have always been amazed at how one man can change the course of a battle. Husbands and Fathers….more than ever before, I believe it is our duty to now do so.

Will you join me?