Monday, December 27, 2010

New Blog Post: Christmas visits and stories that never die

My brother Steve, his wife Cindy and her parents from Texas have been in town visiting this weekend. It was a white Christmas here in NC, a rarity since 1947, so its a big deal here. The whole town came to a screeching halt. The police did reverse 911 calls asking folks to stay at home (they laugh at us in Alaska!)

We spent a quiet Christmas Eve together, just me Tammy, Tori and Jack and we broke out the "fancy" plates with gold trim and drank sparkling grape juice out of the wine glasses, it was fantastic!



We enjoyed a great Christmas night dinner at my Aunt Becky's house with my cousin Mary Ruth and her family. The kids went sledding in the front yard and made "snow boulders", and what Christmas is complete without one of those?!

Steve and I met out at our farm yesterday for some snow covered skeet shooting. Steve got a new Browning automatic shotgun and we blasted some clay pigeons with his father-n-law out in our back pasture. Jack shot his first 12 gauge shot gun and nailed a clay pigeon, it was cool to see that! Then Jack and I did do-nuts in the snow.

We had some hilarious story telling times about Christmas' past. I was thinking of some the other day. I remember when my Granddaddy went nuts and bought my mom, my aunt and my grandmother all brand new, red, yellow and orange1974 VW super beetles. They were all lined up in his driveway Christmas Eve.

Or when my mom and dad gave Steve and I Red Ryder bb guns back in 1976. It was just like the movie "A Christmas Story".
I remember the chorus' and the stories of poor kids who had shot their eyes out. I can't tell you how many BB gun wars we had with those things and no one ever shot their eye out!

Last night we made some more memories sledding at Robbie and Kelly's house on their awesome back yard ski slope. Jack and his buddy Daniel and I sledded down the hill over and over again, and at the end of every run a massive wrestling match would ensue. Then back up the hill to do it all over again.

During a lull in the action, I laid back on the sled and gazed up at the heavens with the laughter of those two boys filling my ear. I thought about them and how they actually live in every moment and that is all that matters. Sledding is all they were thinking about. They could care less about Tuesday or Wednesday for that matter. Thoughts of the coming weeks challenges entered my head, the responsibilities, the to do lists, the meetings, the war. I tried as best I could to return to the days of when the moment was all that mattered. And for a brief second as I rose up to grab my sled and fly down the hill and fight off those two 12 year olds, all the stuff was gone. It was an absolutely perfect moment.

All the best stories I remember are those when the moment was all that mattered. All the plans for the future were insignificant all the past failures and victories were inconsequential. All that mattered was the BB gun, the people I was with, the sled, the wrestling match, my kids, my wife...whatever it was that was all that mattered.

As I gazed up in the sky, praying a thankful prayer, the pressure lifted a bit and the Lord seemed to speak very clearly, "Someday, the moment will be all that matters, someday "

Someday....At Advent we celebrate the 1st arrival of Christ implying that there will be a 2nd coming of the King. I have no idea when that will be and it seems so far fetched to the modern mind. But the Bible is very clear that it will happen, and I am looking for it. I've seen enough war and enough sadness to long for it. I've also seen enough joy and enough laughter to long for more. I also know this that eternity is beyond time, a perpetual state of living in the moment becasue moments don't exist beyond time there will always and only be right now!
Now that's a Christmas miracle and story to look forward to....all bought and paid for by a God-man on a tree 2000 years ago and activated for me and you by faith with thanksgiving.


Friday, December 24, 2010

My New Fangled Christmas Card: Update from our family


Well, Merry Christmas Everyone!

After all the busyness of the last few months you guessed it, not enough time or proper planning for a Christmas card. In years past I had mailed out Christmas newsletters, but it just didn't happen this year. So here is the Borders family update for all of you. It will be in list format for easy reading...and that is becasue I care about you and your time.  

  1. Tori- Tori is now 15 years old and has her drivers permit and will be turning 16 next summer. So, the new Geico commercial with the dude handing the keys to his 5 year old sitting in the drivers seat of the their car has great meaning for me these days! She's taller than her mom, still dancing up a storm, reading her Kindle, enjoying her friends and excelling ins school...an all around awesome kid for any dad or mom to have. The future is so bright for her and God could not have given us a finer daughter 
  2. Jack: Jack is 12, built like a bulldozer, studying Muay Thai and Brazillain Jui Jitsu. He kicked me in the leg and almost made me cry! I took him to Alaska this summer and he caught his first salmon and saw his first Moose. It was an amazing trip that we will do again. He is in the 7th grade and growing all the time. I took he and Tori to 5th Street Ministries (our homeless shelter) to serve dinner to the folks there and it was an eye opening experience for him. He saw people thankful for a meal and kids his age with no place to live. He said, "I want to go back on Christmas Day dad!" I think we'll make that happen. 
  3. Tammy: Tammy is as beautiful as the day I married her 19 years ago and we celebrate 20 in 2011. I'm not sure what we will do to celebrate but it will be awesome I am sure. 20 years tolerating me is something to celebrate anyway. She still works at Clearview Christian Academy where Tori and Jack attend school. She cooks amazing food and generally runs the show around the house and she is good at it. We have been reading John Eldredge's book on marriage called "Love and War" and I am finding a new breath of fresh air blowing through our relationship. She really is a Proverbs 31:10-31 woman!
  4. Brad: I returned from Iraq in May and after a few months at home started a new job as the Deputy Group Chaplain at 3rd Special Forces Group at FT Bragg. Its a humbling job to work around so may heroic folks each day. I work there during the week and come home on the weekends. I am on orders there until at least OCT of 2011. I've been reconnected with my friends from Turning Point and done some speaking for them over the last few months. I continue to try to keep my old body in shape through punishing workouts that have become a very real source of mental clarity in my life.
  5. Sophie and Levi: Our two dogs continue to run our lives, but we love them!
In a conversation with my buddy Carl Cartee the other day we were talking about a passage that I am preaching this weekend at my home church here. Its out of Luke 2 and its the "Song of Simeon" Simeon was an old man that happened to be at the temple the day Joseph and Mary dedicated Jesus there. Upon seeing the baby Simeon rejoices that his "eyes had seen the salvation of Israel" We were wondering together if Jesus smiled at him as infant.

You see, Simeon had been told that he would not see death until he had seen the "Lord's Messiah"
We wondered what that must feel like to actually see the revelation of God and to hold the savior of the world in your arms. And then maybe to catch a smile from the Creator in the form of an infant. It must have been something. It must have been something as well to know that he had accomplished everything that God had for him. There was nothing left on his bucket list.
Charles Wesley at the end of his life penned these words
"Oh could I catch one smile from thee, and drop into eternity"

My prayer for you is that you might catch a smile from the Savior this Christmas...catch a glimpse of eternity and live your life emptying out your bucket!




Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 03, 2010

Tender Warrior

Every day I go in to work I see heroes. Not heroes in a generic sense, but heroes for real. Upon entering the front door of our headquarters there is a display honoring SSG Robby Miller, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in October of this year. I can't walk by that display without stopping and letting it sink in. Outside near our sidewalk are 28 granite stones, with 28 names. I walk by them every day. Each one is a story, a lasting representation of a life that was offered up.

Yesterday we dedicated that memorial walkway. Families of our fallen came from all over America. All of them are heroes too. Wives, children, moms and dads, brothers and sisters all showed up to honor these men who over the last 9 years have said yes to their country and given everything they had to give.

While getting ready yesterday my commander asked me to come into his office. For a brief second I thought I was in big trouble...Sometimes that is the way a good butt chewing starts..."Hey Chaplain, come see me in my office." But as he closed the door he opened a three ring binder and asked me to help him go over his remarks for the ceremony. He read them to me as if he was out there behind the podium.

My commander is a big tall man, with many years of experience. He's seen alot of life both good and bad. He leads alot of this country's most heroic men. He is well trained, professional, strong and courageous.

But I noticed something as equally valuable in him yesterday, he has a tender heart for people. As he read those comments he broke for a minute, unable to read them. Evidently some memory of one of those guys had come forefront while he was ploughing through his remarks. I placed my hand on his shoulder and just said, "Sir, you are doing fine." I found myself thinking that I would follow this man just about anywhere.

Tenderness is one of the hallmarks of a great warrior. Its not just about courage and strength. Its that heart that makes the valor meaningful. Its that heart for people that is the reason why ultimately soldiers do what soldiers do.

There are many days I think about leaving the Army for a quieter and less costly endeavor.

That was not yesterday.

Engage your heart today...evaluate how meaningful your relationships are, keep the things that are important...well.... important and lose the tyranny of the urgent.

Think about that one

Thursday, December 02, 2010

God saved us from our furnace

Wow, its been a while since I posted anything on my blog, nearly three months....as my dad would say that is just shameful. My deepest apologies. I must tell you a story today so that you can understand how God moves in the most mundane of circumstances. I'm working at FT Bragg during the week and my bride and my kids stay at home and continue the mission  back in our home town, you know going to school, Wal Mart, Muay Thai class, dance and all that other "life" stuff. So we spend our weeks texting and doing the cell phone thing and then I get home on the weekends.

It never seems to fail that something always goes wrong when I am gone, something will break, a flat tire, a malfunctioning alarm, busted pipe...all when I can't be there to help. Grrrrrrr, for a man it is the height of frustration because we love to fix stuff and make it right.

It does however provide ample opportunity to exercise faith and to see God's hand at work in our midst. Last night Tammy calls around 11:00 which she never does. So I knew as I picked up my cell phone that there was a problem. Here first words were, "I smell gas!" Immediately I knew that it was probably our ancient heating system that has been pumping hot water through my house every winter since 1967. Its old, noisy, but very efficient. I have to have some type of work done on it every year.

I told Tammy to check the pilot light and it was functioning. She stilled smelled the gas. I got worried, gas is heavier than air and rides along the floor. I was worried about an explosion. So, I told her to call the gas company. I told her to call me when the gas guy got there and told her I loved her, prayed for God to protect them, trusted Him by faith and went to sleep. Unfortunately my phone was on vibrate and I slept through her calls about an hour or so later.

As I woke around 6:15 I called her immediately and asked her if everything was OK. She said that Keith Moore, a friend of ours had been the on call person for the gas company. He came out with all his gadgets and checked everything and the gas leak was minimal. But he did find that the carbon monoxide levels were our of the roof! Keith shut down our furnace and the CO levels went down. In case you didn't know carbon monoxide is a tasteless odorless gas that is fatal when when it fills the air around you. Keith took extra care in evaluating the problem.

Several things I see here:
  1. Tammy smelled gas, when there was very little escaping from our pipes which prompted her to call me. She felt it important enough to make the call
  2. A good friend was the on call guy for the Gas company
  3. A good God was in charge!
Had Tammy not smelled the gas, she could have gone on to bed and instead of me waking up to speak with my wife I could have been waking up to the sound of someone close to me telling my my family had died in their sleep. Gulp!

It took me almost an hour to process this this morning. The realization that I was a sniff of gas away from possibly losing my family poured over my soul, I got nauseous. I was telling my friend Dave about it this morning and was overcome with emotion....the realization that life takes wild turns and there are near misses every day. The understanding that the little things matter, like the sniff of gas or a friend on call.
Then the overwhelming revelation that God is watching, sending little signs, speaking in the small, declaring His power, His goodness, His command....even with a 43 year old furnace and the keen nose of a faithful and awesome wife!

Think about that one for a while!

Monday, September 20, 2010

What would Jesus tweet?

Its funny how when you read the Bible for a lot of years things can get well.....ho hum. I'm just being real. I get a little suspect of people who blast out on their twitter posts every single day about the "life changing" stuff they heard. But today I found something to tweet about and it might not be what you think. In fact twitter is a very odd thing for me to get a handle on. I know its a great way to get information out. Its also a great way to let everyone know what you had for breakfast or when you are out of toilet paper. But in the world of Christendom it seems to me that twitter has become sort of a bragging board or a lodge pole to hang "spiritual" scalps on. People tweet about the latest conference or church service or the vast number of souls that were saved at an event. There seems every day to be a never ending litany of the next biggest thing out there. Please don't get me wrong, I believe that we need to hear about the successes of the different parts of the church. I rejoice when I hear that people have come to faith.

But (I know when you use the word but you just negated everything that was previously said...but I'm using it anyway)
But...as I was reading in the gospel of Luke this morning and came across a passage that I of course had read before. In seminary they make you read all of it! But sometimes even familiar passages reveal new insights. In this passage Jesus had just sent out 70 workers 2 by 2. A little pre-mission training if you will. Those boys came back to Jesus whoopin and hollerin, "Hey Jesus, when we used your name all this crazy stuff happened." If they had Twitter accounts it would have been trending hard. Maybe it would have digitally read: @Peter_TheRock 10 demons cast out in a village today...the name Jesus rocks the underworld! or maybe @Ipaylesstax_Matthew sickness, disease, palsy all vanish at the name of Jesus!


Those guys were so fired up and The Message even states it like this, "Master, even the demons danced to your tune!"
Check out what Jesus said back to them. "All the same, the great triumph is not in your authority over evil, but in God’s authority over you and presence with you. Not what you do for God but what God does for you—that’s the agenda for rejoicing.”


In one translation He says, "rejoice in the fact that your names are written in heaven"

I think we do alot more rejoicing over what we do than over the fact that we are kids of the Father. Its just our natural tendency to compare ourselves with others. The twitter world is no different. In fact I read some twitter posts now and again and get mad or envious. How how awful is that? Again, just being real.

I have to fight the urge to rejoice in my own accomplishmnets in the name of Jesus and embrace the fact that I named with Jesus.

And the really cool part of the passage? Well immediately after Jesus tells them to rejoice more about who they are than what they did the Scripture says, "At that, Jesus rejoiced, exuberant in the Holy Spirit. “I thank you, Father, Master of heaven and earth, that you hid these things from the know-it-alls and showed them to these innocent newcomers. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way."


Notice it says that Jesus rejoiced exuberant, or exceedingly rejoiced! Its the closest I can find anywhere in the Bible where it even comes close to telling us that Jesus laughed. But, in my own experience with God, in my own life I find it hard to imagine a Jesus who doesn't laugh. And what was it that made Jesus laugh?

It was the Truth and the Spirit, Spirit and Truth. The Truth is that its not what we do that makes Jesus roar with joy. The Truth is that we are His and that makes Him a joy filled God. The Spirit as well filled Him with this revelation and brought the joy of knowing the Truth.

Now that is something to tweet!

Don't forget that today, no matter how many people you lead to Jesus today, that is secondary to the fact that you my friend are written in the book of life. If you have trusted Him, you are named with Him and you are righteous.

So put that in your browser and tweet it!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wounded Warriors

Beyond the headlines of those killed in action in Iraq and Afghansitan are the more than 30,000 wounded service men and women who in many cases have had life altering injuries. 21st century medical advances have made it possible that many of our combat casualties survive the most horrific of injuries. Although alive, life has become a struggle for normalcy for many. In some cases there are literally years of rehabilitation in clinics and centers, away from the their homes, persevering to return to a life that seems normal.
There is an organization that takes alot of the burden off these guys and its called the Wounded Warrior Project. Today I went to a luncheon put on for our wounded warriors here in our unit. I met men there that exemplify what it really means to be an American. They have left peices of their bodies on foreign fields and are still pushing forward. They love their country and they love each other.

WWP is a nonprofit that was founded by veterans to help wounded service members beyond what the respective branches of service do. WWP reaches out with backpacks filled with supplies at every injured soldier's bedside, helping with rehab, job placement, counseling services and with community and much much more!

I am currently serving in a special operations unit and we have had many casualties, both KIA's and WIA's and the WWP has been there for our guys every step of the way. If you'd like to find out more about the Wounded Warrior Project their website is www.woundedwarriorproject.org

SSG Patrick Patterson's first music video!

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Its the middle of the race when it is hardest!

I really have come to identify well with the Apostle Paul's statement at the end of his life, that he had run the race and finished the task. Races are something that we all can identify with. At one point or another we have all been in some kind of race or seen one. I've run in races, traithalons, mountain bike races as well. I've watched car races and the Tour de France. I've seen sprinters destroy world records and marathoners press the barriers of endurance. In Crossfit I test myself against the clock continuously. One thing I have found is that the most difficult part of any race comes in the middle. In the begining of any race the excitment of competition is there, either the prospect of taking the tape at the end or the crowd gathered to watch, the beginning is the easiest part. The end as well is accompnaied by some of the same things, crowds screaming for the eventual winner, or just looking at the clock and knowing that the end of the pain is almost in sight.

But its the middle that can be most troublesome. In the middle of the race there are less people to cheer you on and many times its lonely out there and you and your thoughts are all that is present. In the middle of a vicious metabolic conditioning workout its the most difficult, energy is being depleted, pain sets in, the temptaion to stop is at its height. It is the middle that requires the most concentration, the most endurance, the most fortitude.

On our way to church this evening we were listening to my daughter's favorite band called Need to Breath, and one of their songs talks about not turning back... "Tell me why I should run for cover...at the sound of the coming thunder...all I hear is the cry of my lover....so take your shot....I won't turn back"

In the middle of the race, the finish line is not enough to think about. Its got to be more personal that just the race. Many times in the middle of a painful workout I think of my wife, wierd.... but I do. I think of a person to get me through. In the middle of long road march I pray...to a person. I can't even get a handle on the finish its too far off.

I am finding my walk with Jesus, now in those middle years, much like that. The cheering crowds are far behind and the finish seems way out there. I find myself many times alone on the road, in painful circumstances. I see death around me some. It is during these times that I need a person to pull me through the middle of the race. I need a person who knows me, knows where I am, where I am going. I need a person who knows me deeply. I need a person that I can know deeply, who understands the road and that will be the spark of life when I am tempted to turn back.

So if you are in the middle with me, don't turn back. Don't give in to cynisism. Trust the person of Jesus, not the idea of Him. Relate to Him in the mundane like washing dishes or cleaning the gutters or in precious moments with those you love. The middle can be grand, becasue there really is a finish line and the most awesome thing about that is that the finish line of this road really is the begining.

Strength and Honor


Friday, July 23, 2010

What's in a church name?

You've seen them, you may attend one on Sunday mornings. The latest trend is to have a really cool name for your church. After being in and around different types of ministries over the last 15 years it gets more noticeable the way we follow trends. Even the trends of not following trends. This has even affected the way we name our gathering places or the name of the group of people congregating in the name of Jesus. I think maybe these groovy names for churches came about as a reaction to to the folks outside the church walls who had become indifferent to names like 1st Baptist, or ST John's or Antioch Methodist. Maybe the new church name movement came about as a way of assigning identity to that particular group of people. It may have been as well a breaking away of religious typology. Whatever the reason now the hottest thing going that I have noticed is to name your church with one word. Not two, just one word. Something that is catchy on a bumper sticker and you have to have Macbook generated graphics as well. The names usually have to do with looking or lifting up, or where we are going or it may be some cool Latin word that you have to look up to find out what it means.

Tammy and I were driving through a small town here in NC and we spotted another one today. I got to thinking about what I would name my church. I told Tammy that Fire Hydrant church might be good with the obvious hell quenching motif, but then realized that wouldn't work because it is two words. She agreed.

So I got brainstorming so here is my list for my fictional hipster groovy community fellowship.

  1. ichurch- But we all know there is no I in church and I'd hate to get sued by Steve Jobs
  2. Tree Church- Sounds kind of cool and if it was a Walnut tree would account for all the nuts I'd probably attract
  3. Up Church- But that sounds too much like Up-Chuck and would not be good for obvious reasons
  4. Shrute Church- This would be a place that all lovers of The Office could come and worship and then tend the community beet farm, plus it would be a really cool bumper sticker
  5. Gomorrah Church- Hmmmmm? Nope, attendance would be a problem
  6. Reaction Church- Obviously we'd have political sermons every week and there would be all kinds of classes on how to make placards for all the protests that we'd go to.
  7. Oatmeal Church- No brown sugar, no butter....just oatmeal
  8. Crossfit Church- Now we are getting somewhere....the workouts would crush the devil out of people
  9. Airborne Church- This would be held in the back of a c-130 every week, we'd pray and then jump....the leap of faith illustrations would be awesome!
  10. Mossy Oak Church- I know its two words, but having everyone wearing mossy oak camo each week would be very cool. 
I guess my favorite name for church would be the one that Jesus said, he said it was His church. We belong to Him; all of us in these fragmented bodies, some that are mega and some that are minuscule. Whether we come together We are His. In spite of all of our deficiencies, Jesus has seen fit to include people in His Kingdom and meeting together and expressing love for and enjoying fellowship with each other is a good thing. Church means ones who are called out, out of darkness into light, out of slavery into freedom, and out of death into life. No matter what you call it that is a good thing.

Till next time

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Alaska!

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I cannot overestimate the value of getting away. Jack and I just returned from a great trip to Alaska with my brother Steve and my dad. We spent 8 days exploring the Kenai penninsula, angling for trout and salmon, panning for gold, hiking on snow covered trails, wondering at glaciers and just plain having fun. I just got through reading a book that my friend Pete gave me called, "The mission, the men and me". Its by a fomer Delta Force commnder. I was expecting a war story book, but its so much more than that. Its a valuable book on leadership. One of the points that the auther, Pete Blaber, makes is that all good leadership and problem solving requires those "eureka" moments of discovery. But those moments are impossible without a process of discovery. The process he calls the saturate, incubate and illuminate cycle. You have to be able to saturate yourself with context and information about your mission, you've got to allow time to incubate or think about what the issue is and only through the first two steps do you reach the illuminate or the "eureka!" stage. This is remarkably similar to our walk with Jesus, time spent just being is so importnat yet so much of the church is characterized by busyness, with lots of activity but so little "Eureka!" momnets. Sometimes it takes an investment of time and money on a trip to a far out place like Alaska, to sit by a river, to have no agenda, to cut the chords of the electronic world...all with the goal of the "eureka!" moment that provides context for the rest of life.

And personally this was a reconnecting trip. This was the first time that my dad, my brother and I had done anything like this since I was a kid. It was a special time getting three generations together. My son, Jack landed his first salmon which put a permanent grin on his face.

One thing a trip to Alaska does for me, it makes me want to go back, the beauty, the wildness, the tranquility definitely stirs the soul and makes you long for more.

I suspect there is a part of heaven that will look alot like Alaska, more glorious than what we have here, but it sure is a good preview.

Oh...what was my "eureka" moment, well its hard to say, but I think that I realized what I knew all along is that I have a great dad, brother and son and that is a blessing.
























































Saturday, June 12, 2010

Crossfit Mooresville

I just spent the morning with my new friends Craige and Pam from Bare Bones Fitness/ Crossfit Mooresville. You can check them out at www.crossfitmooresville.com Every Saturday they have introductory workouts for anyone that would like to train with them. Their facilities are great with an ample supply of bumper plates, kettlebells, wall balls and other instruments of physical pain to get the most from your workouts. Its not like your typical gym. There are no fancy machines. Its just hard work. You'll see weird stuff like a big giant tire and sledge hammers. Ask them what a muscle up is. Its all a part of a fitness revolution that is growing exponentially. There will be no bicep curls here, only functional movements that people need in life. With obesity rates soaring isn't it time we bag the info-mercials that promise fitness without work. Our bodies were created by God to work and work hard. The great thing about Craige and Pam's gym is that they will work and suffer with you. After we got done with our workout we talked about how much fun it is to suffer together. It builds camaraderie and character simultaneously. If you live in the Mooresville area and are interested just check out the link that I posted above and give it a try. What do you have to lose except a few pounds, maybe you'll gain some new friends who are committed to helping people succeed. Thanks much Craige and Pam for stepping out there and bringing Crossfit to Iredell County!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Mundane ain't so bad


  


I read all the time on Twitter and Facebook posts of all the awesome things that people are doing, especially my friends in ministry. I'm proud to know so many people making a massive impact on the world around them. I have been involved in the past in very public ministry, speaking before large crowds, teaching, travelling the world. I regret none of it. 

But after being back home from Iraq for over a month now I made some decisions about my time over the next few years. One of the things that I decided through prompting from the Lord was to step back and just be. Just be a man, a husband, a dad. To just be in the mundane of life and by so doing the mundane becomes so much more, the mundane moments become sacred and holy.

Let me illustrate: Today I spent the whole day with my kids. Tammy had to work so we drove up to Boone, N.C. to visit with my mother. Jack caught his first fist with a fly rod. We had awesome pizza at the Mellow Mushroom. I took a 30 minute nap. I had a conversation with a landscaper about fishing and the beauty of NC. We drove home on the Blue Ridge Parkway and stopped at the over looks, even the boring ones. We played the "cow game" on the way home, counting cows on either side of the road and if you pass a cemetery on your side all your cows are dead. Tammy was waiting for us with dinner. A pipe burst in my basement and we had to get a temporary fix till the plumber could get here tomorrow.

Then we all went out back and did a nasty Crossfit workout together at 9:20 P.M. We got bit by mosquitoes We laughed at how tired we got, just the 4 of us. We laughed at the way Tori did her ballerina V-ups.

It was an amazing day. We didn't have an avalanche of "spiritual" discovery. We didn't change the course of history. But we experienced something amazing, the love and fellowship of a family and the closeness of God in the mundane of life...and I wouldn't trade it for all the notoriety or fame or money or awards the world has to offer. It was a mundane Wednesday and it was amazing. I hope Thursday is mundane too!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fit to Function


Its hard to believe I've been home (In the US) for over a month and at my at my home in NC for a couple of weeks already. Its a weird transition coming back to life here. Its odd getting used to not having a chow hall that accepts ID cards for food. Its odd going to Wal-Mart and for me aggravating when I hear people complain about standing in a line for a few extra minutes, if they only knew! Its odd driving, its odd seeing everyone in civilian attire, its odd seeing green everywhere....its just odd and weird. But, I'm not complaining.

One thing that I have not let go of from my deployment is my commitment to train physically. I get up in the mornings still at 0500 and meet my buddy Brian Burgess at a local gym and we punish ourselves with the latest W.O.D. or workout of the day from Crossfit or Sealfit. If you've not heard of these training systems/philosophies I highly recommend them. One of the latest fads is actually a really old Russian form of resistance training with the use of a Kettlebell. Brian is holding one in the picture here. Its like a cannon ball with a handle. The lifts primarily consist of swings, cleans, snatch's and other horrific and painful exercise that focus primarily on functional fitness, mimicking actual moves that we do in life. So many Americans these days have never done an honest hard days work swinging a sledge hammer or using a shovel. Kettlebell training can help out with that. I bought a little one for Tammy and the kids and then I got this 62# er. And that is not even the heaviest one you can get.

I sort of had my physical fitness epiphany while in Iraq. I realized that the harder I trained, the better I was at living life. Fitness is marketed in the US mostly to people who want 6 pack abs or tight bodies so they can feel better about themselves. In fact I went to a local gym to see what they had and the guy at the counter had a shirt that said, "Curls get the girls". I walked out. There's nothing wrong with being content in our physical appearance, but if that is the only reason I train, my foundation is faulty. And unfortunately I've been guilty of that in the past. Believe me, when you are an overweight 12 year old the words of your buddies can dig deep and leave indelible scars. These scars carried over into my adult years and I began to train to find value, even identity. This is a perilous road to wander. Even after finding identity and life in Jesus, these old wounds still come creeping in.

But, I am learning and through my experience in Iraq have learned that fitness can be so much more than the way we look. When on missions soldiers rely on their physical prowess to survive, but its so much more than that...when I say fitness. I like to be intellectually fit, reading good books that challenge my previously held presuppositions. I like to be emotionally fit and I do that through the relationships that God has given me, my wife, kids, and dear friends like Brian. I cannot convey in words the value of being able to talk openly with those that I love. I want to be spiritually fit, walking day to day with my Savior, trusting Him, listening to Him receiving life from Him, the life I so desperately need.

Mostly I want to be fit to live, functionally fit to be a soldier, a leader, a husband, a dad, a friend, and functionally fit and combat complete to follow Jesus wherever that leads.

All for now...got a Kettlebell to swing.

If you are interested in taking your fitness to a new level, let me know and I can point you to some resources.

Blessings!

Monday, April 12, 2010

I'm back!

I took this picture today! That's my lovely daughter Tori and no she is not in Iraq with me...I was at FT Dix with her! I made it back to the states about 5 days ago and am currently doing some out processing and waiting on a few soldiers to arrive here. Its been a long year, but its over and now on to the next thing. The next thing will include lots of naps, taking walks with my wife and kids, reconnecting back into my neighborhood, catching up with old friends and generally just living the life of a simple guy with a great family and being glad to be alive and at home with my loved ones. Thanks for all the support over the last 373 days. I'm going to keep writing here, but my speaking schedule is being put on hold in favor of family, rest, silence, an solitude. Time to recharge. So blessings to you all thanks again for all the encouragement over the last year...you have no idea how much it meant to me. To God be the glory...great things He has done!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Old is Gold

I got the following email from my Orthodox Chaplain buddy and wanted to share it with you all. We in the Western world of evangelicalism have lost much of the mystery and beauty that still resides with much of the Eastern world of Christendom. We think that the latest and greatest is the best and brightest. But read the following and I challenge anyone to find a more profound, succinct and theologically moving homily anywhere and it takes about 5 minutes to read. And oh by the way it was written in the fourth century. 


Happy Easter everyone..He is risen!




Christos Anesti! Alithos Anesti! (Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!)

St. John Chrysostom was born at Antioch in about the year 347 into the family of a military-commander, spent his early years studying under the finest philosophers and rhetoricians and was ordained a deacon in the year 381 by the bishop of Antioch Saint Meletios. In 386, St. John was ordained a priest by the bishop of Antioch, Flavian.

Over time, his fame as a holy preacher grew, and in the year 397 with the demise of Archbishop Nektarios of Constantinople - successor to St. Gregory the Theologian - Saint John Chrysostom was summoned from Antioch to be the new Archbishop of Constantinople (modern Istanbul, Turkey.)

Exiled in 404 and after a long illness because of the exile, he was transferred to Pitius in Abkhazia where he received the Holy Eucharist for the last time, and said, "Glory to God for everything!", falling asleep in the Lord on 14 September 407. His Easter Sermon, which follows below, is still read among all 400 million Orthodox Christians on the Great and Glorious Day of our Lord's Resurrection, as it has been for nearly 1600 years...

With Warmest Regards,

CH (CPT) Kevin Millsaps
--------------

If any man be devout and loveth God,
Let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast!
If any man be a wise servant,
Let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.

If any have laboured long in fasting,
Let him how receive his recompense.
If any have wrought from the first hour,
Let him today receive his just reward.
If any have come at the third hour,
Let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
If any have arrived at the sixth hour,
Let him have no misgivings;
Because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore.
If any have delayed until the ninth hour,
Let him draw near, fearing nothing.
And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour,
Let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness.

For the Lord, who is jealous of his honour,
Will accept the last even as the first.
He giveth rest unto him who cometh at the eleventh hour,
Even as unto him who hath wrought from the first hour.
And He showeth mercy upon the last,
And careth for the first;
And to the one He giveth,
And upon the other He bestoweth gifts.
And He both accepteth the deeds,
And welcometh the intention,
And honoureth the acts and praises the offering.

Wherefore, enter ye all into the joy of your Lord;
Receive your reward,
Both the first, and likewise the second.
You rich and poor together, hold high festival!
You sober and you heedless, honour the day!
Rejoice today, both you who have fasted
And you who have disregarded the fast.
The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously.
The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith:
Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.

Let no one bewail his poverty,
For the universal Kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one weep for his iniquities,
For pardon has shown forth from the grave.
Let no one fear death,
For the Saviour's death has set us free.
He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it.

By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive.
He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh.
And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry:
Hell, said he, was embittered
When it encountered Thee in the lower regions.

It was embittered, for it was abolished.
It was embittered, for it was mocked.
It was embittered, for it was slain.
It was embittered, for it was overthrown.
It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.
It took a body, and met God face to face.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.
For Christ, being risen from the dead,
Is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be glory and dominion
Unto ages of ages.

Amen.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Good Friday and the Pinning Ceremony

"Pin my medals to my chest and bury me in the leaning rest"....is a line from an old Army running cadence. At the end of every tour in Iraq or Afghanistan there is always an awards ceremony. Th Army is big on awards, especially in a combat environment. Its part retention and part tradition. When people are recognized for the work they have done they are more likely to sign up and serve again. As my time here draws to a fast close, today was my awards ceremony and alot of nice things were said. Its good for your leaders to take notice of what you have done. I got pinned on today and just now realized that today is the day that Jesus' pinning ceremony took place. His award was not a commendation medal or a bronze star or even a medal of honor. His award was being accused of crimes he didn't commit. His award was three illegal trials. His award was to be called a blasphemer of God. His award was to be beaten beyond recognition. His award was to be stripped naked and spit on. His award was to be cursed by the very ones that He loved. His award was to labor under the weight of a Roman timber. His award was a solitary 800 meter walk, His award was the fleeing of his closest friends. His award was the mocking of soldiers like me. His award was crown of 100's of thorns  beaten onto his head, His award was to stretch out willingly and his pinning ceremony took place over looking the very city He came to save. His pinning ceremony was not characterized by words of "Job well done" and "Congratulations" but words like, "Save Yourself if can" and "Look...the King of the Jews". His pinning ceremony was characterized not by pride but by humility and pain. His pinning ceremony was accompanied by the darkening of the sun, an earthquake and the tears of the Father. His pinning ceremony cut the veil between you and me and a Holy God and His being pinned and His life's liquid, His blood paid and paved the way for access to Life....the Life of really being able to relate to God without religious hoops to jump through. I'm humbled to have had my pinning ceremony on the same day as Jesus'. Someday soon, I'll get to take all my "Bling" as we call it off my uniform and present it in the real ceremony before my God and King. So today I'd just like to say to Jesus..."Well done sir!...Well done and thank You so much!"

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Jesus and crack houses

This is a picture of my neighborhood, where I have lived in Iraq for the last 10 months. We call them the "crack houses". Probably not the most endearing term, but fitting with all the bullet holes in the masonry from gun battles in past days.  Every day I walk toward that SUV parked there on the right at 5:30 pm to go work out with about 30 other friends that I have met here. I'm in my last few days of doing this and a bit introspective as we tend to get towards any change point in our lives. The other day I was making my journey down this road to suffer through p90x and out of the blue was interrupted by thoughts of Jesus. I wasn't singing a praise chorus or in a church building but just walking down a dusty road on an old Iraqi Air Force base. When these thoughts invaded my head I just stopped, looked up at the sky, took in the evening sunset. I didn't hear voices or get a vision to save the world. I just came to a realization the Jesus was with me. I smiled. I looked down the road and saw two soldiers cleaning an MRAP and I was made aware that Jesus was down there too. I wondered about those soldiers, had they lost someone on this tour, did they have a bad break up, were they too just counting days till it was time to go home. And then it dawned on me that I was thinking about two dudes that I didn't even know and had never met and I was concerned with them. I think that is what happens when we live and move daily with Jesus, He leads us beyond ourselves and into the lives of others just like He does. Sometimes its pretty awesome when we can get over ourselves.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Looking Back..Taking Stock

Last May I had a conversation with one of my young guys...Dusitn (pictured 2nd from the left along with King, Lyons, Clemency and me) outside in the 130 degree heat of the Kuwaiti desert about fear and life and Jesus. Dustin was really worried about the area that he was going to work in, he's 20 years old, his whole life ahead of him. Its not uncommon for a young mad to ponder the bigger things in life as he faces a great and unknown challenge. That day Dusitn and I said some words to Jesus and we prayed that God would protect him. Dustin said some new words to Jesus too, receiving life from the Lifegiver. It was a day that I won't soon forget. Well, today Dustin and I are fast approaching another great day and in a few short weeks we'll be back in the place we call home. His team came in from a post way out in the weeds and in the desert. He's been up there running missions outside the wire on a daily basis with his buds. We are all now gathered at a larger base doing redeployment prep. Dustin and I just got through with a conversation about life from here, school, girlfriends, wives and plans down the road. We are going to have some good time over the next week or so. We broke contact to take care of some things a few minutes ago and as he walked up the street I hollered at him, "Hey Dustin, you remember that conversation we had down in Kuwait about being scared?!"
He answered, "Yes sir, I do!" He smiled real big and so did I. He and I shared a moment together with Jesus that no one can ever take away from us. And we got to relive that memory again after a 10 months of heat, work, trials, late nights, helicopter missions, frustration, missing home so bad you can taste it, sweat, pain, laughter, joy, and memorial services. It was as good today as it was back in May of 09. God was faithful even when we forgot about Him, He did not forget about us and He was there even in the silly and mundane stuff. Dustin looks different now, he's stronger, more confident and I doubt there is anything that he can't do. What a privilege to be a part if his life. A few years ago I was gung ho about being a full time itinerant speaker or working on staff at some huge Mega-lo-mart church that was really moving and shaking. The lure of the limelight, the name dropping, the conferences, the notoriety was intoxicating or even doing something "great for God". The problem I have is, how do your define what doing something "great for God" is. I have dear friends who do this that are not in it for the wrong reasons, but don't get me wrong it can be a death trap for sure and it would have been for me. I traded that life for this one. I'm not famous and that is ok, in fact I kind of like being a nobody. Otherwise I wouldn't have had that moment that I just had with Dustin. Now that is great and that is for God!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Podcast: Irbil




Podcast from the other Iraq! Enjoy! Sorry for the length but we just had too much to talk about today!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

COLONEL (RET.) ROBERT L. HOWARD

The link here is the Bigraphy of COL Robert Howard, the most decorated warrior in US history to include Audie Murphy. If you have a moment read the USASOC biography on him and be thankful for men who have given a life of service in defense of their country.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Write it down!

I just started a new book by Don Miller who is something of an enigma in the Christian world these days. I've been reading his stuff for about five years, starting with "Blue Like Jazz" and then "Searching for God knows what", both I highly recommend. His new book I have only read one sentence. I was sitting in my "crack house" here in Iraq pondering the dust storm that is upon us, reading through some Old Testament History books and simultaneously checking Twitter. I think that I might be quite mad at times. But my friend Amanda Brown posted on Twitter that she was reading Don's new book. I like Don, he's irreverent and I think the world needs a bit of that, so I downloaded his latest book called "A Million Miles in a Thousand Places: What I Learned While Editing My Life". I like the title! I have read about one paragraph and am hooked already. He states at the begining of his book that we forget so much of our lives, that we don't even remember half of a half of it. He also stated that he has a friend that writes down everything he can remember, even if it was dropping an ice cream cone when he was 7. So, before I read any more of this book, I remembered something and am going to write it down. It means nothing to you if you are reading it, but this is my blog and the rules are, I get to write what I want!

One the thing I remember was wanting to be a cub scout. I loved the uniforms! There was the blue shirt with all the cool badges. But there was also the neckerchief with a shiny gold ring that had the cub scout emblem on it that held that garment into place. I wanted nothing more than to wear that uniform looking all cool and doing my cub-scout stuff.  I had dreams of winning the box car derby. I had visions of learning how to survive in the wilderness, eating wild plants, and hunting animals and cooking them on a stick over a fire. I was 6. I remember my mom took me to the local cub scout den up the street at my neighbor Bill Harper's house. They had the meeting in the garage that they had remodeled into a play room. I remember thinking, "Wow, there used to be a car in here...hmm"

I was ready for the adventure to begin. I suspect I was alot like Ralphie in a Christmas Story, wanting to save the world. I remember Bill's mom getting all of us together to announce what our most awesome project would be. What could it be? Rock-climbing?, learning to use a compass? A river trip?

The announcement came and my hopes and dreams were dashed on the rocks of the mundane. Our project was.....to build a bird house!

I think I quit about 2 weeks later. All the cool stuff was for the older kids!

So...there's my memory for today so I won't forget it.

Maybe you remember something too about your life....don't just sit there thinking how silly Brad was...go write it down now before you forget!

Thanks Amanda and Don

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Irbil


Posted by PicasaI've just returned from a trip up north in Kurdistan to the city of Irbil. What an amazing place. In the midst of the chaos of what has been the war in Iraq, Kurdistan stands our as an example of what might be if folks could work together. In Irbil there are large populations of Muslims and Christians and from what I can tell they work together for the good of their community. In Irbil there is daily trash pick up by city workers, something that is non-existent in much of Iraq. There are bustling market places, businesses, tourist attractions and even a go cart track. And, most importantly no IED's blowing up innocent civilians.

The city of Irbil is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. In the center of the city is what is known as the old Citadel. It is a castle in the middle of town that stands 200 feet above the rest of the city. I stood on the same ground as King Darius the Mede and Alexander the Great. Its hard to get away from the profundity of being able to do that. It was quite amazing. While there I met with a Catholic Priest, the station manager of a Christian radio station, had fellowship with believers from Fiji who work for the UN as well. I even got to sit down with my brothers from Fiji and drink a local beverage called Cava. Its made from a root that grows on the island nation. It is served out of a giant wooden bowl and it looks like muddy water and tastes even worse. But it was not the Cava that made our night special, it was the camaraderie of soldiers and the fellowship of believers. I couldn't help but think that God was giving me a glimpse of what heaven will look like....we sang, laughed, talked about family, and talked about Jesus. The words of the Bible struck me, every kindred, tribe and nation will be represented there. It is going to be awesome. Take a minute to thank God that He made people all over the world different and that those differences are precious, but we are all unified in one thing, our fellowship with the Son, King Jesus!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Heart of a Soldier: We're Back!

After a long hiatus we are back on the air with comments about crazy runner guy, fitness class culture clash and the impact of a great dad!

Listen Now

Monday, January 18, 2010

In His Hands


Hope you like the picture shown here today taken of my friend Joshua and his little boy. When I saw this photo I couldn't help but think of how profound the image was. I remember walking with my dad in the mountains of NC as a boy, playing by the creek always looking to see if he was near by. When you are a little guy its always comforting to know that Dad is within reach. Dad's are strong. Dad's have experience. Dad's have been there. Dad's are smart. On a stormy night it was good to know Dad was down the hall with all his strength. My son Jack hates going outside in the dark and always says, "Will you come with me?" He thinks I'm bulletproof! We never really have to lose that you know. And even if you never had that kind of dad, that Dad is available to us all. The prophet Malachi said, "Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us?" and Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:3 in his opening statements "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ".
The Word of God is very clear on this, that God is our Father in heaven. He is smart, He is strong, He has the experience, He has been there and in the midst of a stormy life, he'll take my hand and get me through, not around, but through storms. He walk with me when I'm scared and its dark, because He is bulletproof! Looking at this picture of Joshua and his son and knowing Josh and how much he loves that little boy, I can say that he would expend all his resources, charge any gate, face any danger, make any sacrifice to make sure his little guy is taken care of. Is not our Heavenly Father the same? Has He not done that in the gift of Jesus who charged Hell for you and I? So, reach out your hand and walk with Him in the assurance that your Dad is there guiding you with His strong hand, even when its dark! He might even take you for a walk on the water!



The songs of life- Thanks to mom

My home was filled with music and people growing up. Mom loved music and can play an assortment of instruments but her favorites are th...