31 December 2009

Training camp: days 2-5

Although I meant to update this daily, when you get back from a ride, you really just wanna crash - not literally, of course. But here's the update.

Day 2's ride was relatively uneventful: only about 50 miles, because we had to get back in time for Preston's wedding. The only hitch came when Justin flatted and it took 4 tubes to fix it. Preston's wedding was good, an outdoor wedding at a church to the south. I caught the garter at the reception, but I didn't get to put it on the girl who won the bouquet. Oh well.

Day 3 was Madera Canyon, a 10+ mile climb, 92 total. Good day. The climb was beautiful, but arduous.

Day 4 was another short day, recovery for day 5, which was supposed to be 120 miles. We did Gates Pass, which has a 20% climb. It's pretty short, but there's a long lead-up to it, which kinda sucks. We were in a pretty good group, Army, Navy, and AF kids, working pretty good. After the ride, I went for a short run in my VFF's, just to loosen up. Later, during my massage, Beth said my legs felt really loose. I think it was the run.

Day 5, today, I planned on doing 120. It's Kitt Peak, and it has an observatory at the top. That should tell you two things: 1) it's in the middle of nowhere and 2) it's high. 7,000 feet, to be exact, up from 2,500 at the bottom. I ate three gels, a Clif bar, and some Shot Blocks on the way up, and I did pretty good. The climb's officially 12 but really 15 miles long, lots of switchbacks. It's a tough one. I got dropped before the climb officially started, and climbed alone most of it. Since I'm the slow guy in the fast group, that meant I was the last one up. Within a mile of the summit, I caught the chase car coming down and grabbed a bottle. I worked up to the summit, put my warmers back on, and headed down. I crashed in the first corner, but straightened myself and my bike out and headed down for another 12 miles.

About crashes: I probably won't mention minor ones any more. No need to worry mom if they're just scrapes. As for this one, my elbow's beat up, but that's about it.

At the bottom, we still had 15 miles to the vans. I figured I'd stop there, since I was sore from the crash. The chase car fell in behind me, but I waved them up and told them of they were going the same speed as me, they may as well go in front and block the wind. So I motopaced for about 10 miles. Sweet.

Back on base, Tojo (Hojo's dad, who's been a nurse for 21 years) patched me up, and Beth gave me a massage. My legs are pretty tight, but with some stretching tonight they should be good to go for 84 miles and 26 miles of climbing tomorrow: Mt. Lemmon.

27 December 2009

Falcon Cycling training camp: Day One

Landed in Tucson about 1340 today, found my teammates by the baggage claim, loaded up in the van and headed for Davis-Monthan AFB, with Ashley navigating and Cody driving. At the base, we found our rooms weren't cleaned yet, so we dropped our stuff in one of the other rooms, broke out our bikes, grabbed a snack, and got ready for an easy ride.

As we rolled out of Tucson, we hit pretty much every red light we could. It's annoying, but there's nothing you can do about it. Then, rode down off an overpass with three lanes of traffic on our right and a fast-moving merging lane to the right, we got a little bunched up. We had to cross the lane to the right to get to the shoulder, but there wasn't much room, so the guys in front braked hard.

Since there was no warning, I found myself watching my front wheel rubbing Joe's back wheel on the sides, and the front of my tire rubbing his casset. That's a bad situation: it means I can't turn my wheel to the left. And when I started leaning left, I knew I was going down.

I saw myself flying over my handlebars, arms out in front of me. We were doing about twenty, so I slid several feet. As I came to stop, another kid ran over me and my bike, but I didn't really feel that. Cody ran over my wheel, and Ashley crashed into me. Thankfully, the traffic behind us stopped.

I picked myself up and checked myself out: everything worked. Nothing had touched my head or face. My left knee had a quarter-sized scrape, and my right elbow had a baseball-sized one. My right ankle had a cut; I think that's what broke my computer and tore it off my handlebars. No big deal.

I checked to make sure my wheels were straight, put my chain back on, and looked over the frame. I hopped back on and we rode off. Riding up to the front, I realized my handlebars were twisted, but a quick stop and a multi-tool fixed that. The rest of the ride went well, nice and easy. I dropped a bottle once, but that was no big deal.

We got back in time for dinner, so I hopped in the shower - that hurt - and changed. And now, my elbow hurts, but I'm fine. I'll look over the bike, but I think it's fine. Really, it coulda been a lot worse. God is good.

And I'm ready for day two.

26 December 2009

Love

Love is giving someone the opportunity to destroy and trusting him not to.

I saw that on a love note from my little brother's girlfriend, but I think it's true. And it's especially true of our relationship with God.

If anyone has the opportunity to destroy us, it's Him. No question. But we can trust Him, because He's good. I'm beginning to understand why and how we can fear God and love Him at the same time. When you crash your car and dad shows up, you know you'll be Ok, but you know you're in trouble. Is it kinda like that when Dad shows up? I think so.

Angels are always starting conversations with, "Do not be afraid." There's a reason for that. And if angels make humans falling-to-the-ground-afraid on sight, what would the Almighty God do? I can only imagine... except not even that.

His love is fierce, jealous, and kind. And that's the only way it can be.

It's Perfect.

12 December 2009

Veinte

The length of our days is seventy years-
Or eighty, if we have the strength;
Yet their span is but trouble and sorrow,
For they quickly pass, and we fly away.
-Psalm 90:10

A quarter of my life is gone today. I'm no longer a teenager; I'm becoming a man. I've moved out, and managed to land a job and an education at the same time. I buy my own deodorant, wash my own clothes, and get my own food. Sometimes, I'd rather be the kid who played with his little brother - who was still "little" - while mom made snacks and dad made swingsets. But I know this is where I'm supposed to be.

And this is life. As Martin Luther said, "There are two days on my calendar: this day and that day." Henry David Thoreau wanted to "stand upon the meeting of two eternities, to toe that line." That's what I want to do - live without regretting the past or worrying about the future, thinking only about today and the day I'll fly away.

I want to be young. "We have sinned and grown old, but God is younger than we," G.K. Chesterton once told us. I want to relish each sunrise with the joy of a four-year-old who says, "Do it again!" I do not want to spend my youth preparing for my future. As my econ teacher told us, "I wish I had spent more of my money when I was young. Now I'm getting old, and soon I won't be able to do the things I'd like to do." Why should we make ourselves sick to lay up for a sick day?

Instead of anticipating the day when "things will get better", let's make them better today. Let's live in the moment, toe that line, and say, "Do it again!" every time the sun comes up.

And then one day, we'll fly away.

05 December 2009

The Lion

The children were afraid when Mr. Beaver told them they would meet the lion. "Is he safe?" they asked. Mrs. Beaver, surprised at such a silly question, quickly answered them:

"Safe? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he's not safe. But he's good. He's the king, I tell you!"*

We think we have a helper Jesus. One who gives us nice homes and healthy families and secure jobs and good dinner. We pray and ask that he would guard us from danger and give us this daily bread. But we face no real dangers, and our daily bread is at the grocery store. God will give us that. But I don't think he wants us to be that comfortable. Jesus helps us, but He wants to challenge us.

Jesus told us we would have trouble in this world. But when we lose our job or get sick, we ask,"Why does this happen to me?" We ask why the righteous die, just as Solomon did. "Why?" is a good question. But the answer is nearer than we think.

Troubles come so God can teach us. So we can learn to lean on him. Let us consider that sickness may be more of a blessing than health, that poverty is better than affluence, that hunger is better than a full stomach. Maybe we should live in such a way that our daily bread comes through prayer. Maybe we should fast, and trust Him to sustain us. Or maybe we should sell everything we have and give it to the poor.

I don't think He was kidding.

If you're looking for financial security, it's not the way to go. If you're looking to live a long life, it's not the way to go. But if you want a full life, Jesus beckons. And if we fear Him, but trust Him, what else shall we fear?

Is He safe? Whoever said anything about safe? 'Course He's not safe. But He's good. He's the King, I tell you!


*C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, chapter 7

03 December 2009

Bittersweet

I just found out I'll be going to the Dominican Republic for language immersion this summer. Woohoo!

But that means I have to give up summer leave. And since I'll probably give up Spring Break leave for a mission trip, I'll have no free leave from Christmas until Thanksgiving. And I'll miss my little brother's graduation.

That's nine months away from home, unless I sneak in a weekend trip. Or maybe my family will come out here. Vamos a ver.

It won't be easy. But it should be worth it.

29 November 2009

Born to run

I love running by the river and through the woods. There's almost no one else out there, just me and the water and the trees. So when mom wanted me to run some errands in town, I saw it as a perfect opportunity to run the trail.

From thanksgiving leave 09

I probably wound up doing three or four miles in my FiveFingers, basically rubber toe socks. SInce they have no cushion or arch support, they force you to run how you were born to run - land on the balls/sides of your feet, let your heel just touch the ground, then launch off your toes. It feels natural and smooth after you practice it a bit. And it makes your lower calves sore, since your shoes can cause those muscles to atrophy.

But it felt great, especially when I cut off through the pine and oak forests, running on the dirt and pine needles and leaves and grass. I could feel them all beneath my feet, and feel my feet automatically adjusting to the different levels of cushioning the ground offered. I padded along, smooth and content.

So after I got home with the carrots for mom, I ate a banana or something and decided I felt good enough for another run. I pulled on my FiveFingers again and headed down the road for the Flushing Township Nature Park, one of my favorite places in the world. It's got a couple meadows on the river bluff, and some floodplains down closer to the river. Most of the trails are smooth and grassy, but down by the river there's some boardwalk. Both felt great under my nearly-bare feet.

All told, I think I did about ten miles that day. And when I woke up the next day at sunrise, I decided to head out again. We were down in northern Kentucky at my cousins', staying for Thanksgiving, and I remembered a little park a ways up the road. The hills there were steep and muddy, so I had to walk in some pots, but it was a good run.

From thanksgiving leave 09

I'm gonna keep this up - it just feels so good. Dad always said I could be a runner, but it always bothered my knees. Now my knees are fine, and I want to do a marathon. Part of that inspiration comes from a book called Born to Run, about the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico and their frequent 100+ mile runs through the canyons. The fact is our bodies are designed for endurance running - and if you don't believe that, your shoes may be holding you back.

23 November 2009

Should I stay or should I go?

The story of one of Guatemala city's poorest and most violent slums, La Limonada, breaks my heart. It makes me want to go, to help, to serve, to love. It makes me question the very comfortable life I live here. Yeah, I have room inspections before sunrise and rigorous classes. But sunrise in La Limonada reveals the last night's bullet holes and bloodshed.

And the training I could receive at TWENTYFOURSEVEN would be great. Discipleship, evangelism, Bible classes, and a great physical training program. All things I'll need for the Air Force and for life.

I want to be where God wants me to be. I'm not interested in pros and cons lists - as my mentor told me yesterday, if you make a pros and cons list, you should go with the cons. Consider Moses, Jeremiah, Noah, even Jesus. They went with the cons.

I do not want 'success'. My goals are not safety and money and a nice house. God called Jeremiah successful, yet the people of Israel didn't believe his prophecies. In fact, they shunned him. But Jeremiah did want God wanted him to do.

For thirty years, Jesus "grew in wisdom and stature, and favor with God and men" (Luke 2:52). Moses spent his life herding sheep before he led the Israelites out of Egypt. Noah was 600 years old when the flood came. The men God chooses do not jump into ministry. They prepare, they grow, they wait. Then God calls.

I know that God called me here to USAFA. My mentor reminded me last night that we stay where we are until God tells us differently. I haven't heard anything differently - yet. But is that because I'm not listening or because He's not telling me to go?

In that light, I'll be praying about what God wants me to do here - and not focus so much on what He has for me in the future. I am here now. This is where I will live, until He tells me otherwise.

As Martin Luther said, "There are only two days on my calendar: this day and that day." Those other days are of little concern, for the One who shaped me has planned them out.

And now I will wait for His plan to unfold.

21 November 2009

Heaven Song

A friend gave me Phil Wickham's new CD, Heaven and Earth. It's amazing, eternity-focused, challenging.

The album ends with one called Heaven Song, and it's my favorite.

I want to run on greener pastures
I want to dance on higher hills
I want to drink from sweeter waters
In the misty morning chill
And my soul is getting restless
For the place where I belong
I can't wait to join the angels and sing my heaven song


I feel that. We are camping, as for a night, here on earth. This is not our home.

Let us not forget that.

Lord Jesus, come quickly.

17 November 2009

Go barefoot

You were designed barefoot.

Went for a two-mile run today in my FiveFingers, and felt great. It's basically running barefoot. No arch support, no shock absorption, no heel cushion.

Isn't that dangerous? Very - if you run like your shoes have allowed you to. But we were designed to run on the balls of our feet, without a heel strike. Shoes protect your feet, but they let your form get sloppy, with lots of heel strike and almost no use of the muscles in your feet and lower calf. Weakening of muscles there may cause more injuries than the shoes prevent, because the exoskeleton of a shoe cannot be as strong as the internal skeleton and muscles of your feet, if those muscles are allowed to develop.

Running barefoot forces you to run on the balls of your feet. It's smooth, efficient, and good for you. Your feet and lower calves may be sore, but that's because you've never used those muscles before.

And strengthening those muscles improves balance and agility and can prevent injury.

See this article for more detailed and study-based information.

14 November 2009

Pure

Sometimes I think snow is God's way of showing us how the world should look. Everything is covered in this white blanket, smooth and bright and pure.

As I walked out on the ridge last night, I couldn't help but worship. The lights of the city below bounced off the clouds, giving everything a surreal orange glow.

From randoms of fall 09

I stood there, still, listening. The woods make me quiet, but it was hard to quiet my thoughts. I am too busy.

I need more time like that, time where nothing material matters at all. Time to slow down, to think, to pray, to care.

The woods usually make me quiet.

13 November 2009

FiveFingers

I loved going barefoot as a kid. Running around the yard, getting weeds stuck between my toes, not being able to scrub the green off my feet for days. It was a good life.

But out here in Colorado, going barefoot is not a good idea. Colorado has cacti and briars and all sorts of nasty stuff. That's where Vibram FiveFingers come in.

From eagle's peak

They're pretty much just a 3.5mm Vibram sole - the company that makes soles for my combat boots - with toes, and covered with mesh. Other models don't have the mesh on top; or they have just a strap. This is the KSO - Keep Stuff Out - model, which seems the most versatile to me: hiking, running, climbing, kayaking, walking, maybe swimming on a rough beach. They don't do a horrible job of keeping snow out, either.

So far, I haven't spent much time in them, but they only get better. I hiked Eagle's Peak, up a steep, rocky trail that follows a stream. It's about 2,000 vertical feet, so there was some packed snow and ice on the trail near the top. Not much traction there, but for the rest of the trail, it was nice to be able to wrap my toes around stuff. Just had to watch out for small rocks.

Today, I took them down to the climbing gym. I don't think they're as good as actual climbing shoes, but they're a lot better than tennis shoes. And once my feet get tougher and stronger, I should be pretty good.

Haven't done any serious running with them yet, but I plan to. I love walking around in them, feeling the ground beneath my feet, all its bumps and softness and clues. They're super quiet in the woods - could be good for hunting. And if only they didn't have that logo on the top, I might be able to pull them off with blues...

06 November 2009

The four and forty rule

"Dammit, you're not kids! You're adults!" As our sergeant briefed us today, he talked about following the rules - especially the one about TAPS, which says we need to be in bed by 2300. He said we should be expected to know the rules and follow them without the need for correction. He's right in that.

But this is a perfect example of the four and forty rule: treat cadets like they're four and expect them to act like they're forty. Assign them a bedtime and expect them to obey it, like 'responsible adults'. If the irony is not apparent, I'll explain.

Responsible adults don't have a bedtime. They don't have NCO's walking through their house, making sure they are "sleeping or quietly studying in their rooms" at 2245. It's unnecessary.

Cadets are not four-year-olds. They don't need a bedtime. They are smart enough to get enough sleep, and if they're not, they're responsible enough to pay the consequences.

Some rules are important. But let's start treating cadets like twenty-year-olds, and realize they're gonna act like twenty-year-olds. They're gonna talk on their cell phone after bedtime, whether it's against the rules or not. They have girlfriends, unlike four-year-olds. And they're in college, unlike forty-year-olds.

05 November 2009

Economics, USAFA, and life

My goal in life is to one day be as smart as my kids think they are.

Over the semester, I've had the good sense to write down some of my economics professor's quotes. He's a grad, 1978, I think. Apparently, he was a terrible cadet, breaking rules and letting his hair get too long. But...

If you stay inside the boundaries, you never get in trouble but you never do anything.

Today, an A-10 pilot and 1999 grad told us one of the most important things he learned from the Academy: living under pressure. It's a good skill - there's a lot of pressure in the cockpit. Dr. L agrees:

The whole four-year program is a course in crisis management. You've got five or six balls in the air and you've gotta figure out which ones you gotta keep going and which ones you can drop.

He has other advice about USAFA, which the A-10 pilots seemed to agree with:

One of the crazy things about this Academy is that we do an exceptional job of hiding just how fun the Air Force is.

He also has some advice on life:

Getting old beats the alternative.

The secret to happiness is low expectations.

People are willing to give their lives for their country, but they're not willing to ruin their careers for their country.

And a little bit about economics:

The reason economists are dangerous is because they think they're right. The average person knows he doesn't know. The economist doesn't know but thinks he does.

Economist: someone who's good at numbers but doesn't have the people skills to be an accountant.

Most important is what he's learned about officership:

When engineers look at problems, they look for solutions. The problem is that as an officer, your problems won't have solutions. They'll have trade-offs.

All this comes from a man who was a terrible cadet, but by what I can gather, a great officer. That's probably because a good cadet is someone who shines his shoes and keeps his hair short. A good officer cares for his men. His uniform is far less important than his people.


01 November 2009

Starbucks ride

Ninety miles on a bicycle is a good way to spend a Saturday morning. Left with seven other Falcon cycling team members to head downtown for the Starbucks ride, a nice long ride with some hard efforts and big group.

You know you had a good ride when...

Your coach tells you to be in good position for the hard part, after a certain turn. Going into the turn, you're the second man in the paceline.

After the ride, you can't sit down without falling down.

Going upstairs hurts.

Going downstairs hurts.

Walking makes you breathe hard.

All you can think about is meat and fluids.

Your odometer reads 90 miles, and shows an average speed of over 20.

You can taste the salt running off your face in the shower.

You have shadows under your eyes, even though you slept 10 hours the night before.

You burned more calories than most people burn all day.

Your head feels weird without a helmet.

Your wicking skull cap looks like someone soaked it in saltwater, and then let it dry. Which is basically what happened, as the white streaks testify.

Your thoughts are simplified and somewhat difficult.

Life is good.

22 October 2009

Break a leg

A British Olympic gold medalist is backing a campaign to get 1,000 instructors to teach 500,000 kids to safely ride a bike by 2012.

I find that funny. But I don't like the idea at all.

First, parents should teach their kids such things. There is no reason for someone else to step in. It's a great opportunity for parents - or older brothers - to bond with their kids, to teach them, to watch them learn and grow.

And get hurt. Because they will fall. They will skin their knee. But that's a perfect opportunity to love on them, to teach them to bounce back and fight through to the goal. Important skills - for the kid and the parent.

I still remember the day I learned to ride, around the loop at the cabin we rented on the shore of Indian Lake. And I'm glad my parents were there. And I've crashed bikes - with and without engines - but I still ride. My dad taught me something: don't give up.

I hope dads keep teaching their kids that.

Livin' the dream

21 Oct

1430: Go to Engineering Mechanics 330 instructor for some extra instruction on the lab due tomorrow. Estimate it'll take you an hour to finish the assignment.

1445: Go to library to study for differential equations writing test tomorrow.

1500: Realize you have to go get signatures from various departments to schedule a Spanish class next semester. Get signatures, turn in to Dean of the Faculty - Registrar. Email academic advisor and the man in charge of international programs to tell them it's done.

1505: Get an email from the man in charge of international programs asking you to come and talk to him about your interview last week.

1510: Go talk to the guy. He says they're concerned, because you said you want to be a missionary, and they want to promote the Academy as accepting of all religions. Find it ironic that they're telling you this, in a way not accepting your religion. He says you had a very strong interview, but because you're a sophomore, you'll probably get an alternate slot.

1545: Study for diff eq.

1700: Friend comes to study with you.

1750: Go to Mitch's to get some dinner.

1800: Go to cycling club meeting. Sign up to race against Army when the come out for the game.

1830: Return to study with friend for diff eq.

1940: Go to Bible study. Worship, small group, accountability. Relax a little.

2115: Return to the squad, to find a hall brawl blocking your door. Get knocked down a few times on the way to your door, only to find your door locked. Find your roommate, get the key, ditch your coat, blouse, iPod, phone, and backpack. Grab your camera. Take a picture.



2130: Brawl it up.

2145: Help the freshmen put the squadron commander's door back on.

2200: Help the freshmen try to find the squadron commander's sleeping bag which was placed on the F-105 as a prank. Presumably, it blew away. You can't find it.

2230: Realize you haven't done the EM330 lab due tomorrow.

2300: Take a shower. Go to bed.

22 Oct 09

0511: Squadron commander knocks on your door. Operation Golden Flow: urinalysis.

0530: Get back in bed

0630: Wake up. Your hip hurts.

0720: Almost slip on the black ice on the way to the dentist's appointment. Catch yourself, because you grew up in MI and know how to walk on ice.

0850: Teach your political science class about the judicial branch.

1000: Finish your EM330 lab in econ class.

1330: Take diff eq test. Realize that studying helped.

1430: Go get your new glasses from the clinic. They're a little bent, and there's a blue spot on the upper part of one of the lenses. Welcome to the military - at least they're "free".

1435: Sit CQ for an hour. Look for glasses online.

1600: Write this. Think about going to play basketball with some guys from the squad in a bit.

09 October 2009

Lemonade International

A ghetto divided into ten barrios, each barrio controlled by a separate gang, with death the penalty for crossing barrio lines. Electricity and running water are scarce, at best. Children grow up in a vicious cycle of poverty - girls get pregnant young; boys turn to stealing to survive.

But Lemonade International is working to change that - with Jesus' love and humanitarian aid, focused on children, delivered mostly through school. But there are only schools in two barrios, and no one can cross barrio lines.

There are between 60,000 and 100,000 people in the ten barrios. So by a rough calculation, 80% of the children can't go to school.

This pulls at my heart. Why should live in a room with a bed of my own and a sink and heat and AC when the least of these have none? Why should I get a paycheck every month while the least of these have to steal to survive? Why should I be protected by the US Air Force when the least of these are protected by fickle gangs?

Lemonade International has an opportunity for a year-long internship. I'm thinking about it. But it's not an easy process, applying there, leaving USAFA for a year, getting funds. There are significant barriers.

But, "Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life." - Matthew 19:28-30

05 October 2009

the real thing

Walking back from BSU (Baptist Student Union - my Bible study), I caught up with Kate and a four-dig she knows. The four-dig had also come from SPIRE- in fact, the Atheist SPIRE group. Which is strange, becuase although SPIRE stands for Special Programs In Religious Education, it's mostly Bible studies.

So I asked: what does the Atheist SPIRE group talk about? Mainly moral issues, documentaries on 'Jesus Camps,' which are apparently summer camps specializing in brainwashing, and House. Interesting.

She, in turn, asked what we talk about at 'actual' SPIRE. Mostly Jesus, we answered, but if she really wanted to know, she should join us - after all, it couldn't hurt.

"I think I will," she responded. "I've never actually been to anything real like that."

If only she knew how true that statement was.

And this comes on the heels of a night where Bill, our director, shared the story of his upbringing in outward righteousness, the do's and don'ts. Bill came to know the real thing.

Do you know the real thing?

"I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." - Jesus

28 September 2009

Camping, as for a night

25 Sept 09

1650: Standing in formation with service dress, service cap, and white gloves, I eye the sun and the mountains: will I make it up before dark?

1730: I walk across the tizo towards the mountains. I realize I can hardly feel my pack on my back, its design and fit are so good. Looking up, I see the sun has already sunk behind the silhouette of the front range. Again I wonder: will I make it up before dark? 2,000 vertical feet to go.

1751: Passing the Lawrence Paul pavilion; I haven't even reached the trailhead. The sweaty parts of my shirt are cold - it's about 55 degrees.

I haul it up the trail, pausing only to consider my route. I decide that while 501's and Red Wings are great for building houses and shovelling stalls, they aren't so great for climbing mountains. I eat two half-size Clif bars, wondering if I should have brought more food.

1815: I begin to see aspens. I've made good time.

1830: I arrive in the Aspen Grove. The last rays of the sun hit the backside of Eagle's Peak. I debate going up there to see the sunset, but decide that setting up camp is more important.

Once camp is set up, dusk has settled. I grab the Jetboil and my dinner of a beef stick and just-add-boiling-water pasta and head off to cook it.

While the pasta cooks, I hear voices down the grove. But when I go down to hang up my bear bag, I call a few helloes and get no response, save a very loud echo. I realize that the voices are the USAFA command center. It's a quiet night.

Heading back to camp, the moon casts my shadow on the ground behind me. It's eerie, being up here alone. I get into my sleeping bag, then into my hammock, thinking I won't need my sleeping pad: it won't be that cold.

26 Sept 09

0000: It is that cold. I wake up because my toes are freezing. I root around for the gloves that I stuck in my bag for the morning and put them over my feet. Now I can sleep.

0640: Opening my eyes suddenly, I see that it's light outside. After a brief self-motivation session, I wriggle out of my sleeping bag and pull on Under Armour, shirt, and sweatshirt, followed by jeans and boots. I cannot feel my toes, and my feet are numb.

I hike to the peak, a few more hundred feet up. It's windy up there. I take a few pictures and make my way back down.

I realize I'm not headed for my camp, take stock of my surroundings, and re-adjust. My new route takes me through a lot of aspens. I like it.

By the time I reach camp, I'm pretty warm. I make and eat grits as I take down and pack.

0930: I return to the squad, getting a few inquisitive looks since most have already headed down to the game and I look like I just walked off a mountain. I shower, pull on my blues, and catch a ride with one of our firstie girls and her best friend. They talk about boys the whole way down. I'm quiet.

The woods usually make me quiet.

"We no longer camp as for a night, but have settled down on earth and forgotten eternity." - Henry David Thoreau

09 September 2009

Fill me

You are
Everything I need, everything I wanted


There is a need in each of us: a need to be fulfilled. God has set eternity in our hearts. But since we cannot fathom what He has done, we look elsewhere - everywhere - to fill ourselves. Indeed, all our sin is an attempt at the fulfillment of some desire: lust, fame, money, whatever.

Or apples. That's where it started. And we've followed the wide, easy road ever since.

But an apple never filled me. Maybe for a few minutes - but certainly not for eternity.

"Then Jesus declared, 'I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.'" - John 6:35

Give us this day our daily bread...

03 September 2009

Outstanding Cadet

As my prof takes roll in Econ the first day of class, he comes to my last name, and with a puzzled look, decides to ask for 'Nathan' instead. After I explain how to pronounce my last name, Zach pipes up: "He's an outstanding cadet."

"Is he, now?" Dr. L responds. "Tell me - what exactly is an outstanding cadet?"

We're grounded by the question. We use the term all the time, but we couldn't come up with a valid definition. I say I 'stand' taller than most. It gets a few chuckles, then someone says, "An outstanding cadet shines his shoes and has a sharp uniform."

To which Dr. L replies, "That's not what makes an outstanding officer. Nobody cares how good your uniform looks, as long as it's decent. A good officer cares about his men, less about his uniform."

"An outstanding cadet is respected by his superiors and those under him," Zach adds.

True. I try to care more about practicality than rules; more about people than their clothes.

"It is an interesting question how far men would retain their relative rank if they were divested of their clothes." - Henry David Thoreau.

Me, divesting of my swimsuit.

02 September 2009

For Granted

I look to the west, and I see the bellies of the clouds aglow with orange light of the setting sun.



I look to the east, and I see the clouds struck with the sunlight that crests the mountains, calling out color like an artist calls paint onto the canvas.


The artist paints every night.

01 September 2009

Things I learned last week


When you decide not to ride because it's gonna rain, it won't rain.

When the weather looks good and you go for a ride, it'll rain.

When you shave your head, everything - from towels to sunglasses - sticks to your scalp.

You can listen to fifty Johnny Cash songs between Dumas, TX and Childress, TX.

In Quanah, TX, there are drive-through liquor stores.

North Texas is flat.

Ranch sunflower seeds are pretty good.

Arizona raspberry iced tea is delicious.

My Dad was in Dumas, TX in 1985. He ran out of gas on his motorcycle and a friend towed him with a nylon rope that lives in his saddlebag to this day.

When a tire thwacks with every rotation, a blowup may be imminent.

It's important to get tubes with Presta valves. Not Schrader.

I may share my dad's innate ability to find good food anywhere.

Clif shots are good. Especially the caffeinated stuff.

There's a lot of oxygen in Texas. But not many hills.

It's smart to get an apartment after graduation, because it'll already have appliances and furniture. A motor home could be even better.

Even with Chamois Butt'r, your butt will be sore after 109 miles.

Cody Settle is a beast.

I should ride more. And focus on climbs.

You should carry two CO2 cartridges, and make sure your wedge pack is zipped before your ride.

Don't put tubes with holes back in your wedge pack. Throw them out.

Like my dad, it's hard for me to sleep when other people are
driving.

After a long day of riding, you can taste the salt running off your head in the shower.

Lots of AF people do the Hotter 'N Hell Hundred. We're the fastest ones.

TLF's have no place to hang a hammock.

The Hotter 'N Hell Hundred is a good 'ol time.

19 August 2009

Kayak: part 1

At the obligatory beginning-of-the-year majors meeting here at USAFA, one of the Mechanical Engineering (Mech) department instructors told us of a dream he's always had: to build his own motorcycle. He's never done it. So he urged us to follow through if we had a dream to build something: the best garage we'll ever have is at our disposal, in the mech lab.

So I went to talk to him afterwards, and told him I wanted to make a kayak. Do it! he said. We could draw a mold in 3D drafting software, cut it out in foam, wrap it in fiberglass, and voila! We have a kayak.

Of course, it's not that simple. Having never built a kayak before, I emailed my adviser for some advice. He put me in touch with a couple of guys who could help me out, a LtCol and a lab tech with a specialty in composites, like fiberglass.

So, after meeting with the LtCol, we've decided to draft a proposal for a 1/4 scale model, to learn the ropes and keep costs down. Our ultimate goal is to have at least two twelve-foot kayaks capable of multi-day trips on calm rivers and lakes before we graduate.

But who's we? Myself, and Tyler, a good friend and fellow mech major. Tyler has no experience with kayaks, but he's pretty excited.

And by golly, so am I.

08 August 2009

Mysterious ways

I thought the engines were running a long time as we sat at the gate. Then they spooled down.

The captain came over the intercom to tell us that one of the generators had failed to start. "Just give me a parachute," I thought. The other passengers of our wounded craft moaned. "Safety is our number one concern," the pilot said. Good.

We waited forty minutes at the gate for the COS contracted maintainers to show up and fix the plane. After they worked, the pilot spooled the engines up again. There was another mechanical issue.

At that point, they asked everyone with a connection earlier than 1915 to get off the plane - at this point, we wouldn't make the connection. So we got off and waited half an hour to speak to the manager.

By then, a second flight to Denver was getting ready to depart. The airline, Frontier, offered us a ride on this plane so we could try to find another flight from Denver, and I decided to see if that would work. They promised vouchers for a hotel and a meal in Denver. Before the flight left, I went to Quizno's and ordered a sandwich. Talking to the guy there as he made worked, he told me not to worry about it once we reached the register. "Don't worry about it?" I asked. "Yeah man, it's cool." So I thanked him, picked up my free sandwich and headed to the plane, surprised and thankful for his goodwill.

I got to Denver and talked to the customer service desk there: Frontier had no flights that would get in in time for the wedding. Northwest had a flight that would, but it was full. The lady offered me a ticket on the late flight and said I could give it to Northwest to try to get on their flight, standby.

Taking the vouchers and an overnight kit, I headed out to the hotel shuttle stop. After half an hour, a half full fifteen pax fro the hotel showed up. We let the people with little children on first, and the driver said it'd be thirty minutes before he could get the rest of us.

As we waited, I began talking to a man named Curt. He asked about uniform, my current status, and my future plans. He found out I was interested in missions; I found out he works for a police and fireman chaplain agency. We talked of our predicament, and he suggested I wear my uniform in the morning to better my chances. "I would," I said, "but I have no black socks." Reaching in his bag, he offered me a pair of his dirty ones. He prayed with me there at the bus stop, and his confidence reminded me of the power of prayer. A few minutes later, another man who had a car at the airport but found himself waiting for the hotel gave us a ride, as we were all tired of waiting.

At the hotel, I got a room and found out breakfast started at seven. My shuttle left at five fifteen. I thought about getting a Gatorade from the snack bar, but I decided it was too expensive. I told the man I'd pass, but Curt insisted on buying it for me. I thanked him, offering to give him a tour of the Academy if he came through the Springs again. I washed Curt's socks in the sink and ironed my blues shirt and pants, going to bed at midnight. I had a wake up call coming at 0445.

I checked my new socks after rolling out of bed: they were still wet. So I ran the blow dryer through them, and the water steamed out soon enough. One problem: it set off the smoke detector in my room. Oh, joy. A few pokes made it stop.

After a shuttle ride to the airport, I headed down to security. The TSA man said my ticket wouldn't get me through; I needed a boarding pass from Frontier. Frontier sent me to United. United sent me to Northwest. The line at Northwest was long.

When I got to the desk, Northwest put me on standby and gave me a boarding pass. I bypassed the security lines with the pass the TSA man had given me earlier.

At the gate, I talked to the man at the desk, who said he'd call if he had a spot for me. I grabbed some breakfast, quickly eating up the five dollar food voucher from Frontier. Five bucks just won't cut it, especially for a cadet, especially in an airport.

So I headed back to the gate and waited. After boarding had started, they called "Nathan Sabat" to the desk. Used to the outright slaughter of my last name, I headed up to the desk. The man handed me a new ticket, seat 04A. Could it be first class? It was. God had a hand in it, and I had leg room. Hallelujah!

After about seven phone calls in ten minutes, Grandma found me at the terminal in Detroit, and we made it to the wedding with time to spare, after one last prank on mom: I told her Grandma had a flat. Her light anger was soon overcome by relief, shared by the bride and everyone else.

God is great. People are good. And prayer works.

06 August 2009

Who do you know?

He looked like a dork. He talked like a military nerd. And he played volleyball like he was the last kid picked.

And for that, we dismissed him. We didn't listen to him. We didn't talk to him.

But we were missing out. This kid had a story to tell: He was adopted into an excessively fundamental Christian family. The father beat his wife daily, yelling about how women should be subservient. I guess in that case, the fundamentals don't include the Gospels.

So this outcast started making a life for himself at 18. He moved out on his birthday, and heard from a friend that the police stopped looking for him when they found out he was 18. He bought a car and got a college scholarship. He'll have a secure job for as long as he wants it.

His adopting family turned him away from Christianity: he's now an atheist, but an open one. Once we actually talked to him, he opened up and so did we. We were able to tell him - and, I hope, show him - what Christianity really is. It's not rules or dominance or arrogance. It's love, the original.

So, who have you dismissed? The dork? The nerd? The fat kid? Do you really know them?

God knows them. And He wants us to love them like He does.

Tell me: who do you know?

18 July 2009

Danger: the spice of life

"A coward dies a thousand deaths. A coward dies a thousand deaths. A coward dies a thousand deaths."

Perched precariously fify feet above the boulders below on a 12/12 pitch roof - that's a 45 degree angle - Barry constantly repeated one of his favorite quotes.

So did I, as the joint man, sitting on the top of one ladder which barely reached the eave, holding a second ladder laying on the steep roof. This second ladder reached the roof's peak, and there Barry clung, swinging his hammer.

Jumping out of an airplane 4500 feet off the ground takes me back to that day with Barry. I don't know why - it's probably not the worst situation I've ever been in. But it was frightening.

And standing there in - no, outside - the door of an airplane with 80 mph winds in your face isn't the most peaceful experience either. But it's certainly exciting: there's nothing like falling out of the big blue sky to let you know you're alive.

Why do we like danger? Why are we not content to live safely? Is it a bad thing, like Eve taking the apple, or is it a good thing, like the disciples dropping the only lives they knew and following a homeless man, just because He asked?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, "When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die." But as Gus said to his lifelong friend in Lonesome Dove, "By God Woodrow, it ain't dyin' I'm talking about! It's livin'!"

Christ himself said that He came that we may have life, and have it to the full. And I think a full life includes some danger.

STAND IN THE DOOR

12 July 2009

RTB

Good evening, sir! Interceptors Check Six!

My, it's been a while since I've heard that - in fact, the last time I heard was when I was saying it: during basic, one year ago.

Much has changed since then. I have civies, rank, and relative freedom, and life out here is a little more enjoyable - and returning to base not so dreadful. In fact, it was pretty easy this time. I'm beginning to realize I no longer live in Michigan. I no longer live under my parents' roof. Yes, it is still home, and it will continue to be. But it is not my house anymore.

That both saddens and excites me: I will miss it, but I've got opportunities ahead that can't be missed. There are times when I wish I could once again be the little boy tossing rocks into the lake, just for fun. But there are other times when I look forward to watching my own son, someday, to do the same.

But for now, I am learning. And I am content.

02 July 2009

Sequencing

I once read a story by Patrick F. McManus on the subject of 'sequencing'. All of his stories are funny, but this one hit home because it's something my dad and I do all the time.

Take today for an example: things started simply enough. I needed to dry out my sleeping bag, which got a little damp around the footbox on our recent camping trip. But my bag was in another bag under the canoe, on top of the minivan. So we had to move the canoe.

Which meant that the straps holding the canoe to the roof had to be stowed. And Dad was unsatisfied with their previous resting spot, instead devising a plan to put them on pegboard in the third bay.

So the third bay had to be cleaned out, and the pegboard cut and hung. Once we got the canoe stuff taken care of, Dad wanted to organize the rest of his various straps and bungee cords as well.

And then, still in a pegboard mode, we slung that up along one side of the forty foot pole barn, all around the windows, complete with OSB headers. Of course, we started a fire to take care of the scraps.

That job complete, we returned to the third bay, and began reorganizing it. Noticing the missing mower, we drove to the repair shop to see about it. It wasn't ready.

So we headed to town for a mug of A&W root beer. But the car wash is right next to A&W, so we vacuumed the van first.

After the root beer, we returned home and hung the minivan roof rack storage pod in the third bay. And now, it's time to eat dinner and pack for grandma's.

A good day.

25 June 2009

Change

On my run this morning, looking around, listening to the sounds of my old stomping grounds, I realized not much has changed around here: it's still super muggy, some of the trails in the park still flood, my road still doesn't see much traffic, and the river still runs high in the summer.

At home, there are still several motorcycles in the garage, my air rifle still hangs in its place, and we still have Macs. There's cereal in the cupboard, snacks in the fridge, and strawberries in the garden. Dad still rides to work, mom still plants flowers, and Luke still plays basketball.

One year ago, at this very hour, I was getting ready to get in the car and leave for basic. The time passes quickly. I've changed a bit, grown a lot.

But all that is the same could change, and I'd be happy, because I know one thing will never change: God loves me, and so does my family. In a world where nothing is constant - except, maybe, in my hometown - that is a blessed assurance.

21 June 2009

Patience

"Patience and love. Sometimes tough love."

Talking to my grandparents and parents on the porch after dinner, I asked the fathers what the most important thing they'd learned was. Grandpa Schave answered very quickly with "Patience."

He talked of raising his two kids and caring for his two grandkids, of times when frustration was easy and patience was hard, but only patience made for good children. Love is always necessary, but it's not always exactly what we'd call nice.

He talked of his son Scott, who got a lot of tough love from Grandpa. But when Scott went to get married, he asked his dad, my grandpa, to be the best man: "You're the best man I know," he said.

Thus ensued stories of laughter and of tears from all four of my grandparents and both of my parents, some about my uncles and parents, some about my brother and I. My Grandma Mc, considering all this, said, "I've got a few lady friends without children. What an empty life that must be. I've been so blessed by all of my children - what's the point without them?"

She raised my dad and his brother as a single mom - yet she found joy as a mother, even during the hardest times. There is pain and worry and sorrow, yes, but there is joy.

What my dad said ties right into that: "Patience and letting you guys fail at things that wouldn't hurt you, instead of making everything perfect all the time." It must be hard - and very worrying - to see your child fail, but as I look back on it, I see that I am better for it.

I pray that I can one day be as good of a father as my fathers have been to me.

19 June 2009

Things I learned this week

Here's a list I wrote down in my notepad while we holed up throughout Combat Survival Training in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. It was a hard week, but in the end, it was worth it: I made some good friends, learned a lot, and got rescued by a Blackhawk.

-It is possible to carry a 40 pound ruck 5 clicks a day at 9,000 feet on less than 1,000 calories.

-It's OK to keep checking your makeup when your makeup is camo facepaint.

-You don't need a towel, washcloth, shaving cream, running suit jacket, or scarf for a week in the woods.

-God did a very nice job on Saylor Park.

-If you don't put much in your stomach, nothing comes out the back end.

-It's easy to get apathetic about maintaining your gear when you're tired, hungry, and cold.

-It's dangerous to get apathetic about maintaining your gear when you're tired, hungry, and cold.

-You can gain your men's respect quickly by telling them you fail if they fail.

-There are a lot of hillbillies in Saylor Park, as evidenced by numerous piles of shotgun and handgun shells in clearings.

-A brace can really help start a fire.

-Vaseline-soaked cotton balls are great fire starters.

-You know you're hungry when ants and leaves look tasty.

-Rabbit liver is pretty good when it's not overcooked.

-There isn't much meat on a duck neck, but it's worth some effort if it's all you get to eat for the day.

-Gore-tex is real good stuff.

-If it ain't rainin', it ain't trainin'.

-A pace count can keep you from getting lost.

-Hunger is the greatest of spices.

-From on top of Falcon Peak, Saylor Park looks pretty flat.

-Saylor park is not flat.

-It's easy to have natural spiritual conversations at 9200 feet in the dead of night.

-City kids are really loud in the woods.

-The sun doesn't always rise due east.

-Sometimes you have to chew your water.

-It's possible - and possibly deadly - to get overhydrated.

-Always trust your compass.

-When you picture your cats after a week in the woods, they look like bobcats.

-Sitting on an anthill can result in an itchy feast.

-"Eat the strawberries" sometimes means you gotta eat the strawberry leaves.

-Having ants in your pants really does make you jittery.

-Boredom is the hardest part of evasion.

-Camping is much more fun with food.

-Aspens make for noisy leaves, but pines make for noisy sticks.

-Returning with honor is entirely possible with faith and knowledge.

The Real World

Sitting around our poncho shelter camp last night, I heard one guy ask, "Anyone remember what the real world's like?"

After a week in the woods, civilization seems distant and rather unimportant. Life goes back to the basics when in the woods: water, shelter, food. If something doesn't have a use there in the woods, it's forgotten. Housecats look like bobcats in the memory, and even the most hated foods sound delicious.

But I must ask: which world is more real? The world of televisions, microwaves, cars and cell phones? Or the world of mountains, forests, beavers, and streams?

Get out into the real world for a bit. Let me know what you think.

06 June 2009

Indescribable


Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God
All powerful, untameable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God

After missing church last Sunday because of training, I got the chance to go with a friend tonight to my home church out here, Woodmen Valley Chapel. I needed it, and I was glad to go to the house of the Lord.

During the opening music, one of the church members painted a 4' x 6' canvas of Pike's Peak. Beautiful. It was her form of worship, and as we sang songs about the wonder of God's creation, we could look at the painting and be reminded of the amazing view right outside.

During his sermon, our Pastor spoke of three ways of responding to creation: pantheism, where we worship the creation, which leads to a very hollow life; and hedonism, or consumerism, where we use creation for our own needs without care for the consequence.

Suddenly, Pastor took a bottle of black paint and squirted all over the beautiful painting. He was almost in tears - the painting was destroyed. But it was more than a painting. It was the painter's worship. He said it was one of the hardest things he had ever done on that stage. He had talked with painter about it a lot, and had her assurance it was alright. But it was disgusting, to him, to us, to everyone. It is an image I'll never forget. Lesson: Christians are stewards of God's creation. And when we dishonor that creation, we do something far worse than ruin a small canvas.

I have not yet mentioned the third response: worship. We worship God because of the truth, of the beauty, and the authority in His creation. Nothing we have is our own. If you think something is truly yours, that you've earned it, that you've got a right to it, ask yourself this: will it be mine in a hundred years?

I watched Fight Club last night, and even a raw, secular movie like that shows this truth. I'd be very careful watching it, but Tyler Durden makes some good points. "You are not your job. You are not the money you have in the bank. You are not your car. You are not the contents of your wallet."

You are a child of God. A recklessly loved, endlessly pursued child of the living, caring, almighty Creator God.

How will you respond?

02 June 2009

YouthCanLead

Can you smell it?

This generation needs a revolution. We're lost. Sex, drugs, and everything else have left us broken and disenchanted.

There is more. There is a lot more. Some say it's restricting. But it's really liberating. And it's life.

There is one source for life. It's been around a long time. Forever.

Check out YouthCanLead.com for more. The website is still in development, but it's coming quickly.
It's led by some of the people that have shaped my life as God spoke through them. People that showed me what living life to the fullest actually means.

01 June 2009

Death by PowerPoint

How not to do it:

10 hours of PowerPoint briefings in one day. With 574 people in the room. Teaching stuff you'll teach again later with equipment in hand and people in the field.

Your points won't be powerful. They'll be sleep-inducing. To keep people awake, AETC has a rule for ten-minute breaks every hour.

But there's a better way. I recommend that AETC adds the 10/20/30 rule for PowerPoint presentations. It will keep students awake enough to actually learn something. 10 slides max. 20 minute presentation. No font smaller than 30 point.

31 May 2009

Eat the Strawberries

"Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living." - Jim Elliot

It's entirely possible to go through life waiting for the "next best thing." I say, "I can't wait to go home," and I ignore the present moment, where life is given.

"I have been anxious... to stand upon the meeting of two eternities, the past and the present, which is precisely the present moment, to toe that line." - Henry David Thoreau

But I have saved the best philosopher for last: a young boy named Calvin.

His thoughts are here.

29 May 2009

Hanging Lake

Wake up at 0500. Notice roommate hasn't gone to bed yet. Pack up bedding and get dressed at 0530. Leave at 0600. Drive three and a half hours. Hike 1.2 miles along a rapid mountain stream up into a steep-walled canyon. Climb on rocks in the stream and notice the water gets colder with altitude. Get to Hanging Lake. Explore. Eat. Explore some more. Set up hammock above thundering waterfall. Head back down. Skinny dip in Colorado River's new snow runoff. Dry off and put on dry undies. Get back in car, and go to Idaho Springs for Beau Jo's Pizza. RTB.

If you want to have an amazing day, follow the steps above.

Five friends and I went to Hanging Lake, near Glenwood Springs, CO, today. It is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. Standing there in the top of the Canyon, I couldn't help but praise God for His glorious creation. It's absolutely incredible. And He's made some pretty incredible people, too.

More pictures are on my facebook at this public link. Check 'em out.

Keen sandals worked out great today - mountain streams have unpredictable footing, but they held up well, even in whitewater. Back on the trail, they're as good as or better than any other hiking shoe. Thanks mom! And a waterproof camera can take some pretty sweet pictures.
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25 May 2009

Sacrifice

"Love has no one greater than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." - Jesus (John 15:13)

It's Memorial Day - a day to remember those who fight for our lives, who show great love for friends they don't know. It is a great sacrifice and a great love. I thank them for that. I thank them for my life and my freedom - my freedom even to write these words.

Yet why are we so willing to sacrifce for our country, to support our troops, when missionaries go unremembered the world over? They fight for a greater cause and face the same - and greater - challenges. We send care packages to our troops. We pray for our troops. But how often do we pray for the missionaries and the lost souls they are struggling to save?

I am very grateful for our troops, past and present. And I am ready to answer my nation's call. I pray that I will be even more ready to answer the Lord's call.

"We know that there is only one answer when our country demands that we share in the price of freedom - yet when the Lord Jesus asks us to pay the price for world evangelization, we often answer without a word. We cannot go. We say it costs too much...

"Some might say, isn't it too great a price to pay? When missionaries consider themselves - their lives before God - they consider themselves expendable...

"'Except a corn of wheat fall to the ground and die, it abideth alone,' the apostle Paul said. 'I die daily. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.'" - Nate Saint, Jungle Pilot

Let me be a sacrifice like that. Let me serve like that.

22 May 2009

Te saltaré

You walk on waves
You run with clouds
You paint the sky
For me to see
Your Majesty
Your Majesty
Is why I sing

As we sang that tonight at the mill, images from my rides and other times outside this week kept flashing through my head: images of clouds from above them, of painted sunsets and stormy skies. Majestic.

Then we sang another song:

In my world, be lifted high
In my love, be lifted high
In my life, be lifted high

That's an idea which seems strange to me. How can I, a mere man, lift the Creator of the Universe up? How can this fragile, wavering being exalt the Almighty God?

It's an ongoing question, and I'm slowly finding some answers.

Why

"I'm here because the Lord wants me to be here. A lot of preachers waste their time walking up and down throwing seeds that won't grow because they've walked over that ground until it's packed hard - gospel hardened. I may be just carrying a seed bag with a small hole in it and maybe those few seeds are falling on some pretty rough, weedy, and stony ground. But the Lord giveth the increase." - Nate Saint, during assignment with the 354th Air Base Wing

That's an excerpt from the free book I got from Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF), Jungle Pilot. Nate Saint was on the same team with Jim Elliot, and was killed with two or three others by Acua spears. Through their efforts and the efforts of their wives, the Acua Indians were saved.

I feel pretty much the same as Nate right now.

21 May 2009

Flood

Rain, rain on my face
Hasn't stopped raining for days
My world is a flood
Slowly I become one with the mud

As I rode through the rainclouds today, Jars of Clay's lyrics kept running through my head. The rain was light, but unrelenting, and it stung on 45 mph descents. But it was a blast: I was pretty much the only cyclist on the roads, and the mountains were beautiful - when they peaked through the clouds.

My legs and butt were soon covered with dirt, soaked by the spray from my rear wheel. The same wheel went flat, and I pulled two small stones from the tire before installing the new tube and reinflating. The cold blast from my CO2 cartridge quickly froze the water on the valve stem. But it was ready to ride again, and after passing a few cars, I made it to Balancing Rock:

Throughout the ride, I couldn't help but praise God for the beauty of His creation. Most stay inside on days like today. They don't know what they're missing.



20 May 2009

24 hours

Alarm clock tells me
it is a new day.
I am 24 hours closer to death
and 24 hours closer to life.
I met no mere mortal yesterday
and I will not meet one today.
Will I bring those eternal beings,
those eternal souls,
closer to life?
Or are they just one day
closer to death?

What will I have to show for today?
Studying
Training
But what of prayer?
What of salvation?
What of life?

The harvest is plenty
The day is near
Turn the world upside-down.

13 May 2009

School's out...

... for summer.

Which does not mean vacation just yet: first, there's a bunch of parades - not the kind with candy - and then, there's Combat Survival Training. A learning opportunity, but a hard one. Later this summer, I get to jump out of airplanes.

But right now, it's nice that school is over. It's been a tough semester, and I've been genuinely challenged in school. I've learned how to study, and sworn I'd never procrastinate again... pero lo urgente no deja tiempo para lo importante.

Finals are finally done, and in five minutes, I'm gonna get outta the blue suit and shoulder my pack for a couple days in the mountains, leaving school 2,000 feet below.

Stories and pictures to come.

28 April 2009

Manifesto

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion - put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Manifesto:
The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
by Wendell Berry

27 April 2009

This is bike racing...



Conference finals in Salt Lake City, Utah this weekend. Rainy and cold, but lots of fun. Utah's beautiful - too bad I didn't get to see it in the sunshine. We raced at the Miller Motorsports Park, a sweet track for motorcycles or bicycles - who cares about cars, after all?

We raced the criteriums at the Salt Lake City DMV, where they have a simulated city - makes for lots of turns over a short course. And one heck of a hill to make things interesting.

I drove one of our Sprinter vans back from 100 miles outside of Laramie last night, and didn't get back here in bed until 0145, so I'm thinking it's nap time. The pics are up on my facebook; check 'em out if you get a chance.
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16 April 2009

Operation Mobilization

God has laid a long-term mission trip on my heart. I've been exploring options for a while, and now I'm considering a trip with OM USA. They've got a lot of opportunities, and it looks like I'll have a lot of control over where I go and what I do. But I hope to give that control to God - he can do much more than I can.

As I go through this process, I ask for your prayers: may God show me His will, and may my will not interfere.

Go and make disciples of all nations...

15 April 2009

Fast, neat, average...

Captain "Sully" Sullenberger, USAFA Class of 1973, came here today to receive the Jabara Award. Capt Sullenberger landed the plane on the Hudson in January.

He started off his speech with the words, "fast, neat, average..." to which we all responded, "friendly, good, good." It's an academy tradition from the form O-96, the Cadet Food Acceptability Report. When we finished our half, he said, "I am one of you." A great way to gain credibility with the Cadet Wing.

Most of his actions are covered in the news - but he tried his best to share the spotlight with his crew, to mixed effects. When President Elect Obama called and invited him to the inauguration, Sullenberger accepted with the condition that his crew would also come. A great way to look out for your people.

I wrote down two of the most important things he said:

"A smart man or woman learns from his or her own experiences. A wise man or woman learns from the experiences of others. You have available the experiences of everyone who ever lived and wrote about it."

"I stand before you today as proof that our ideals are still true. And that if we work together and stay true to our ideals, there is little we cannot do."

13 April 2009

59ers

A lot has happened in the past two weeks here, but my mind's been so scattered I haven't been able to put it down on paper. Last week was really stressful, but God pulled me through. He kept pointing me to Matthew 14:31 - "You of litle faith. Why did you doubt?" I have no idea.

Easter weekend was amazing - worship and communion and basking in His love. I've learned that worship is more than standing in a pew and singing. The Greek word for worship, I'm told, actually describes a body position. And three times in Mark 5, people come up to Jesus and fall - literally - at His feet. One day every knee will bow. Why not start now?

Today, we got to hear from a four members of the class of 1959: the first General Officer to graduate from the Academy, the first graduate to enter space, a test pilot who flew 55 different planes, and the first All-American. They told us how they got in trouble, how they learned to lead, and where they went after graduation. Good stuff.

"Get to know the right people. Get to know people you can count on... and people who can count on you." - Mr. Siteman, the first All-American

30 March 2009

War Child

"My time at the front line taught me just one thign about war - the worst is when it is over. As the battle falls silent, only the screams of the injured can be heard, and when the guns stop firing, and the smell of smoke fades away, the stench of flesh and blood fills the air. Jenajesh were always the ones who screamed the most, and I heard them at night when I returned to Kurki 1 to try to rest. I never slept properly, keeping one eye open all night in case our enemy tried to attack and feeling the weight of my gun next to me. When the battle at the front line had been bad, I didn't want to eat meat for days as I remembered the smell. It reminded me of being a small boy and was so heavy I was sure it had sunk into my heart forever, just as it had on the day I walked Death Route with Mamma and Nyakouth. I felt torn inside, knowing I was safer at Kurki 1 but still dreaming of seeing a jallaba's face as I shot his heart." (Jal 144)

Emmanuel Jal became a child soldier while he was still shorter than his AK-47. Before that, he had seen his villagers sliced, shot, torn apart by bombs, RPG's, and grenades. He saw the women in his family raped and felt hunger for months.

His father abandoned him, and he was sent to train. The rage that filled him from the things he'd seen done to his people drove him. He thought God had abandoned him and forgot what love was.

But one aid worker, Emma McCune, saw something in him. Now he is an international rap star, rhyming about Jesus and peace and war and hope. His music refuses to stay in the background as I study.

I just finished his book, War Child, and bought his album by the same name. This man has much to teach us: he learned more before he was seven than I could ever hope to learn. Yet no one should have to learn like that.

If I could recommend one book, other than the Bible, it would be this one.

"Children should be going to school, not fighting in battles, because they will still lose their life even if they survive." (Jal 256)

29 March 2009

Share the well


Guatemalan 'soccer fields' are not very nice to soccer balls. Ours was mostly dirt, about fifty feet long, with a chain link fence on one side. It had barbed wire woven in about three feet off the ground and at the top. Those barbs popped a lot of balls, and so did the thorns over the fence. I'd pull out a thorn, hear the air hiss out, and put it back to plug the hole. We could play a little longer that way.

And we complain about a wet spot in the corner where the rain water doesn't drain. 

But it was a great trip: the last day of VBS/soccer camp, I used the wordless book to present the Gospel to the boys. One boy immediately got up and shared his bracelet - our "book" - with an old man standing on the other side of the fence. Although the boys and children usually grabbed for whatever we offered, they sat patiently and listened to the story. A seed was planted, with some soccer balls and colored beads. 

This man, a local Pastor, will use the bracelet to preach to his congregation soon. His excitement was tangible, his faith real. He told us Bibles last year's team had given him had converted some of his congregation, and those people were now praising God. At the end of the week, we gave him a food basket for his family and more Bibles for his congregation.









Here's a shot of me translating for Kelly, our team leader, as she talked to some of the mothers at VBS. They shared friendly laughs with Kelly over her gringa Spanish, so I hope I was able to help a bit.














21 March 2009

Recognize

Sitting here in the USO at DFW, just got back from a trip toa mall in Dallas. What else to do with a nine hour layover?

Our taxi driver - I didn't even catch his name - was an Ethopian immigrant. Riding shotgun, I had told him we were headed to Guatemala for a mission trip, and he later asked if I'd ever thought about going to Africa for a trip. I said no, not really - I know Spanish and my heart is for Latin America. He told me of the problems of his country - problems which started thirty years ago with a communist takeover from the king. But when the king left, poverty and starvation came.

I mentioned Raz, a kid in my squad from Madagascar, and some of the differences he'd noticed between America and Africa. "Yes," our driver said, "America is a good country. But we still have work."

The problem, he said, is that we do not recognize God. He quoted Romans 3:23, "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." The president, his king, the people - all are sinners, he said. We cannot change that. But if we recognize God, we can change the world.

This taxi driver is changing the world. Are you?

16 March 2009

Pure Joy

Recognition is over now, and this is starting to feel real. I no longer have to greet upperclassmen or run the strips. I wear my backpack and walk where I want. I have my civilian clothes and my iPod. I'm starting to feel like a cadet now.

But Recognition was one of the hardest things I've done. Pretty much three straight days of training, with at least 2,012 pushups and lots of other stuff, including a light POW scenario.

God's word kept me going - I can't count how many times I recited James 1:2-3, Psalm 27:1, and Psalm 18:29.

Talking about this with anyone who's not a cadet, I've realized they don't know how big this is. It's bigger than Acceptance Day. This is it, really, until Graduation.

Thank you to all who have been praying for me - your prayers have helped me through.

10 March 2009

Rest...



... well, the front leading rest anyway.

Another training session today: running, situps, pushups, squats, lunges, flutter kicks, low crawling. We went to two other squads, round-robin style, then came back to our own. This weekend will be full of training, but we get our 'freedom' on Sunday. Then this places gets really good.
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08 March 2009

Man on the corner

Walking to lunch this Saturday in Denver, I saw a homeless man sitting on the corner. My heart went out to him, but I didn't act on it. On the way back, I told myself.

I almost walked past on the way back... but I remembered my earlier promise and walked over, pulling out some singles. My teammates waited up the street, but I'd forgotten them for the moment.

The man's name was Daniel, and he had one of the strongest handshakes I've felt in a while. His eyes showed his gratitude, reminding me of Jesús' smile down in México. He was an Airborne Ranger, now a certified aircraft mechanic. But he can't get a job because he doesn't have a house. 

As I walked away thinking about this, wishing I had done and could do more, I listened to my teammates talking about the race: what they did wrong, venting about other riders, wishing they had done better. But for me, it all seemed so trivial. There was a man there without a home, and we were discussing racing our $1,000 bicycles. 

I scribbled a note as I sat down by a tree, back at the race: We are blind to what we do not wish to see.