This took guts…

Soldiers, Drinks, and My Messy Thank You

but oh man… it was totally worth it. I need to A) start loving people like this and B) be more open to following the promptings of the Holy Spirit in my life.

Is there someone or a group of someones you know who would say that they feel forgotten? What can you do to show them some lovin’? How can you help them feel remembered?

Thank You Tony Dungy

Quote

“But what does it really mean to be a man?

I say this: being a man is more than leaving our wives husbandless, our children fatherless, our employers passionless, our families hopeless.

You can be more. You were created to be more — and better. The messages of the world are a cop-out: the messages of sexual conquest, of financial achievement, of victory in general. Not only are these messages not fair, but they also fall so short of what you can do — and more importantly, who you are.”

-Tony Dungy, from “Uncommon: Finding Your Path to Significance”

FM Transmitters, Static Interference, and Life’s Purpose

This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel to the desert of southern California where I joined 72 other dudes at Joshua Tree National Park for a men’s retreat put on by the Hilltop Church in El Segundo, CA. It was a great weekend and I will have more to say about it later, but not in this post.

This post is about something that occurred during my 2-hour drive back from Joshua Tree to LAX airport on Sunday afternoon.

If you know me in real life (outside of this blog) you probably know that I’m somewhat of an audiophile. I love music… all kinds of music. I don’t go anywhere without my trusty iPod or Grooveshark and Pandora accounts. I almost always have headphones with me and when I’m going to be spending more than 5 minutes driving somewhere, I always rely on my Satechi Bluetooth FM transmitter to keep my tunes playing. This is not a product plug for Satechi, though if they wanted to send me a few more of their awesome products, I’d be fine with that. However, I LOVE THIS FM TRANSMITTER.

It’s the best FM transmitter I’ve ever owned. It requires no wires. It simply plugs into the A/C adapter in the car and automatically pairs with my phone via Bluetooh anytime I start my car. For those of you that don’t know what it means for a phone to pair via Bluetooth, all it means is that as long as the two devices are paired together wirelessly, any audio that would normally come out of my phone (iPod, Grooveshare, Pandora, YouTube, etc) automatically plays on my car stereo on whatever channel I have the Satechi tuned to. It’s amazing technology and it’s quite possibly the best sound quality I’ve ever gotten from an FM transmitter… wired or otherwise.

As good as this device is, like any FM transmitter, my Satechi is only as good as the availability of a free FM station to play it over. In OKC, I use 88.3 FM. There’s nothing on the dial at that point and so the sound is AMAZING. There is no interference and I can listen to my music at the highest fidelity possible short of using an audio in cable or going analog.

Normally when I travel somewhere outside of OKC, I just leave the device set to 88.3 and that usually works out fine. There just aren’t a lot of radio stations (no matter where you go) that low on the FM frequency.

This past weekend was no different. I got in my car on Sunday morning for my drive back into civilization from the Mojave desert, the transmitter paired with my phone, I selected my favorite playlist, and I took off toward Los Angeles.

It was great. I hadn’t heard much music the last few days and I was jamming out. Everything was going good until I hit Riverside, California… home of KUCR FM, campus radio station for the University of California Riverside. Coincidently, KUCR just so happens to also reside at 88.3 FM.

As I approached the campus on the freeway, I noticed my music, which had been crystal clear up until that moment, started to get a little fuzzy.

And then it got a lot fuzzy.

Then, out of nowhere, what had just moments before been the classic Claude Debussy tune, Claire De Lune (it’s the song that plays at the end of Ocean’s Eleven when they’re all standing outside the Belaggio watching the fountains), all of the sudden turned into Michael Jackson’s Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough. Now I don’t have anything against MJ or that song but it was not what I was in the mood for.

However, for some strange reason, I decided to see if the situation would work itself out on its own, so I didn’t mess with anything. I’m still not sure why I didn’t try to change the station on the radio or the device, but I didn’t. It probably had something to do with the fact that I was racing down a Los Angeles freeway at 75 mph and I have a strong self-preservation instinct.

As I kept driving, I got to witness an epic battle between the music on my iPod and the music being broadcast via KUCR — between my FM transmitter and a much larger radio tower only a few blocks away.

It was like David and Goliath all over again – minus all of the hubris, national pride, name-calling, and death inflicting smooth stones.

The sound went back and forth for a few moments with a bit of crackling static before KUCR and Michael Jackson drowned out my serene Claire De Lune.

But I didn’t give up. And neither did my Satechi.

Together we kept fighting. We’d go under a bridge and for a moment, Debussy would drown out MJ. Then we’d roll past the overpass and Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough would come roaring back to life.

This went on for about 3 minutes. And then, almost as quickly as the interference started, I was out of range of the UC Riverside campus radio tower and my trusty little FM transmitter once again dominated the 88.3 position on the radio.

Am I playing up the drama in this little scenario? Sure.

But I couldn’t help noticing at least a small parallel to life. You see I believe that within each one of us is a distinct and specific purpose. A purpose that our lives are supposed to fulfill during the twenty to one-hundred years or so that we’re walking around this dusty planet. And while some people have no problem knowing and living out their purpose on a consistent daily basis, most of us struggle with knowing exactly what it is we’re supposed to accomplish in our brief lives. Most of us have some idea what our purpose in life is, but sometimes it’s not nearly as clear as we’d like.

It’s almost as if a small localized FM transmitter is constantly there with us broadcasting our purpose just within the range of our consciousness. When we’re tuned into the right frequency, we have no problem hearing the signal. In fact, it’s crystal clear.

However, for most of us (myself included) life is full of interference.

We have different signals coming at us from every direction. These amplified signals can easily drown out the constant yet quieter signals of our true purpose because they’re broadcasting at a much higher strength.

And yet, if we can ignore the interference, tolerate it’s presence for a short time, and not get off track, eventually we’ll be outside the range of the interference. And because our purpose is always with us, even though it’s broadcasting at a much less amplified signal strength, it comes roaring back to life once we’ve distanced ourselves from whatever was causing the interference.

I don’t know about you, but if I’m gut level honest with myself, within the very deepest parts of my soul, I have a pretty good idea what my purpose is. It’s always with me and if I stop for just a minute and get rid of the interference, I can almost always tune in loud and clear.

And then I pass another radio tower. And another. And another. And another.

So it’s a constant battle to stay tuned into what it is I believe my life is really supposed to be about. My purpose is always with me… staying in tune with it is just a matter of how fast I can distance myself from the interference.

And so I have to be intentional.

Intentional about the things to which I give my attention, focus, and energy. Intentional about the interference I let into my life. Intentional about who I spend my time with. Intentional about what I pursue.

Intentional and fast. Because the faster I get past whatever it is that’s attempting to interfere with my purpose, the faster I’m back in tune.

For those of you who have at least a small sense of what your life’s purpose might be, do you ever struggle with staying in tune with it?

If so, what’s causing the interference? What’s causing it and what do you to get on down the freeway out of it’s range?

Real Men and Fear

I’m afraid…

I’m afraid my daughter might grow up not realizing how much I treasure her. I’m afraid my wife might not know how much I really love her. I’m afraid I will get to the end of my life and realize that I’ve wasted many of my days chasing things that don’t matter. I’m afraid of insignificance. I’m afraid of not being awesome at everything I attempt. I’m afraid of people who would do me and my family harm with no concern whatsoever to the consequence of their actions. I’m afraid of the consequences of some of my actions. I’m afraid of getting passed over and left behind. I’m afraid my life doesn’t matter and my contributions aren’t significant. I’m afraid of getting cancer and dying before I’ve lived the life I always imagined for myself. I’m afraid of knives and guns. I’m afraid of not being liked. I’m afraid of snakes and poisonous spiders and velociraptors… yeah I went there. You would too if you happened to be a child the first time you saw Jurassic Park… those terrible bird-like buggers are some nasty creatures.

I’m afraid of all those things and more, but I don’t let fear paralyze me.

A real man knows that he’ll always have fear. No matter what he does or who he is, there will always be some things that cause him fear. And he’s OK with that because a real man knows how to experience his fear.

He doesn’t shy away from fear. In fact, he doesn’t even try to resist it. He wants to experience the feeling of his fear fully. He acknowledges the presence of fear and seeks to understand its cause. He knows that fear, much like happiness or anger or any other fleeting emotion is just that… a fleeting emotion.

A real man stares fear right in the face, tries to understand it for what it truly is, and then he acts.

And in most cases, it doesn’t even matter what he does. In fact, most of the time, the sheer feat of action in the face of paralyzing fear is almost always enough to overcome whatever it is we dread.

Are you afraid of velociraptors? Then do what I do. Every time I feel that fear creeping in, I get online and make a small donation to the American Society for the Prevention of Velociraptor Attacks. My $5 or $10 doesn’t do much, but it does do a little. And when we’re fighting fear, a little action goes a long way.

Once I’ve donated to the cause, what they do with the money is pretty much out of my hands at that point. And like most things I fear, I realize that I have no control whatsoever over what happens next. Maybe my $5 is the $5 that finally puts an end to velociraptor attacks. And maybe it’s not. But either way, no matter what I do, if a velociraptor wants to show up at my doorstep this morning and hunt me down on my way out to my car, then so be it. It’s out of my control.

And it’s the same with pretty much everything else I fear. I can do things to avoid, prevent, or overcome my fears, but once I’ve done my part, the outcome and everything else that happens is out of my control in the end.

If I want my life to matter and I’m afraid of insignificance, I need do significant things. If I’m afraid my wife and daughter don’t know how smitten I am by them, I need to show them. If I’m afraid of getting passed over and left behind, I either need to speed up or slow down and realize that life is not actually a race. If I’m afraid of not being awesome at everything I attempt, I need to attempt less or lower my expectations. If I’m afraid of chasing things that don’t matter, I need to start chasing things that do. If I’m afraid of getting cancer and dying before I’ve lived the life I always imagined for myself, I need to start living that life today. If I’m afraid of things that are beyond my control, I need to realize that I’m not really in control of anything anyway.

A real man does not shy away from his fears. He welcomes them with open arms and uses them as motivation for action.

I still haven’t figured out what to do about my phobia of knives and guns, but if you have any suggestions, you can find me in the snake house at the zoo staring down a few of my other fears on the safe side of a pane of four-inch glass.

Real Men Mow Other Dudes’ Yards

Have the parallel lines in your yard left behind from your lawn mower ever made you cry?

Yeah… me either.

Until last night.

It’s been a crazy week for our family. On Tuesday, at the lovely and talented wife’s 39 week pregnancy appointment with the midwife, we were told that her blood pressure was too high, she might be preeclamptic, and that we needed to induce labor. After a lot of Googling, another appointment on Wednesday, a couple of really pleasant medical tests (one involving a large gallon jug that she had to fill with her urine over a 24 hour period), bed rest, a walk of shame with the aforementioned jug to the lab, several hours of deliberation, lots of prayer, and a second opinion, we finally decided the induction, though not how we wanted our daughter to enter the world, was what was best for both she and my wife.

At 6 a.m. on Thursday, we arrived at the hospital to start our journey. And while this could be a post about how studly my lovely, talented, and clearly bionic wife was throughout her 16 hours of labor and 2 hours of pushing WITHOUT an epidural, I’m going to skip that and save it for another post.

Fast forward through all that to Saturday, and we were still in the hospital. The baby (taking after her mother) was already proving to be quite lovely and talented herself. She passed all her tests (APGAR, Jaundice, Heart Scan, etc.) with flying colors and all the doctors and nurses kept telling us how perfect she was. The lovely and talented wife was not so lucky. She was having pretty serious shortness of breath, a racing heart, and drops in her blood pressure every time she stood up and they were worried she might have had a pulmonary embolism, which is fancy shmancy medical language for a blood clot in her lungs. After two rounds of blood work, an IV with a saline drip to hydrate her, a CT scan, an EKG, a chest X-ray, an injection of blood thinner, and lots of sitting/standing blood ox readings, they finally ruled out the embolism and decided that she was probably just dehydrated and exhausted from 16 hours of labor and 2 hours of sleep in a 48 hour period (DUH!!!) which was slowing down her body’s process of replacing all the blood she lost during and after delivery which was causing the symptoms above.

This was about 8 p.m. last night.

Relieved that my wife was not, in fact, in mortal danger, my mind began to wander back to much less important things such as the fact that we were going to have to stay a third night in the hospital and I had only packed enough clean underwear for two nights.

My mother-in-law, who has been a God-send throughout the last few days, volunteered to stay with her lovely and talented daughter and granddaughter while I ran home to grab a pair of clean underwear and another change of clothes for today and I gladly took her up on her generous offer.

So I kissed my two favorite ladies in the whole wide world goodbye and headed to the parking garage with the keys to my mother-in-law’s minivan.

Twenty minutes later and I was pulling up in our driveway. It was after 9 p.m. and so it was dark outside, but from the illumination of the headlights I saw one of the most beautiful sights these two eyes had ever beheld. My grass, which was already starting to trend a bit to the long side when we left for the hospital on Thursday morning, had clearly just been mowed. Maybe it was the fact I had only had 4 hours of sleep since the previous Wednesday night, or maybe becoming a new father to the most precious little girl I’ve ever seen has made me just a bit overly sentimental these days, but either way, I literally started crying at the sight of the perfectly straight mower indentations that were now running across my lawn in every direction.

On Wednesday night, back before I became a dad and was still all footloose and fancy free, I had remarked to one of the visitors to our house the night before our induction that I wasn’t sure how or when I was going to mow my lawn between the birth of our daughter and the time when the legions of our friends and family started showing up over the course of the next few days with all kinds of support and food. The lawn perfectionist that I am, I told him how embarrassed I was going to be for people to see my yard like that. And though I realize how completely and utterly absurd that is… especially considering that 75% of my front yard is overgrown with crab-grass and will therefor not be winning any yard of the month awards anytime soon and not to mention the fact that real men probably don’t give a hoot about what other people think about their lawns anyway, I was frustrated by the situation nonetheless.

Earlier in the day on Saturday, this same friend had called and told me that he was at our house and was about to mow our yard. However, in the middle of our phone call, a woman in scrubs entered our hospital room and started trying to explain to us what was going on with my wife and so I abruptly had to get off the phone with him. Since there really was no time to reflect on how awesome this dude and his gesture of kindness was, I quickly moved on to more pressing matters… such as the health of my baby mama.

Until I pulled into my driveway later that night.

Where I just sat for a few moments and admired my freshly cut grass and the kindness of a man who simply heard me mention something in passing and turned it into an amazing act of generosity.

And that’s what real men do. They listen and look for little cues on ways to bless other people among the static and noise of every day life. And when a real man happens to stumble upon a cue that says, “Maybe this guy has enough stuff to worry about right now without having to worry about how his lawn looks when his friends and family show up to meet his daughter,” a real man takes action mows the other dude’s grass.

While you might not guess it from all the crab grass in my lawn this summer, I’ve always been pretty serious about the way my lawn looks. I think I got that from my dad. I love the way it looks right after it’s just been mowed as I sit on my front porch stewing in my own sweat and dirt as I sip on a lemonade and admire my handiwork. There’s just something about the smell of freshly cut grass and the way those indentations from the wheels look when they make perfectly straight parallel lines across my yard that warms my soul. But I have never, I repeat NEVER, cried over the beauty of that sight.

Until last night.

To the man who mowed my grass yesterday, you sir, are a rock star. I appreciate your kindly, generous, manly ways. I don’t know how or when, but I will make it up to you some day, I promise. Who knows, perhaps your yard will need to be mowed after the birth of your first child as well.

Until then, keep being awesome. You know who you are.

Real Men are Generous

I feel like I’ve written this one before, but after a cursory search of my previous posts, it turns out that I have not.

Real men are generous. Like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a real man knows that it’s better to “give it away give it away give it away give it away now” than it is to receive it.

A real man knows that he’s been blessed with an abundance of talents and/or resources beyond what he needs to live his life, and as a result, he feels compelled to share the wealth with those who need it. In other words, he knows he’s got to give it away give it away give it away give it away now. Like the graph above, a real man pays it forward.

A couple weeks ago, I had a door fiasco at my house that put me in serious need of a new exterior door. In the process of getting it replaced, I was left with an unfinished job by a less than honest handyman. He installed a pre-hung door in our house and failed to finish the trim work. For several days, I was left with a brand new door that was beautifully installed except for the huge gaps around it where the light from the outside was shining in because there was no trim on the inside or out. Not exactly sure what to do, I was planning to pay a second handyman to come out and finish the job of handyman #1. I probably could have figured it out on my own, but I would have also had to buy several new tools in the process. When my uncle, who is quite handy with the tools himself, heard about my predicament he volunteered to come and help. Between the two of us… okay it was mostly just him… we managed to finish the trim on the frame surrounding my door in just a few hours on a Sunday afternoon. When I offered to pay him for the wood he purchased for this project, he refused to let me.

There’s a lot of things about this uncle of mine that make me consider him a real man, but his generosity is the one that is shining through at the moment. He saw that his nephew needed help with something that he had both the resources (tools, wood, time) and talents (advanced carpentry skills) to greatly assist with and so he stepped in and did what generous people do.

Between that incident, lots of baby showers, and someone graciously sending me a check for $163 to pay for a recent speeding ticket I incurred, I have been the recipient of a lot of people’s generosity lately. These experiences have both humbled and inspired me to be more generous with my resources and with my talents.

There are so many small things I can do throughout each day to bless the lives of other people if I’ll only slow down enough to look for opportunities.

We can all be better at giving it away giving it away giving it away giving it away now. The Red Hot Chili Peppers certainly don’t have a corner on that market.

I leave you with the last few lyrics of the song I’ve quoted throughout this post:

There’s a river born to be a giver
Keep you warm won’t let you shiver
His heart is never gonna wither
Come on everybody time to deliver

Wise words brother Flea. Wise words.