23 November 2009

My next 30 years...

As I come close to that day, the one that I used to think was old, you know it, The big 3-0, I've started thinking about my last 30 years. I spent most of it being...well, a kid. But that's not a big deal, I was one. The last 12 are the ones that I wasn't supposed to be one...can't say I grew up that fast.So when did I make that step?

Was it in the war torn rubble in Iraq, with bullets flying and my heart jumping into my throat? I don't think so, but I was forced to evaluate my mortality there, but I had already grown up before facing that. Though I stopped being 10 foot tall and bulletproof when I saw other soldiers fall.

Was it when I gave my life to Christ in November of 2002? No, being able to make that decision and truthfully mean it showed that I was already a man.

Making it through Basic and AIT? Nope, saw plenty of kids do that, and they are still kids today, 10 years later.

Signing up, knowing that I did not know where I was going or even what I was committing to? That one's a little more complicated. If you have read the other blogs here, you've seen that I was an Eagle Scout and had been involved in scouts as long as I could remember. I know about soldiers, I knew about the patriotism, I even know about the work. What I didn't know was the sacrifice. Not knowing the sacrifice, I don't feel that signing those papers and swearing that oath made me a man, but I won't say the decision didn't help me to begin to become one.

So did the military make me a man, I think so, but not sure when the change actually happened. Maybe it was in steps. And they might have began before I entered that recruiters office. Sitting for my Eagle Board may have been my first real step, though I had taken a few false steps before. It's funny that I went on from there to graduate high school and then start a job hunt which ended up working as a field tech for a construction testing company. I was working with some men, but many boys. I decided to join up after realizing I would not be happy with the amount I would have to work to support a family. I think my next step was then, when I decided that I was not a boy and could not turn to play when I needed to be finding a way up and out of the hole I was in.

I swore to defend the country against all enemies...that's a heck of an oath if you think about it. I was promising to give my life to defend the constitution and people of America, including all the strangers out there, against anyone who attacked us, foreign or domestic. I was writing a check that I wasn't sure I could cash.

I shipped to Basic at Ft Benning, the last all male Boot anywhere, and then to AIT at Ft. Sam Houston. I saw the Reservists and National Guard...they knew they were going home and back to their lives after this, but me, I was going to who knows where. I had requested Hood, Sill and I can't remember the 3rd, but I got Ft Campbell. So off to the 101st on my 21st birthday! than was almost 9 years ago now and here I am trying to figure out when I crossed the line from youth to adulthood.

I was at Ft Campbell for almost 3 years as a Medic, earning my Air Assault Wings after rappelling from a helicopter, and my Sapper tab after spending 2 weeks outside in 6 inches of snow with little food and less sleep, when we got our orders for Iraq. I was eager to go. All of these things I had drilled myself on to the point of making them instinct could be used. I was eager to see war so I could use medical techniques on my friends? I definitely wasn't a man yet, not hoping for harm to any man, especially not those I knew.

In Iraq I saw soldiers charge into combat with little thought of what they were doing and began to ask myself question. I began to talk to my LT about these questions and we had some long discussions. Some of which I still think about today. I do believe that I started becoming a man with these discussions, but I wasn't there yet. When Josh was killed on November 1st, 2004, that was a crushing moment for me. And after returning home I found myself worn down by the memory of the lost friend. I feel that that experience was another step toward manhood.

I got married and thought I was happy until 2 years later, I learned my wife was cheating on me and I had a breakdown.My PTSD showed its full effects and I went home to Dallas, divorcing the woman I though loved me and seeing the harshness of life in it's true colors. I think this was one of the major steps toward manhood.

Now, 3 years later, I am remarried, this time to a wonderful Christian woman who supports me in my daily walk and am happy, even during stressful and difficult times in my life.

I think that I have learned something, manhood is a journey, it's a daily walk with God and with those we choose to live with. weather we are maturing or not largely depends not on the circumstances of our lives, but by the decisions we make and the company we keep.

So in my next thirty years, I will continue along the road I am now on and will continue in God's walk.

20 November 2009

Integrity...A question of it.

I guess the question breaks down to this. If you place my integrity as a high priority in life, should you work for a company that has a very clear willingness to set aside integrity for a few dollars? I have a friend who brought this to me after he faced this and while there have not been any integrity violations that he knows of actually carried through, it often seems as if the only reason they weren't was implementation difficulties. A few time his supervisor has spoke up with moral objections, knowing that he had these objections as well. He has also overheard one of the executives say that he is not comfortable with lying to the customer, but then he have heard another more senior executive instructing the teams to lie to customers. So this leaves me in a lurch...do I suggest he look elsewhere for work or push for changes from the inside?

This is a situation many Christians face an a daily basis and I am hoping someone can help me with advising my friend. By the way I have made it a point to keep this very anonymous in case this question goes beyond this blog.

18 November 2009

Interests....do they work against or for my calling?

      Some of you know my big interests, others don't. I'll fill you in. I've been a haunted house fan/actor/designer/anything else since I was 14, I love them and have a blast doing them. Role Playing Games, by this I mean Dungeons and Dragons, Deadlands, and other table top games, but loosely include Larps and Miniature gaming. I am also starting to play Necromunda. And lastly, Steampunk. The music and the fashion/cosplay DIY attitude.

       Let me break down my thoughts here. First thing, the Haunted Houses. I enjoy working on them, building them, acting in them, and making people jump. I have in the past played almost any type of character you can think of, but this year I turned down a lead role in a haunt at Richard Garriot's property because they were using a Demon Summoning theme. The industry as a whole has moved away from demons, they are nothing but trouble. They give religious activists something to strike at and cost too much time and money to do. The industry has recognized that insane people, gore, zombies, and vampires are more scary anyways. Themes tend more toward the living dead than the demon, more the asylum than the satanist lair. I never do anything that I feel is against my faith..period, but some people look at simply being involved in a Halloween industry as bad.

     Role Playing Games, Dungeons and Dragons got a bad rap in the '80s as a Satan worship game. While the game does not use a Judea-Christian God, it does not use Satan either. The rulebooks clearly state that the information of evil alignments are only included for use by the Dungeon Master(the guy telling the story). Basically D&D is a story telling game where the DM tells the over arching story and the players tell their characters actions in that story. There is no worshiping, not rituals, and no wearing of outfits or use of real weapons, but that's not what everyone gets told by the extremists. Other types of RPGs do include acting, Amtgard, a national live action medieval combat game uses padded pvc as swords and the players wear homemade costumes simulating fantasy characters. No one thinks they are really casting a spell when they throw a bean bag to represent a fireball. No one thinks their leather armor will stop a real sword or arrow, and no one calls on demons to carry out their bidding. Warhammer, Warhammer 40K , Necromunda and other miniature games, they use 28mm metal figures to wage a fantasy battle either on the large unit level or on the squad level around a map of miniature buildings and terrain. There are a lot of dice rolling around a table and rulers used for movement, but nothing seems ungodly there.

     Steampunk, it is a sub-culture of the world shown to us by Jules Verne and HG Wells. This is a world where we have the technology of the modern world, with the clothing, the aesthetics and the culture had a more genteel feel. Sure the culture back then had it's dregs, but the way it is seen by modern man is much more chivalrous. In the steampunk culture, we wear top hats and have goggles around our necks. We travel in airships and power our creations with steam. Brass and copper bring color to the drab and instead of small and plain, computers are beautiful visual displays before you even turn them on. Our music includes groups like Vernian Process and Abney Park. Some take a different view of steampunk, it is the post apocalyptic view. After a world wide disaster, how could we survive? By building the things we know and love by hand. Things would be bulky and look different, but we as the ingenious children of God, would survive.

   The reason I am thinking about this is that many of my hobbies are not ones that most members of ministry would be involved in. And though I am not a member of ministry now, I am being called in that direction. I keep thinking back to pastors I have known throughout my life. I remember a Chaplain in Iraq who had served for 8 years as an Infantryman before going to seminary. He told me he lived just as every other infantryman before finding Christ and going to Seminary...and then he became a minister to those very guys who he once was one of. One of the pastors at my parents church had a solid shelf in his office dedicated to Stephen King books, which he loved. I have seen pastors who focus on sports and those who focus on music. So, does the fact that my interests are more obscure and that there are more visible fans of these hobbies that are non-christian mean that I shouldn't be involved in them? Or does it mean that I should be more involved in these groups and make it known that I am a Christian and that God is great? I never want to be "that guy", you know the one that shoves his beliefs down your throat and makes you want to go the other way when you see him, but I also refuse to hide my beliefs behind a mask.

    So, I am asking you, and praying, and just plain contemplating. Where are the lines? Some of my interests have been pointed at as evil things, even though I know them not to be. Do I give up my interests because some televangelist begging for your money says they are evil? Or do I continue to participate and share my faith with those around me in those settings? I do not want to be the white glove that comes out dirty, but I do want to reach those others may be afraid to reach.

17 November 2009

Trying times

Over the last few days, I have some friends who's family has received some hard hits. The stress caused to this family leaves me asking the question, "How do I help?" God tells us to be cheerful servants, and I know that some of my strongest gifts are mercy and service. I feel drawn to help, but don't know how.

As a medic in Iraq and stateside, it was clear what my purpose was. I provided acute and ongoing care for the soldiers under my watch. This was stressful, but also simple. I had spent years learning not only conventional methods of care, but also unconventional or "ditch" medicine. My skills were tested in Iraq, but not nearly as much as my nerve. We did not lose any members of our unit while we were there, though with great sadness me did lose 1LT Josh Hurley on 11/1/03 after he had been transferred to the HHC. I feel guilt over not being there to save him, but know that I was where I was supposed to be and doing what I could. So while I feel guilt, I know I have no blame.

Now, after leaving the military, leaving EMS, and leaving any job I thought I would have, I am looking into Ministry. Probably outreach, but that is up to God. I find myself seeking ways to serve others and in situations that are so close to home, I am unsure of what to do. I'm told that I'm great in an emergency. Where I often find myself at a loss is afterward. How do I comfort people when I know so little of the situation? Or how do I comfort someone when I don't know the situation at all? I can often empathize with people, as this was something I learned to do in emergency medicine, but this is not always helpful. How do I determine when someone needs me to be the rock for them to lean on or the welcoming shoulder for their tears? I pray God reveals these thing through professors and experience and I pray that he makes himself known to those I am helping through my actions and words.

13 November 2009

So I guess it's time to start blogging.

I never know where to start when i write something like this online. I'll just start with a little about myself. I'm 29 (for a couple more weeks), live in Cedar Park, Texas, and am going to school online at Grand Canyon University for Christian Studies with an emphasis on Ministry. I think I'll be headed to the Dallas Theological Seminary extension campus here in Austin next, but that's in God's hands. After years of walking to the beat of my own drum, I've figured out he's a better drummer!

A little history is a good place to start. I graduated from Duncanville High School in 1998 after being a Trombone player in the Band, a Photographer for the publications, and earning my Eagle Scout. I joined the Army in 2000 as a Combat Medic and was assigned to the 326th Engineer Battalion of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell. I served as the Senior Medic for A Co 326 En in Iraq from February 2003 through February of 2004. After leaving Active duty in May, I moved to Lubbock and went to school for EMS. I moved back to Dallas in 2006 and I worked as an EMT in the civilian side until 2007, when after being diagnosed with PTSD, I realized I had difficulty separating myself emotionally from my patients. I returned to school for Theatre Arts. and almost finished my Bachelors when I realized I was in the wrong field. I have now returned to work towards my degree in ministry and am trying to enter into outreach, though where that will take me is anyone's guess.

The biggest thing that I can mention is my marriage to Laura. We met in 2006 and left the US for Scotland to be wed 1 year exactly from our first date. We were married by Terry Boyle in Airth Castle, near Falkirk, on 11/11/2007 and will always have a celebration on Veterans Day even as I remember my fallen brothers. There's plenty more I can tell you about her, and i will, though for now I will say good bye.

I hope you walk with God in all your steps, for through him, you can accomplish anything!

So I've finally started a blog.

This was supposed to be my first post(but I lost it and just found it!) So here it is in all it's glory...

A lot of you have told me I should do this, as it seems I always have something to say.

But, right now it seems that I can't think of a thing I want to say. I could talk about the Islamic Extremist that killed 13 servicemen at Ft Hood, but that's not really a topic I want to share my feelings about. I could talk about the Health Care reform Act and the fact that it really only addresses taking money away from those providing the best health care in the world, not from the companies refusing to pay for that health care. I could even talk about the growing number of dissatisfied veterans being refused service connection for illnesses and injuries that could be caused by nothing else but the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But, then I'd have to talk about the Army's refusal to recognize PTSD as a genuine and disabling disorder caused by a failure to prepare soldiers emotionally for the horrors of combat, and I really don't want to get into that.

So for now I'll just leave you with a bit about myself. Most of you know I'm a proud Texan, but did you also know I'm a proud member of the Clan Macduff? My family left Scotland during colonial times and were represented in every major conflict America has ever been part of. We were in the Revolution, both sides of the Civil War, WWII (I'm not 100% sure of WWI due to ages, but my grandfather was in a war critical industry contributing to the effort.), Vietnam Era, And The War on Terrorism (Iraq is really a continuation of Gulf Storm, ask me about it and I'll explain) I'm a proud veteran of the 101st Airborne A/Co 326th Engineers and proud to say, one of the few Medics to have ever graduated Sapper Leader Course when I went through in 2002. I've been out of the Army since June of 2009(Reserves since 2004) and am now back in school. I went to school for EMS for a bit, then theatre, but now I'm in for Christian Studies, and I'm planning on going on to Seminary for a ThM or maybe a Doctorate of Theology, not sure on that yet. God has been calling me to some kind of outreach recently, though I'm not sure what kind. I'm looking into mission work here and abroad.

Abroad...It's funny to say that. When I got back to Texas after Iraq, I said I would never willingly leave for anything other than a vacation again, and now I'm considering the possibility of Laura and I going to Wales for a year!

Oh, I haven't even told you about Laura yet. Laura is my beautiful wife. We met Halloween 2006 at Reindeer Manor Haunted House, where I was helping Boy Scout Troop 1 as an Actor. I was working the crowd with Dale ( a buddy from scouts) and saw her. I walked by several times, never pausing, but always noticing. After conferring with Dale, we grabbed her from the crowd and buried her in a grave in the Graveyard. After talking to her for a few minutes, I returned her to her family and asked her to let me know what they thought of the show after they finished.

About 45 minutes later, I looked up and there she was leaning up against the Graveyard fence with her niece. I used a corny line about her coming back out the next year and hoping I could see her before then. I then got her number and the rule breaking started. I called her on the way home that night, just after midnight and started talking. It took me a week to get her to agree to go on a date with me. Then 5 months to convince her I wasn't to young for her (Don't tell her I said this, but she's got 6 years on me :-P ) before I could convince her to marry me. We got engaged in March on in the Harley Davidson shop on Bourbon Street in New Orleans and Left for Scotland to get married November 6th of 2007, exactly one year after our first date. We were wed by Terry Boyle in Airth Castle (just outside of Falkirk) on 11/11/2007 and have been happily married since.