12 December 2008

Connectivity in war

My buddy Oliver Grant (Maj, USA Reserve), whom I was deployed with in Iraq in 2004, sent me the article below this morning. It really brought home a lot of ways in which in my own deployment experience, the connectivity of email and cell phones made Iraq, circa 2004, so unique for me.

I was a Contracting Officer, supporting the CPA, the 1ID, Abu Ghraib for a time, and the DOE as they extracted nuclear waste from Iraq's Tuwaitha nuclear site, south of Baghdad...along with running a multitude of translator and security contracts in the Green Zone (static, Amb Bremmer's PSD, etc). Needless to say, in that operating environment, communication was an absolutely critical and indespnsible tool of the job. I had a cell-phone with a 703 number, based on a network set-up right after the occupation started by MCI, for US and military use. So we all literally called each other on DC area code phones, and likewise, any call from the States was standard long distance rates, regular cell minutes. We had (almost) constant email connectivity and web access (at least while I was in the Green Zone)...and we spent the better part of every day--from 0800 to midnight or later--in and out of the office in the Palace. Certainly this was not every soldier or airman's experience, but I was a contracting officer, managing big dollars, big projects with big customers...and always needed to be connected. My family could always reach me, including my little bro sending drunken text messages telling me about his night out on 4th Street in Tucson. This connectivity was a huge morale booster, but it also served to push feelings of desparation and helplessness in the times when my family would call or email with bad news, or tough times.

So while we were literally at the seat of power, and the epicenter of the global news cycle, and working with, arguing with, relaxing with and cavorting with the staffers, the movers & shakers and the entire 30-something idealists brigade that was behind the drafting of the Iraqi Constitution and the establishment of their democratic law...we could feel both overly connected, lonely, distant and central all at the same time. While the constant connectivity to the homefront was absolutely unique to war in all of human history, it was my experience, that just like so many of our brothers-in-arms before us, the real connectivity that was forged was lifelong bond, loyalty and brotherhood with those whom we served with.

This story below still makes for a really interesting read:

Jared Still

Christian Science Monitor
December 12, 2008
Pg. 4

A Letter From Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan

In Between The Fighting, Soldiers Also Battle Boredom

Technology offers troops in Afghanistan a respite, but some wonder if the tether is too short.

In decades past, going to war meant being out of touch with loved ones for months, even years. Today, soldiers can remain in almost constant contact with those at home.

It's the preferred method of distraction for many troops serving long deployments here in Afghanistan – sometimes to their detriment.

Each American base, big or small, has some version of the Morale Welfare Room, in which troops can surf the Web and check e-mail free of charge, make cheap phone calls back home, and pick up one of the pamphlets with titles such as "How to avoid arguments."

"Do NOT let him take the red car!" a furious sergeant – who seems to have given the pamphlets a pass – insists into the receiver to his wife in Texas. Yelling would get him thrown out of the room, so he grits his teeth and tries again. Their teenage son wants to pick up his girlfriend at the airport, and Dad, nearly 8,000 miles distant, is having none of it.

A few booths away, a staff sergeant chats with his wife, who waves into the video camera installed in their Florida home. "It's a lifeline for us," notes Sgt. T.J. Wadington.

But such constant communication, warns Capt. George Tyger, a chaplain at Kalagush Forward Operating Base, in Nuristan, can be complicated. "A lot of these guys are experiencing anger, loneliness, and even depression, but are young and can't express themselves well," he says. "Talking every day can be tough." Moreover, he points out, micromanaging life at home from such a distance "is not usually helpful to the spouse at home, and also diverts the attention of the soldiers, which is often dangerous."

Patrick Dean, an Air Force psychiatrist based in Jalalabad, agrees. "It's a double-edged sword: If you have distance, you can put your mind totally in the game and focus. But on other hand, being in touch with loved ones is a way to get support and validation."

Whether trying to stave off boredom, calm their nerves, or find distraction from the pinings for – or problems at – home, troops in Afghanistan are also finding plenty of other ways to entertain themselves during their long deployments.

Bagram, about 15 miles north of Kabul, sets the standard. Some 12,000 troops and 8,000 civilian contractors are stationed at the base, which resembles a fortified small town – complete with a Pizza Hut, a Dairy Queen, and a beauty salon. There are university extension classes, churches, mosques, and even traffic jams.

Jalalabad, a large Air Force base in the east, has three gyms and shops selling everything from contacts solution to flat-screen TVs. The base also hosts a weekly bazaar, where preapproved Afghan merchants sell fake Rolex watches and pirated DVDs of the latest Hollywood flicks. Friday night "Jalalabad Idol" singing competitions are the rage.

At the smaller bases closer to the front lines, entertainment is a more homespun affair. In Nuristan Province's Kalagush Forward Operating Base, for example, troops train for marathons by running around the helicopter landing pad (70 laps equals about a quarter of a race).

Saturdays feature "campfire night," where officers sit around a red flashlight and tell dirty jokes.

"It is important to keep your mind active," stresses Captain Tyger, who spends a good part of his days here hammering away on a climbing wall he is building.

"Time drags for me here. In Iraq, I was shot at 24/7 and time flew," says Sgt. Isaac Hibdon, a gunner on his first deployment here. "It's not that I want to be killed. Obviously. But the boredom is tough."

-- Danna Harman

I heart towers that bad guys hate

We love technology at SoldierWish and the Wishy company.

We hate bad guys at SoldierWish and the Wishy company.

So naturally, we're big fans of technologies that help our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines put hot lead on bad dudes. We love when the lead-to-air ratio in a bad guy's home tips the survivability scale in the good guys favor.

Raytheon has been providing our Army with what is essentially 'listening posts' in theater for the last couple years. Infared sensors, video, and other 'sensor' and surveilance capabilities placed on top of the tower provide static, pervasive and constant eyes & ears for our operators forward in theater.

Raytheon delivers tower number 300 to the US Army.

In the interest of full disclosure, each of my pay-checks are signed & deposited by the Raytheon Company.

Iraq May Request and Need US Troops for 10 yrs

Once President Bush leaves office, will we have a less polarizing national discourse about the future of Iraq? Will we have a discussion about whether an occupying force, turned requested guest can stabilize a post-war region economically and politically as has been successfully modeled in Germany, Japan, Korea and Kosovo? Is that a politically viable role for the US military in Iraq? Given the resulting power-vacuum that a US withdrawal would present, is there any other choice?

We at SoldierWish are not afraid to ask tougher questions that directly impact the service and engagements of our military. Frankly speaking, "With a new administration, what will the course in Iraq be?"

Certainly the complex reality of the international diplomacy and the stabilizing weight of the American Global presence will dramatically soften Mr. Obama's "we must leave now" campaign season promises and declarations.

As one who has blogged repeatedly about my love for the Iraqi people, and the honor in serving in establishing their infant democracy, I personally welcome the stabilizing, and hopeful story that an Iraqi official acknowledges that a US presence could be needed for at least 10 years.

I know this sentiment flies in the face of current popular and accepted political discourse in the US, but I feel a stable, increasingly democratized Middle East, should be at the top of any administration's foreign policy. And the surest way to guarantee that is with the requested presence of the United States military, along side our Iraqi counterparts in training and patrolling. Just as the Japan and Germany model proved to be.

Jared Still

18 October 2008

Military Leadership Principlies for a time of crisis (Part One)

Military Leadership Principlies for a time of crisis (Part One: Introduction, The Chain of Command & Leading Where You're At)

I consider the title of this post to somewhat redundant. After all, the training of military officers in almost exclusively focused on creating leaders, and building the leadership acumen of its men and women precisely for times of crisis. Military training is intense in peace-time, so that its more innate in war-time.

As Brad Feld put it here, "By now you've 3,127 blog posts either talking about the coming current downturn credit crisis recession coming reconfiguration of all things as we've known them." You've most likely also seen the Sequoia Capital Presentation on "what now". There is certainly no lack of opinion and information available right now. Much of it more contemporary and accessible than at any other crisis point in history. Literally, some folks are dusting off their 2001 tech bubble playbooks & recycling them for 2008 use. Many businesses, non-profits and Churches would be well served to read some of the post-mortem reflections from that era. Brad Feld, Fred Wilson, Jason Calacanis, Marc Andreesen and Mark Cuban, come immediately to mind as entrepreneurs and VCs that not only lived through the tech depression of the turn of the century, but have captured a wide, diverse and invaluable collection of lessons, strategies, tactics and reflections of those companies that both succeeded and failed in that time period.

In my opinion, we are not headed for a V-shaped recovery, but a long, protracted global recession, with some of the former emerging markets flirting with depression. The US, Japan and European markets have to a wide extent (finally) unwound, and the liabilities, frozen credit markets and retraction in consumer spending has finally broken the damn in this long-emerging, unsustainable debt-driven, derivative 'growth' of the post-Sep 11th recovery. I feel as more global central banks, currencies and markets continue to unpack their messes, we will be in for a more painful version of the "muddle through economy", as John Mauldin has long said we're in. (Subscribe to John's email newsletter if you want the absolute most timely, useful and powerful macro-poli-economic analysis).

So what does this mean to you as the executive pastor of your Church? What does it mean to you as the first-time or serial entrepreneur? What does it mean to you the development director at a non-profit? When I left the military, I interviewed at Cushmann-Wakefield and KPMG in Chicago, in November of 2004. I asked the Cush-Wake VP frankly, "How do you all get through the winter here?". He just answered bluntly, "we bundle-up, batten-down, keep our heads low, eyes up and work our butts off until it gets warm." Folks, we're in for a long economic winter in the United States and globally, it's time to batten down, keep your head low, eyes up and work your butt off until its warm.

As a decorated Air Force Captain that managed $350M+ in contracts in Iraq, I want to look at this economic time and make a plea for leadership to be the central driving force behind what I see as an unprecedented opportunity. That's right; opportunity. Now is a tremendous time to build value in your company or organization, focus on your people, mission and strategy. Hone your execution, focus all hearts and minds on mission and instill the vision and framework for game-changing execution. Over this series of blogs, I want to look at the military leadership or strategic principles that are essential for you to adopt in these crazy times. Through each of these posts, we'll explore the framework or principle, then look at the practical leadership essence required.

First, there must be a crystal-clear chain-of-command. To me, this is the most critical framework in the organization. Whether a partnership LLC, a Church staff, or a 5 man start-up company, every employee must know exactly how the chain of command is laid out, and exactly who is accountable for what, at every level in the organization. As an aside, if velocity and funding led you to grow too fast, or get too big, your org chart (chain of command) will make this crystal clear. Have dotted-line assignments to multiple reports, for special project guy? Have directors with no direct reports, or too many? Do you have over-lapping functional teams with blurred lines of responsibility? Now is the time you must fix this. Your execution of company mission, to say nothing of your capital and burn-rates can't afford not to get this right. Every employee must know who ultimately makes the tough call. They must know who sets the vision and empowers their respective functional leaders. Here is a look at how a typical ROTC unit chain of command would look. Don't allow a vacuum of leadership create an impression that your team is going into 'dog eat dog mode'.

In the military, you will have your operations, support, logistics and medical groups. It's crystalline. There are no blurred lines and responsibilities. And ideally, every tactical manual, role and responsibility and even the acquisition direction flows down from strategic DoD planning, and rolls-up from tactical "on the ground" AAR's (after action reports). The crystal-clear chain of command facilitates and enables this strategic flow-down and tactical flow-up. As a leader at any level in the organization* (will follow-up in next paragraph), you must work to vertically and horizontally align your people to best execute the mission of the organization. In times of crisis, leadership can be de-centralized, but must be crystallized. This sets everybody up for success, and with the associated alignment of your talent, it clearly places performance and execution responsibilities on your best people, products and teams.

Secondly, you must lead from where you're at! This has been the most resonent phrase to me from the moment I was commissioned into the Air Force. "Lead from where you're at" Col Zamzow (now Major General Zamzow) said to a group of us 'snot-nosed 2nd Lietenuants'. As a 2nd Lieteunant, there is very little that you're comfortable with, and even less that you know. The military has just made you in rank, senior to 85% of the force (all officers outrank all enlisted members), yet, you know next to nothing about the profession, or craft above what you've been taught academically, or learnded in your basic courses. Perhaps many of you find yourselves there right now. Perhaps you're a seasoned professional, but are now in a leadership role for the first time. The idea that we could lead then & now, as 2nd Lieteuants, while we were mostly just trying to stay low and out of site...was completely foreign to me. All of you can right now too. It really resonated with me when Col Zamzow said it. I mean, I came into the Air Force as an Officer to lead, right? But I thought only the Company Commanders, Squadron Commanders, Platoon Commanders were actual leaders? Nope. We all have the obligation and duty to lead from where we are!

When you frame your profession and professional development around the question "how can I lead from where I'm at?", your team, your ministry, your company will be revolutionized in productivity and effectiveness. Truly. Revolutionized. What if every developer on your team not just saught to execute technically, but served their directors with humility, worked to eliminate anything that didn't align with strategic vision...while mentoring a junior employee? What if the children's ministry volunteer lived & taught the church's core values and mission, while humbly serving the senior pastor, and offered his or her occupational gifts in accounting, to help a non-profit balance their books? What if you, in your analyst role, served your director by offering to take notes at his staff meetings, or the senior leadership team meetings? The model is servant leadership. Each one of us can lead "where we're at". It works likes this; once you've shed your old inward-looking self, and made the commitment to lead, exactly where you are right now, you will ask your old self, "what was I always bitching about? What were the organizational short-comings or problems that I felt hindered me or our team?" Then, in the model of servant leadership, you will look to solve those problems. How can I change the procurement process? How can we field engineering changing in a more spiral acquisition model? How can we stream-line our customer service experience? What would have to happen for our R&D team to be more free? All of us can ask these questions, and undertake solving them, no matter where we're at. If you find yourself ever trying to define your responsibility more narrowly, you're not leading from where you're at. Instead, retrain yourself to tackle the more intimidating undertakings. Negotiate with the customer that your boss avoids, attend the meeting or conf. call your boss can't make. Serve that person. Whether you have two direct reports, or you're the CEO reporting to the Board and the shareholders, we all have someone we can serve up and down the chain of command. This characteristic will do nothing short of completely set the model for your peers and make a dramatic impact on your team. The willingness to acknowledge and undertake the challenges of your team, with an indifference to receiving the credit for the task, will deeply align your own personal achievement with that of the team. To truly revolutionize your career and exponentially grow the impact that you, your team, your division, your social service, your ministry can have at these, or any times, start to lead from where you're at!

11 September 2008

Attack on "community organizers" or the qualification?

Are McCain/Palin attacks & quips about Obama Presidential qualification in having been a "community organizer" or attacks on "community organizers"?

I was reading Fred Wilson's blog post titled, "Community Organization is a Conservative Notion" and led me to reply as follows:


I've always enjoyed your blog and have rarely expected to agree with you on political matters. This is partially one of those times. There are some points about conservatism that I fully agree with, and appreciate the link to the CATO piece.

Respectfully however, I think you're missing the entire purpose and weight of the attack on "community organizer", and thus are misguided into following the racial red-herring of big Govt red-herring down the wrong path.

The attacks are not on community organizers and their role in our countries service. In fact, it was this Pres that pushed the ideology and policy of the faith-based community taking larger roles in communities as a way to decentralize social service. It's not the organizers or the organizations that are attacked, it's running on being a "community organizer" as a large part of Obama's qualification for being President of the United States!

It is the Obama campaign that made the C/O role a central theme in his campaigning, until the GOP teed off on it at the convention. Personally, I think it's laughable. I think those that keep rushing to Obama's defense over the C/O role put their love of the man ahead of the basic "what's he done" litmus test. In so doing, fail to understand what is being attacked.

Fred, I was a community organizer for a non-profit once. I was the Anti-Human Trafficking coordinator for the Salvation Army's Anti-H/T program. It's difficult, inner-city grunt-work fighting the horrible injustices that befall the forgotten in our cities. It's righteous work. It's noble work. It takes a special kind to dedicate their lives to the work. But is sure as hell does not prepare one to lead the same task-force on a national level, let alone be President of the United States! This is the point of lines like the mayoral responsibility line. And Giuliani’s attacks. It’s not attacking the organization, the service, and especially the role of the groups in a smaller, less centralized conservatism, it’s an attack on whether it prepares you for the biggest job in the world!

Fred, it was hard work and I have all the respect in the world for those that do it, but it surely doesn’t qualify me to be President of the United States. The fact that I was an Air Force officer, served in Iraq, led hundreds of men, and executed hundreds of millions of dollars in budgetary responsibility, or that I was a start-up founder, failing and flailing all make me more qualified to be President than does my time as a community organizer. And over & over, that was the point I heard hammered home. And that point that I totally agree with."

28 August 2008

College Football Predictions by four guest "experts"

Fearless Predictions for 2008

Deano Sutter
Coffee Drinker
Coach Bart
Coach, Historian
Adam Still
Jared Still
Water Drinker
BCS Title Game Kansas over USC
West Virginia over USC
Florida over Oklahoma USC over Oklahoma
ACC Atlantic BC Clemson "Weak" Forrest
ACC Coastal Virginia Tech Virginia Tech Virginia Tech Virginia Tech
ACC Champ Virginia Tech Clemson "Weak" Forrest Virginia Tech
Big East Louisville
West Virginia West Virginia
West Virginia
Big Ten Ohio State Ohio State Ohio State Ohio State
Big 12 North Kansas
Missouri Nebraska Missouri
Big 12 South Oklahoma Oklahoma Oklahoma Oklahoma
Big 12 Champ Kansas
Oklahoma Oklahoma Oklahoma
C-USA East UCF East Carolina Central Florida
East Carolina
C-USA West Tulsa Tulsa Don't care
Tulsa Central Florida Central Florida
MAC East Bowling Green Miami Ohio
Miami (Ohio) Miami Ohio
MAC West Central Michigan Central Michigan
Central Michigan Central Michigan
MAC Champ Central Michigan Central Michigan Central Michigan Central Michigan
Mountain West BYU BYU Belt Buckles
SEC East Florida Georgia Florida Florida
SEC West Auburn Auburn
Auburn LSU
SEC Champ Florida Georgia
Florida Florida
Sun Belt
Florida Atlantic
Boise St.
Troy St.
Boise St.
Florida Atlantic
Boise St.
Florida Atlantic
Boise St.

Define your market bigger

I read & commented on a really solid blog by my friend Brooks, titled "Innovate, Iterate or Obliterate"

However, as I read it again, there's one more comment I would add...and place it in the "food for thought" category, and it goes back to a discussion from early this year on Fred Wilson's blog about Web 2.0 companies being built for and marketed to the extremely narrow realm of early adopters and evangelists.

I feel that any company, in any market place needs evangelists and adopters, but I would caution that having them does not, a true market adoption make. I understand the Gladwell "Tipping Point" perspective to this, but I would also say that a product should be designed to fit a much wider market. Folks like you and I are familiar with many of the Web 2 companies, blogs that cover them and the VC firms that finance them, but are early web-adopters indicative of market success? It's an extremely fickle community and a very tall, insulated silo as well. I saw one straw poll conducted by a VC that found that most "US Americans" (to quote Ms Teen South Carolina) have never heard of Digg, Last.fm, and Twitter...let alone smaller competitors and verticals meant for those communities.

When Jack Welch took a team of his VP's and Directors to the Army War College once to discuss business and leadership, the long-held mantra at GE of being "#1 or #2 in your field, or sell it or fix it if it's not", was shot-down by these aspiring-Generals because they felt that the nature of the execs was to cleverly define their field and competition (marketplace) smaller and smaller so as to fit that #1 or #2 criteria. Instead, in a growth initiative, they were challenged to define their field (competition) wide enough so that they were #4 or #5 (or worse) and look for the growth opportunities therein. It's out of this thinking that GE Aircraft Services, GE Energy Services and numerous GE Capital operations were berthed.

Total genius if you ask me...what do you think?

26 August 2008

Marriage is for Holiness not Happiness

That's the premise of this book Jill and I were given by my great friend Bruce...and it's earth-shattering in its truth.

I shared that with my great friend & 3-year small-group bro Tim, which prompted him to ask me about it.
God uses marriage to produce holiness in us, not necessarily happiness. Not that they're by any means mutually exclusive...but holiness out of the deep, forging, plodding, extracting commitment to Christ & the relationship produces deep JOY...not the shallow happiness that so much of this world is seeking.

Especially in our culture, (most prevalent in idolatry-centric LA) what's everyone seeking? Happiness right? I think that's a total joke. I'm exceedingly happy--I guess--but it's probably more accurately called joy. Because its been forged by going through some deep unhappiness, producing something that's actually sustainable; joy.

The refining of my & Jill's marriage and our souls has been hard, difficult, and beautiful. Sanctification like I've never experienced...producing holiness and a heart for repentance in us both. We are living the transformation. This book, has just beautifully put it into words.

But it's so counter-intuitive...unless you're willing to have your sin shown to you, cut you, hurt you, and be hurt by someone else's, it's hard to be "happy" in a relationship that is the cleaving of two souls. That's like expecting to watch two continents collide into one another without producing a few volcanoes & an earth quake here & there.

We as any man & wife, are not perfect puzzle pieces (her breath stinks, she has bad gas & my body produces constant rose-petal aromas, just for example)...and as much fiery romanticism as Jill and I share, as much deep passion for each other and life together that we have, we're imperfect, sinful people, of whom God wants what? To be "happy"? Romanced? Healthy & wealthy? He wants us to be in loving relationship with Him and to love others as ourselves. Which manifests itself in our lives in holiness. For two people, the places where we don't 'fit' are our rough, sinful edges. They must be ground-down & cut out to fit into place with the other piece. Places we thought were buried deep until we actually go through life clinging to another soul.

It's so crazy how I feel we are both growing in this holiness virtue, in spite of being shown each others' sin and wickedness up close. This is where God has used it in our lives. I feel we've got a desperation and urgency to be more holy & Christ-like towards each other...which interestingly enough, makes us usually two pretty damn happy people! ;)

Holiness. Happiness.

What are your thoughts? Perceptions? From both in and outside of marriage? Please share!

22 August 2008

NFL Preview & Predictions!

Today we're going to be looking at the NFL, with team-by-team predictions, and fast-fowarding to Superbowl match-up and winner.

I'll be back next week for a detailed preview of my favorite team: The Denver Broncos


Buffalo Bills

8-8; Show me something before I believe.

Miami Dolphins

6-10; A much improved club under Big Bill's leadership and solid QB play from Pennington

New England Patriots

13-3; I don't see New England coming 'back to the field' too much, although the age on defense can't escape AFC offenses this year. Even under the mad-genius' schemes. Great record is due impart to an unbelievably weak schedule.

New York Jets

8-8; I don't see much improvement with Brett Favre changing uniforms. It's an 8-8 league, and this team will be a decent 8-8. Winning a couple on Favre's arm, and losing a couple on him slinging it around carelessly like in the NFC Championship game...


Dallas Cowboys

11-5; A very solid 11-5, however I can see this team reading a bit too many of its' summer press-clippings in a very tough NFC East

New York Giants

7-9; This team is more ripe for a Superbowl hangover than any past champion I can remember. They've lost key personnel and I just don't see them getting it done in their own division, let alone the conference.

Philadelphia Eagles

11-5; Wildcard team, with excellent all around season. They will rebound. Great organization.

Washington Redskins

8-8; A decent team, with good pieces will also have really solid coaching. QB play is everything in this league, and I just don't see Jason Campbell getting it done.


Baltimore Ravens

4-12; I just don't see anything to write home about here. In fact, I would close the team offices and give everything back to the City of Cleveland.

Cincinnati Bengals

8-8; Same story, different year. Marv Lewis leaves at the end of the year. Bungals are back.

Cleveland Browns

8-8; Not buying all of the hype. Tough schedule, but benefit of having to travel the least number of miles in the NFL. I just don't think Anderson is the long term answer at QB. In this division, limiting turnovers and being able to run the ball is everything.

Pittsburgh Steelers

12-4; Which brings us to the team that will do that best. Look for a great year in Pittsburgh from QB, both tailbacks, and the defense.


Chicago Bears

3-13; Fresno St. will have better QB play this year. Disaster in waiting. I would burn my equipment, throw it in Lake Michigan and quit.

Detroit Lions

6-10; They're the Lions. What more needs to be said. The teams' logo should be "6&10". Gross.

Green Bay Packers

10-6; I feel Aaron Rogers gets it done in caretaker form at QB, and the depth of the roster comes through time & again this year.

Minnesota Vikings

11-5; Adrian Peterson scares me. Tavaris Jackson does not. Running the ball and stopping the run still works. This team will be very good.


Houston Texans

10-6; In the best division in football, a very well coached, great pass-rush and very solid run game with a caretaker at QB, this team would runaway with any NFC division besides the East. Thing is, they're in the AFC and the South. Brutal schedule. With 19 former Broncos in the organization, "Denver South" will miss the playoffs. Barely.

Indianapolis Colts

11-5; Slow start will be overcome by Peyton being Peyton once he's fully healthy.

Jacksonville Jaguars

11-5; Solid, solid football team. I don't think Garrard has ever thrown an interception. Even if he does this year, they're still winning 11 games.

Tennessee Titans

4-12; Vince Young will be out of a job by week 9. Total sham.


Atlanta Falcons

3-10; They would be 3-13, but they will probably quit like their coward coach Bobby Petrino did last year. Poor Matt Ryan.

Carolina Panthers

8-8; Average team that never plays average football. They play really good, and surprisingly bad.

New Orleans Saints

11-5; Good football team. Defense will be much improved with Ced Ellis. QB play will be amazing, and maybe, just maybe, Reggie Bush will average more than 3.8 yards per carry

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

9-7; Love Garcia, but last year was more of an aberration for this team.


Denver Broncos

11-5; Run defense will return to its' top-5 form that is has held for all of this century until last year's Jim Bates debacle. Look for a franchise year from Jay Cutler. (at least 30 TD's and 4,000 yards). No, Selvin Young will not have 2,000 yards, but the Broncos RB's will have more than 2,300 yards--which means they are a playoff team.

Kansas City Chiefs

8-8; Well coached. Good talent. It's an 8-8 league. Young team will play 8-8 ball.

Oakland Raiders

5-11; They're the Raiders. Napolean Kaufman...err, Darren McFadden will win them five games, Jamarcus the fat, will lose them 5 games. The other 6 will be lost by penalty and turnovers.

San Diego Chargers

13-3; The best team in the AFC. As much as it pains me to say it. Man, I wish Marty was still there to jack something up in the post-season. Maybe LT will pout or the jackass Phillip Rivers will start a bar fight in week 12.


Arizona Cardinals

10-6; Seriously, I do believe this will be the year that the good drafts and personnel finally come together under Whisenhunt. This team has the talent on both sides of the ball to get it done, and Leinart, though not my vote for most mature QB, will mature enough on the field to lead this team to the division title.

Cardinals update!

Well, that’s the NFL!

One week after Leinart seemed to have the QB position locked-up in Arizona, he goes out and vomits a 2.8 QB rtg,and loses his job.

Oh well, I’ve always liked Warner and feel he can lead them to the same record—he just doesn’t have the salary-cap, draft position, age and frailty working in his favor.

(Really says something about how bad Leinart had to play to lose that job)

St. Louis Rams

9-7; Never sure what to make of this team. Now that Stephen Jackson got paid, will he rush for 2,000 yards, or pull a hamstring in week 4.

San Francisco 49ers

6-10; Whoa, again, Fresno St will have better QB play this year.

Seattle Seahawks

8-8; I respect Holmgren, but this team missed its window. The Dallas Mavericks of the NFL, people still think they're better than they are, and they royally blew their one championship opportunity

The only thing that matters in this years' playoffs is that the Broncos will be back. They will lose their second game to San Diego and I will cry for 6 months.

So, I wont bore myself (or you the loyal reader) with week-by-week predictions or playoffs scenarios; I'll fast-forward to the end:

Chargers over Cowboys in Superbowl XLIII.

20 August 2008

Some more thoughts on the Church & men

Being that sanctification is God’s way of extracting from us, a more Christ-like heart, producing an evermore Christ-like life, I think we should expect it to look much different for us all as believers. If we agree on that, I think we can agree that masculinity and femininity, combined with personality and sanctification, will look different for people within the constructs of God’s genders.

I think people are right about Mark Driscoll communicating masculinity narrowly sometimes. I’ve never watched a UFC fight and don’t like fight scenes in movies, so some of his stuff is lost on me. But in general, I guess I just “get him”. I served in combat with all sorts of men around. I love my “band of brothers” and am by nature a very ‘fraternal’ type of guy. I also cry with my girls and my wife…so my masculinity might not look like everyone’s either.

However, I also think that the Church has defined or laid out an expectation of masculinity that is just as narrow as many would see more traditionalists to be. I feel there’s a large segment of the Church and Church academia, that has an expectation of its own values of masculinity. That men are to be only meek, that they are to be only forgiving and never fighting, that men are to be only turn the other cheek and not defend or pre-empt. I hope you get my heart when I say, I “get” what some of these men are preaching. I don’t feel the problems in the Church and our families and our culture is that men are too strong. I think many men are way too weak, passive, indecisive, non-confrontational and accepting…and hide under post-modern cloaks of tolerance and acceptance.

I understand why people have taken offense to some things that Mark Driscoll has said. I do. Some of the things were offensive!

I listen to him, Matt Chandler (our pastor at The Village Church), John Piper, Tim Keller, Tommy Nelson and others, having respect for them because they're a great Bible teachers & preachers. I love their faithfulness to the Word. But they're just men. I loved Ted Haggard for his preaching, teaching and what I perceived of his marriage to Gayle, for years as well. I mean, I love my Dad with all of the love that a son could ever muster, but I don’t idolize him either…far from it. I hold him in reverence and respect, as the loving father & earthly, male head of my life. But...he’s just another sinful, fallen man. When he’s done with his race, if I am given the grace of God to outlive him, or view it from Heaven, I hope that both my Dad and these pastors have run great, beautiful races. But until then, I understand that in even expecting godliness from a man admire, I may be let down as with Ted Haggard. But I digress...I want to talk more about The Church.

(This is not really to be a post on in some defense of Driscoll the preacher & teacher. But I feel his teaching is so faithful to scripture and the movement (Mars Hill, Acts 29, the Resurgence) is so important, I hate to see the Church get caught up in shooting its own. And my thoughts jump around here. Hope that makes sense.)

Frankly, for quite a while now I’ve been increasingly bothered by the “teams” that develop in Christianity, that you can almost depend on to hammer on one guy and love another. You’ve got the missional, emergent crowds, the staunch fundamental doctrine hounds, each with its heroes and leaders, you’ve got the various Seminaries and denominational affiliations…and painfully obvious allegiances within them. I certainly understand that some of that is doctrinally based. I take issue with certain parts of the Church and certain leaders because of it. But as we steward the Church into an amazing convergence of technology and information (see my friends' Rhett Smith's blog and Matt Singley's blog to stay current on this convergence!) But All of these constructs by the way, are institutions of man, or loosely codified ideas of man. "Teams" and allegiances...of man. We need to be careful not to be too ‘religious’ in our affiliations organizations and keep it all focused and preaching, teaching and living Jesus’ transformative power…through His love and grace.

It may be a little off-topic, but I don’t understand the offense to the Ted Haggard blog. And not to justify by implied association, but I’m not alone in that. I’ve talked to many men and women that say, “yeah, we see it in our Church with men AND women. Pastors and congregation.” He clearly wasn’t talking about Gayle. Clearly not talking about Gayle...I don't understand why the reach there. (Not to mention, Gayle couldn't fit the characterization any less; she's a beautiful woman) It was an observation and judgment about some pastors wives. (With a really bad choice of words, worse timing, and horrible choice of forum in my opinion!) I think many that share the point of view are reticent to share less they run afoul of the sensitivity police. Even in sharing this, I debated internally because I don’t want to appear to be the ‘insensitive jerk’ that’s subconsciously labeled as such and dismissed within Christian circles because I’m not offended…and I am willing to take the risk of sharing my views honestly.

(Although, hopefully the good grammar police among you would be offended by my run-on sentence. Whew...sorry!)

Just some thoughts folks, as God continues to turn my heart towards the study of His word, Church, teachers and the revival that I believe we're at the forefront of.

13 August 2008

Pac-man is not a smart man

No, I'm not going to call him "Adam Jones". His name is Pac-man. Living here in Dallas and getting Cowboy reports all-day every day, I know that inside the world of the blue star, he still goes by pac-man. His momma calls him pac-man, I'm gonna call him pac-man.

So anyways, Pac-man "make it rain" Jones took some shots at Denver wideout, Brandon Marshall yesterday after the team's first joint practice together at the Broncos' training facility at Dove Valley, in suburban Denver.

Said the big yellow chomper:

"TO is 10 times faster than Brandon Marshall. 10 times stronger than Brandon Marshall. #15 ain't no TO."

Curiously that was after #15 made several big catches against Dallas' first-team defense...after shaking-off the chomper.

Now maybe Mr. Pac had a bit too much to drink at one of Denver's "scrip clubs" (listen to his sound bites, he does not say strip club, but scrip or script club. Maybe he actually thought these establishments were for writing SCRIPTS and in his script, he plays himself, makes it rain, degrades women, leaves people shot & wounded on the scene, and then declares in all of his genius that "it ain't no sin to go to the scrip club") I severely digress...

Maybe the public schools in Atlanta where pacman grew have really low math requirements, or pacman's stint on TNA wrestling banged-up his round, yellow head, but by my estimations, Terrel Owens would have to be the world's strongest AND fastest man (including cartoons and superheros) to be 10 times faster and stronger than the BIGGER (6'4", 230lbs to TO's 6'3", 218) Brandon Marshall.

Now while I believe the 35 year old Mr. Owens is pretty darn strong and fast, I think it's highly unlikely that he benches 3,500lbs, and runs a 0.43 40-yard dash.

Not only that, but if TO's "ten times faster and stronger" than the 24 year old Marshall, then why, on a team with less weapons, a much less effective offense, and much less scoring than that of the Cowboys, did Marshall have 21 more catches than TO (102 to 81), with significantly more yards-after-catch (505 to 358)?

TO clearly had an amazing year, but #15 is going to be a force in Denver for the next decade or better...and certainly faces better competition every day across the line of scrimmage in Champ Bailey, than he has to face this week in the Pacman.

Just wondering Adam...err, Pacman, where were you in coverage this week against Brandon Marshall?

Get lost in the maze? Eat too many yellow dots?

06 August 2008

The Southern White Male Empire Building

(An aside to my post that I wrote last week; I started this blog post on Thurs of last week. It has taken me four days to get back to it and finish it)

I heard Collin Cowherd say something yesterday that made me stop what I was doing, laugh out loud, call my wife Jill and inspired me to blog about it. It's not often that someone's comment will get me to blog about it, let alone what I feel was kind of a 'throw-away' line of comments by 'Herd. He didn't open the segment with the take, it was in the middle of a long line of conversation on the topic de jour (well, topic of the week, no...month) Brett Farve.

Collin astutely observed when speaking about the way some guys view everything, (rough plagiarism from memory, and not direct quote, as I couldn't find the segment online) "guys in the south feel they have to empire build. Build walls, prop-up and defend everything in their lives". He went on to note, "I don't run into this guy in L.A.. You won't find this guy in New York, where there's just so much more to life than what white southern guy knows".

Oh. How. True. I've been calling this guy, "SEC* guy" for a number of years now (*SEC is the Southeast Conference in college football). Stereotypes are fun, because you can always find enough people to live into them for you (and you don't get in trouble for using them unless you apply them across racial lines). And boy, have I encountered these guys.

In general, you just have these guys that build up little things in their lives that they live so vicariously through, that they become giant sources of identity and ritual (create idols, much?)

Southern myopic white guy will bang relentlessly on SEC football, SEC tradition, SEC tailgating, SEC coaches, Southern ______. SEC football, the stadiums, the experiences are legendary in part because of this, but I want to focus on what Collin was getting at.

Having been to 31 countries and lived in four different states (with family across three others), I guess I just have a different perspective on it all. I share some of the same passions, and perhaps ideals as SEC guy, but I just view the world through a much larger lens. Sure it sounds arrogant to presuppose this...but it's true. College football worship or whatever other vice is seasonally inserted into the life of southern white guy, is truly a marginal or secondary passion in the rest of the country (to say nothing of the rest of the world). So, while your stadium might have registered on the Richter scale, (seriously, so cool to me! The main reason I wanted to see a game at LSU well before I married Jill) that stadium is only the center of your small little world.

There's more to do in the rest of the country (especially on the West Coast).

There are far more competing interests for the entertainment dollar and passion (people want to talk about making movies in L.A., companies in Silicon Valley, hedge funds in NYC, baseball in Boston and meth in Fresno).

This is not to say that the whole premise is even right; SEC football is the best in the country right now. And the PAC-10 is by far the most dominate athletic conference in the country. The best programs in the country all recruit heaviest in CA and TX outside of Florida. So what? So football is strong and loved in the South. Great. If my Aunt had a pair, she'd be my uncle. Is that all that goes on down there, SEC guy? I ask, because it doesn't look like a whole lot of studying is going on there. The PAC-10 has had 137 Nobel laureates to the SEC's 9. Don't even get me started on the salaries and accomplishments of alumni out of the two regions. Now, it doesn't take a degree from UCLA to understand that that's lopsided. Jeesh, crack a book once in awhile. Try to break attendance records for class instead of games for once. Put a tutor in your Fav-5 instead of just your 35 year-old tailgating buddies. Find a resume builder instead of a college football message board.

It's just plain weird to love something more than the teenage boys do, that you place in a position of idol every fall & spring. And if you don't think SEC guy loves his team/conference MORE than the actual players and coaches out there, well, you just haven't been around enough athletes. SEC guy loves it more & derives more identity from the sports than do the athletes.

I mean, that's not to say that Les Miles doesn't have himself painted on a trailer, but Les Miles doesn't have himself painted on a trailer.

It's just myopic empire building, like Collin pointed-out. You don't find this guy out West and you definitely don't find this guy in someone who's got their identity and priorities rooted in the right place.

Oh, and FIGHT ON USC! ;)

04 August 2008

The premise of the book I'm going to write

So, I've had this huge desire to write and tell stories for the better part of 5 years now. And embarrassingly so, I've yet to act on it. Sure, it hasn't been one of my primary focuses in life--but that's part of what brings me the embarrassment--I haven't made it a primary focus.

There was a window when I returned from Iraq that it would have been most relevant to tell the story of Baghdad 2004. Of course, the story I wanted to--and intended to--tell, was one of the 'romance' of the whole battle. The epic adventure that it was for me and my own band of brothers. So, perhaps the window of relevance for that story isn't closed, but it's not what I feel I need to write about now.

I need to write about being a man. I feel the lack of real men is an epidemic in our culture.

I feel it it is at the root of so many parts of our culture that are in decay.

I feel it is at the root of crime and incarceration statistics in the black community (yes, I'm going to write about it even though the race-mongers in our country won't let you talk about race unless you're black and your name ends in ___arpton or ___ckson)

I feel the lack of real men in our culture is an epidemic that is damaging a generation of women

I feel encouraged by the men in MY LIFE that embody the ideal to me.

Over the years I've come to see some character traits that are generally accepted as "manly" as stupid, machismo and ignorant. Over the years, I've also seen some of the cultural pressures on men to be poisonous lies and feminist propaganda.

I've also come to believe that young men today have such a false sense of identity because in large part they grew up as the first generation in this country that was absolutely at the center of the universe in terms of how their parents approached parenting.

I also feel that we raise emotionally constipated men that are unfit for raising other boys, let alone raising and loving little girls.

Men should cry. They should cry for joy, they should cry out of anger if they share the heart of God. They should cry when the weight and magnitude of their parents or spouses or God's love HITS THEM for the first time. It's cool. It's necessary and empowering to have a good man-cry.

Men should instinctively react to protect, defend and fight for what is RIGHT. I feel women are far more gifted at caring for the hungry, homeless and orphaned; I want to DEFEND THEM.

Men should find their identity in the right place. In their creator God, and His purposes for their lives. If they don't they will chase woman after woman in search of that identity and validation. Or, once married, they will still chase women, either through the fantasy of porn (53% of men use porn, even more have at one point been addicted) or through emotional and physical affair. Men, seeking their identity in the wrong place will chase the next job, the next promotion, the face-time with the boss and winning the quarterly 'xyz' as if it that promotion, raise and VP title were the ones at home every night, just wanting to be loved, hugged, admired and spent time with.

A real man figures out how to make it all work, and has the perspective on life to know that "it all" working means taking some rest, enjoying a laid back dinner of drinks and a meal with great friends, Bible study alone in the morning, a nap on Saturday afternoon with the wife. A real man can find balance in life through perspective, before finding perspective on life through things being out of balance.

Guys, we've got to instinctively know how to love, live, fight, defend, make peace, teach, lead and follow. The book I'm going to write is my belief in a road-map and framework to do so.

I need all the encouragement and accountability possible. After all, I'm three years behind on my first book.

31 July 2008

July 2nd, 2008

That's the last time I wrote an original piece on this blog.

Gosh, that sucks.

One month. One whole month. Why am I even blogging, if that's all I've got? However, in that same time period, I had 480+ 'micro-blog' or mini-takes on twitter. That's 15% more than any other single month since I joined twitter last July. That's really interesting to me. Really tells me something about the platform and method that works for me. Also might tell me something about my attention span.

I don't understand. I don't know why I'm not writing. I think about it. And just like the Fairfield Police Dept "failure to show proof of insurance" citation on my desk (I've always had insurance, just not so good at putting an updated piece of paper in my car), my blog just sits there. I look at it. Hoping that all of the things I think about writing, would just suddenly make time for themselves in my life. And while they're at it, I wish they would just write themselves. I wish this citation would just pay itself. Put postage on itself and mail itself.

I'm really trying to understand why I'm not writing more. I know it's a gift. It's something I love to do. It's something I feel the need to do. It's something I feel called to do. I just don't do it. It just seems to cumbersome, time-consuming and (get this) distracting to sit down and focus on writing. I find it's tough to keep the rhythm of my life when I cut away to think and write. I feel that there's just not really the time to do it well. With work (July was also the most productive month of work I've had in a couple years!), being intentionally invested in marriage every evening, being intentionally invested in daddyhood every evening, with some working out, some running, some Bible study, some rest, some travel...it just doesn't feel like I ever have the time needed to lay out some thoughts. It feels like I'm taking away from something else, unless I'm blogging late at night or first thing in the morning, when nobody else is awake. Even then, I value rest or Bible study more than blogging.

But I really WANT to blog more. I really want to develop an audience, folks to talk to and hear from. I comment on others writing more than I've been writing myself. So weird.

I feel that I have a gift for the multi-page-length blog, but am always challenged to write the two or three paragraph blog. Seriously, it's difficult for me to say, "this is what I think & why". No, I want to dissect, break-down, build-up, deconstruct and re-construct.

Just yesterday I wrote a really difficult email defending my wife, making some things crystal clear and basically blowing-up someone for how some communication had gone the previous couple days. It was 2,400+ words and 6 pages (12pt, Times Font) in Word. I cited 8 or 9 verses of scripture and it might as well have had a preamble and footnotes (it didn't, actually).

I guess that's the problem with my blogging. I just see any piece of writing that I might undertake (notice how long this one is getting), as one that has to be well-written, well-reasoned and insightful. To me, that has yet to ever mean concise.

I know that being short, sweet and to the point is a valuable skill. However, I have also found that it leaves room for squabbling and back-and-forth in trying to 'further clarify' or expound.

I guess the other reason that I might be dragging my feet is it just doesn't feel rewarding enough. I like to hear myself talk and read my own thoughts just as much as anyone (yawn........) but not when I'm writing. I want feedback. I want thoughts I want discussion. I want affirmation...or if so intended, I want reaction.

I'm thinking aloud here, but I guess I just don't get it. What's the point? What am I writing for? Why am I not writing more? Where is my writing or blogging going? Is the 140 character take on twitter an art-form in writing, or is it the lowest-common-denominator? As someone that has a heavy, deep desire and calling to write books, is that where my sub-divided writing attention should go? I just don't know.

And this blog as a platform; what exactly am I here to say? It's title, "leading at the speed of thought", gives you an idea of where I intended to take it. But I find myself only able to process big book-length type of ideas on leadership and Biblical manhood. I don't know. Personally, leadership is something that's never "off". Always on. It has to permeate every aspect of my life, or I'm not living into my full ability or responsibility. So, do I write about everything under the sun and try to wrap in neat thematic packaging?

I'm a pretty eclectic guy, and as anyone in my life will tell you, have a pretty eclectic collection of passions and intrigues. I'm blessed enough to be able to have a conversation about a vast range of topics. I truly feel its one of my greatest strengths. But I guess I just don't know what in the world to talk about here.

03 July 2008

God Values the Journey. What King David can teach us about the nature of God



This is a re-post of one of the blogs that was most rewarding for me to write. I still find myself working and wrestling through “the journey”.

Many landmark, amazing, incredible things have changed since I wrote this last summer. Jesus has been rocking my world! Most importantly, I am blessed, overjoyed and amazed by the marriage to my best friend and soul mate (who has the coolest name too) Jill Still. I’ve written countless other times about what the true, deep, soulful love has done to my life, hope, faith…and even understanding of and relationship to, God’s love.

I am blessed to know and live into a gigantic part of my calling as a Dad and step-Dad! I am so in love with the opportunity to love and lead our five little angels! It is absolutely the greatest thing imaginable.

I am no longer the dead-broke entrepreneur with no income or hope for financial upside. By the grace of God, I am in a pretty cool role at Raytheon. I now remain as founding-director at Wishy.com, and keep a bit of a stake in the company that I pray so strongly takes-off under the execution and leadership of Deano. Now I manage contracts for cool military technology at Raytheon. Again, by God’s total blessing, I’m well compensated, and while we are definitely dead-broke and barely keeping “altitude”, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We’re trying to be obedient to God’s directions financially, and pray that the long, long journey back to financial solvency can be sanctifying and rewarding as we go through it together.

I am in a totally and completely blessed emotional place as we hit the midpoint of 2008. As Jill well knows, I am not an easy person to go through life with. While I am probably the most emotionally available husband, and live and love with my heart on my sleeve, I am (obviously) very emotional. I ache, I mourn, I lament. I cheer. I love. I love. I anger. I hurt. I despair…and through it all, I am learning to be as faithful as possible to my role as leader in the home, by the striking the difficult balance between humble servitude, gentle teacher, strong correction guy, coach, encourager, and always the loving, affectionate praying husband and Daddy. Whoa, is it hard! I can only do this by the strength and grace of God. But that all is a blog for another day!

I want share what I wrote last year about David and the perspective through which we can see our own lives.



This year, and reaching back by extension to much of last year, has been the most difficult, challenging, fulfilling, testing, inspiring, heart-breaking and invigorating of my entire life. It has been one of the years where those further detached from me feel I’ve been through hell and am not “happy”, being beat up by circumstances and trial. That’s somewhat true (anyone that laughs as much as I do, does *not* have a happiness deficiency). However, it has also been one of those years that those closest to my life—my small group, Deano, Alex, Grant, Pastor Keenan, my Mom & Dad and few others as God brought us in & out of each other’s lives and dialogue—have also seen incredible emotional highs, not in reaction to circumstances, but in celebration of God’s strength, redeeming power, faithfulness and powerful grace. This has also been true.

So, where to begin? Let me turn to the lifeblood of the little understanding I’m granted within this hyper-curious intellect of mine: Scripture.

Matthew 6: 33-34

33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Mark 1: 11-13

11 And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." 12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, 13 and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

These two scriptures I believe to be offer an incredible framework for understanding my recent walk with Christ, as well as providing a model for a bit of analysis, for the sake of continual growth. I will explain further in parts two and three.

But, for PART ONE, first we are going to consider 1 Samuel 16 through 2 Samuel 5

36 chapters in the Bible, covering twenty-some years. David was the youngest son of Jesse when called from the fields and anointed to be King of Israel by Samuel. (I don’t know how young, but given that he was yet pretty small when he kicked Goliath’s arse, I think we can presume he was no older than 10, 12 at the most.)

So, why are these chapters important?

Well, first of all, David is said to be a man after God’s own heart. God clearly does bestow favor upon those that seek Him in the manner that we were created (in His image). David got it. We men should try to get David. We NEED to try to be like David

To me the chapters hold incredible importance because they detail the journey of into King for David. It cannot be over-emphasized; THE JOURNEY into Kingship. “David was 30 years old, he reigned for 40 years and he did so in the following locations. Yada, yada, yada.”

Wow. And there in 2 Samuel 5: 4 you have the boldest declaration by our Lord of how deeply He values the process in life. The Journey! 36 chapters detailing a life of battles, trial, torment, victory, struggle, fleeing, lamentations and praises of David before ever becoming King. Then 2 Samuel closes with another 19 Chapters detailing the glory, fall, sorrow and praise of David as King, but the heavy-hitting truth to me was that so much weight was cast upon the journey into Kingship of a boy that had been anointed decades earlier!

(This is perfectly captured by New Life Church associate pastor Rob Brendle in “In the Meantime”, available on Amazon Rob's Book Here)

Whoa. I don’t know about you guys, but I was never pulled from the field and anointed with oils by Ronald Reagan, nor George Bush 41 for that matter; yet I have felt—I do feel—a calling, a purpose, a grandiose mission in life, which was due to unfold.

All of us men do.

It is authored there by the Holy Spirit and it stirs inside of us when we dare dream those things that a life of “the normalization of assimilation” has stripped away from our unique dreams, desires and callings that are scripted to be perfectly refined by our Lord, using our blessings and talents for His glory.

That’s a long, run-on sentence way of acknowledging that we are not the sole authors of our dreams. And that our dreams and the intrinsic adventure and required belief-in-self are REPRESSED by the social constructs (the world) in which we conform to, when we’re not “seeking first, the Kingdom of God”.

Yet, even after reading Rob’s book, I would still let impatience (inherently distrust of God’s will in my life) take over as I just.could.not.sit.still.and.wait.

How God? How am I best to wait on your timing? I just feel so convicted and strangely, strengthened by this example of David’s life.

I mean seriously, just how short-sighted and weak is it of me to feel so restless and lost in my own life’s desert, when compared to what David went through?

“God, here I am! With all the food I can eat, so that I’ve actually gained weight. I’m living by the beach in Santa Monica…statistically-speaking I am among the wealthiest, healthiest and safest 1% of people to ever walk this earth…whoa-is-me, God….boo-hoo…I am Jared, and I am broke and a not-so-starving entrepreneur…and here I am, here I am, God, where are you??”

Yeah, ridiculous.

Now, there’s no doubt that the amount of spiritual torment and emotional trial I have been through in this past year has been real. And it has been real hard. But I, like so many of us, need a freaking reality check sometimes, and for me, I found that in David.

Hurting. Lost. Failing with the company? In despair. Sinful. Tired. Exhausted. Broke (as if I had forgotten the level of impoverishment in India I saw in Feb). In debt (as if worrying about it all was doing any good anyways), and under attack.”

Yeah, in reflection, I’m reminded of how relative life and relationships just really are. Whereas, my relative pain, struggle and turmoil was big-time to me, I will always count myself among the most blessed people on the planet.

But what I felt I was going through was my own Psalm 55. And it was new. Raw. Rough. I’ve been through a combat deployment and have been through divorce. And you know what, I would have traded being under fire throughout my tour in Iraq, traveling the roads in our “soft” SUV’s for parts of this year, in a heartbeat. This year was that tough.

To me, war is the natural romantic, intrinsically male “battle to fight” that we all search for (well, at least those of us who have not been overly feminized by “sensitive Christian man” movement.) You must first be a MAN after God’s own heart, as He designed you, before attaining true sensitivity and righteousness. Love Jesus, take the lead, lay down your life for your wife and kids, be emotionally courageous, not constipated.) Sorry for the language and the divergence. Let’s get back to David….

If David was a bit more Jared, we would have had Psalms that sounded more like:

“Really Lord? Freaking REALLY?? Do ye not the oil on the forehead, remembereth?”

“Lord I didn’t tell you I wanted to be King of Israel, you pulled me out of the fields and said, ‘Yep. He’s the one. Bam! Oil. Head.’ Rememberth ye, O Lord?”

“Lord, my God, savior of my soul, if your anointing leadeth one to live and hide in caves, chased to be killed like a wild dog, I would hate to fall out of your favor! Jeesh….”

“O Lord, just HOW busy are you up there that you seem to have lost track of YOUR OWN plan for my life?”

“Remembereth, ye O Lord?? Field. Oil. Head. Fighting big guys, slaying dirty Philistines….and now this?? I just pretended to be FREAKING PSYCHO to save my life! And oh yeah, still wandering around in ENEMY LAND!”

But thankfully, David was not so Jared-like, and its David’s warrior-of-a-life, that Jared now completely looks to live into.

So, I look to the actual construct of the books of Samuel to a clue into God’s desire for my own life; 36 chapters devoted to a 20-year process of becoming King, one verse about actually arriving at King, and then another 19 chapters about the process of being King.

This year has been the most purposeful in my life, as I have had each and every “strength” I counted my own, broken down completely and built back up by faith alone. No. Honestly. I used to think that some of the things I heard from Ted Haggard, Mark Brewer, Rob Brendle and others, were just too “Christianese” to resonate…that it was hyperbole of the faith and I couldn’t quite grasp. Now I get it. Honestly my friends, if you want to truly know what it is like to be humbled—just ask. God will lovingly, but brutally and systematically break down every construct of strength that you have pridefully erected in reaction to the world’s pressure on you. And it won’t feel so great….but it will be the best process of your life. The model can be seen in our own physiology too; just think about what lifting weights is to your body—the process of tearing, literally tearing down muscle, to refine it and build it back up, strengthened and with rest, invigorated in serving its unique purpose on your body (such as the delts and tris for breaking my stupid phone, if it doesn’t stop blacking-out on me.)

Cool. I get it. God values the journey!

…now Dear God, please strengthen me in actually LIVING INTO that truth for my own life. Patience in your perfect timing. Celebration and praise in the perfect refinement (no matter how hard core) you must exact in my life…and thank you God for letting me come to you, letting me walk with the mighty sword and hand of your Son Jesus...and for picking me and the sword up when I go through life falling all over myself. May I one day grow into the armor befitting of the righteous King David! Amen!

The Warrior's Journey (Poem)

He stands in triumph looking down across the vast and expansive valleys lit with dawn's first kiss

The iridescent illumination of undisturbed path along the ridge testifies to his trail-setting march

The journey burnt the lungs of his soul. Consuming the mind with its ambush of fire.

The pain of the ascent debilitating, exploited and concentrated. Inviting the probing tacticians lurking in wait, stalking The Way, seeking to consume his eternal light in hopeless abyss.

Doubting sentinels crushed amber ends of their smokes into the dirt on his grave. Organic. Buried alive, in heart only. Hope crucified. The sinister soil feeding parasitically off of the life of a dream dared to be dreamt.

The doubt assimilated with the soul, traveling in stealth, intravenously.

The siren beckons, coercing the battle to rise. Pursue.

The temptation moved slithering across the path seemingly almost in cadence with his march. As the sky darkened, the liar's voice sought to marginalize the journey, pleading for a settlement. An accord shy of the heart's summit.

Lies hammer the armor, storm after storm, causing the soul to stir with vengeful aggression

The woman seductively beckons his heart just to the edge of the path ahead

The sword had to drawn, unsheathed as insolence feeds a holy fire. It is a time to relish the brutal, unflinching cold execution. Put to death are wretched demons of opposition. Cold steel lumbered through contorted flesh.

And he kneels, laboring again over the blood enveloping the liar's ground. The soul of the warrior is in communion with the one who always will be. Sanctification. Kneeling prayer. Exaltation.

The sun races, plummeting westward, as he is ushered with a youthful vigor by the spirit of David, King of Israel, late afternoon rays lighting the path at his feet.

She emerges from his side along the ridge, having caressed his shoulder, and made light his soles. Her succulent kiss awakens.

The sword is emphatically plunged into the earth, as the sun sets behind the imposing range of great mountains--battle peaks and rumbling valleys--of the future that lie ahead.

Jared L. Still 26 May 2007

02 July 2008

Wrong about Mark Driscoll

I wrote this in response to Rhett Smith's blog-post, titled "Does Mark Driscoll Promote a Mysogynistic and Violent Christianity?". By all of the accounts of our mutual friends, Rhett is a great guy, that did an amazing job running an awesome college ministry at Bel Air Pres, in Los Angeles (my former Church) Rhett's also someone whom I hope to call my friend when he and his wife (finally) move to Dallas, TX! But I passionately disagree with him on this question.

The text of my reply: What do you think?

I feel this is completely unfair and a mischaracterization. What is your basis for the claim that Driscoll supports or perpetuates a Mysogynistic and Violent Christianity?

I've listened to almost every sermon of Driscoll's at Mars Hill over the past two years, and can say with all honesty, I have never heard anything that is remotely akin to such a claim. Having listened to his whole teaching ministry for nearly two years, I can tell you a lot about the guy, his heart, ministry and beliefs…and they’re anything but violent and misogynistic.

Now I have heard Mark make sarcastic, ironic, cutting & jabbing statements that attack & deconstruct the feminized, responsibility-fearing young men (among others) that he hopes to reach & convict. It's certainly fair to take issue with his style or effectiveness, if that's Wess or Haden's belief. But to apply a sort of ‘hermeneutic trajectory’ to his satire and biting statements, leading to misogynistic, or violent is unfair and reckless. All you have to do is listen to the man's sermons and theological series to "get" his heart and theological beliefs.

Now, listening to his teaching you will also learn a lot about his background and upbringing that created the personality that loves UFC, bacon and guns. The guy’s background is one of violence, street-fights and family alcoholism and if your listen fairly and with integrity to his teaching, a listener would ‘get that’. Sorry if this offends, but I count him as a ‘man’s man’. And if you ask those that know my heart (or ask my beautiful wife, five daughters and Mom), you would know that any man I would bestow that title on, I would do so not because of some redneck aggression-prone simplistic stereotype, but because week after week he unabashedly preaches repentance, substitutionary atonement, men taking responsibility, serving love for wife and family, being emotionally available and serving towards your wife, respecting girls, women, marriage, celebrating Biblical sexuality and is unafraid to defend and celebrate masculinity.

Sure, there are plenty of missteps and misquotes that have undoubtedly aided his critics. But I have to honestly submit, Rhett, week-after-week, I laugh at the shots he takes and while, I know it will offend some, I never see the big deal. Along with an intellectually honest search through all of his material and teachings, you will also find there are a multitude of sermons & statements out there in which he humbly apologizes, back-tracks, or even talks about John Piper (a man he counts as a dear friend) holding him to account for using "shock-jock humor".

Without a doubt, if the shoot-first, ask questions later, critics would listen consistently to the messages from Mars Hill, you will hear Mark hit the same drum beat of imploring men to grow-up, keep their pants on, respect and honor women, love their wives, serve their wives, love their kids, provide for their family. Be a leader. Often in story of his own relationship with his wife and children as the "cuddle dad" and "faithful, serving husband" become evident and the example of what his faith looks like at home. I would suggest listening to him preach through the weight of “loving his wife as Christ loves the Church” to have a more intellectually honest basis for understanding where Driscoll comes down on Biblical husbandry.

As far as the larger, underlying detraction in Wess, Haden (and perhaps your) post(s), about a concern or discontent with ministries or pastors that seek to really serve men…I totally and completely “get” where Mark Driscoll is coming from, and who he’s talking to. I fully believe that true, Biblical manhood is scarce in our culture. I feel it’s religiously (pun intended) under attack. And it is as epidemic within our culture. It’s actually going to be the purpose and premise of the book I am setting out to write. I really feely that men need a clear picture, definition, defense and roadmap to Biblical masculinity. Men must be held to account for the miserable state of marriage in our culture. For the rampant, debt-laden, financial messes in our country. For the broken homes, incarceration rates and failing Churches. And for the 65% of men in the Church that are addicted to porn. It’s cataclysmic. It’s a tragedy of Biblical proportions (again, pun intended). And you don’t solve it by everyone talking through their feelings, and packaging the Gospel as a way to ‘feel better’ about everything in your life. (Clearly that’s a whole separate discussion).

I’ve never heard Driscoll try to re-package Jesus or the Gospel to ‘create or reinforce his worldview…or serve the other world in which he lives’. I would challenge anyone to go through his sermons and point out where he’s not faithful to scriptures. I have heard him deliver the gospel for years with a style, tone and approach that is, well, just plain type-A masculine. He’s in your face. He preaches election, repentance and the depravity of man. He illustrates the whole nature of God, to include God’s wrath, by preaching exegetically through scripture. God gets pissed off sometimes, and so does Mark. Jesus does in fact come back with a tattoo in the book of Revelation. But that’s beside the point…I feel that it’s pretty easy to understand that Mark delivers lines like that to illustrate a point. It’s a joking line, meant to get a laugh (and it does every time I’ve heard him deliver it). As a Calvanist, he doesn’t even believe that he had a choice to worship Jesus—limp-wristed hippie, or not. It’s just meant to be funny. I really don’t get the offense that’s taken by the things that he says, at times. (Unless I were Mormon, I’d be pretty pissed to hear him say that my religion was deception of demons and that I was ‘riding my bicycle to hell’). I would also caution taking judgment of him, his ministry and theology by the handful of charged statements, out of context…less we and our lives also be judged by the same. I’m just sayin….

We must insist upon real, Biblical leadership from our men. And while his style and delivery is bound to always piss some people off, Mark Driscoll does nothing less than exhibit a commitment to scripture through exegetical teaching. I truly feel that week after week, he faithfully unpacks a literal interpretation of scripture in ways that are delivered in plain English, through examples that are practical and relevant (if they may hurt feelings) with good old, simple humor, sarcasm and irony.

26 June 2008

Trust but verify

When it comes to politicians, there’s nobody I like more, or respect more than Ronaldus Magmus—the Gipper—Ronald Reagan. I mean, I really respect the convictions, vision and heart of the man. Leadership is so excruciatingly difficult, there’s an entire cottage industry within the leadership segment of writing, dedicated to how lonely it is at the top. Yet, Reagan was unwavering. And he was all the while, totally and blissfully in love with Nancy through their whole marriage and his Governorship and Presidency.

The command with which Reagan faced-down the most dire and challenging monsters of a generation—The Cold War, the threat to civilization in the doctrine of assured mutual destruction, runaway inflation, the Carter economic catastrophe, anemic image around the Globe, (fueled by such a pathetically soft stance on the US hostage-takings in Iran)—is just amazing to me. One of Reagan’s more famous credos, regarding treaties with the Soviet Union in this case, was “Trust, but verify”. All of my adult life, I’ve felt this was so wise and is an awesome piece of advice—if, on the surface seems a little contradictory.

The problem with this “Trust but verify” approach is when we apply it beyond its place in business, politics, treaties and drug testing Barry Bonds. I am not supposed to “Trust but verify” with my wife. I am to trust my whole heart to her. In service, in humility and as I expect to be trusted. I am to trust my whole heart to my wife, in so doing; trusting God that He perfectly selected her heart for mine—and mine for hers. (And for the record, I do trust Jill and her heart. With my heart, life and soul. Entirely. But having been hurt and cheated on before, it’s just a temptation to try & take that trust back.)

The problem, even more severely becomes damaging when I project the “trust but verify” wisdom onto God and my relationship with Him. I find too often that I’m in a place of “trust but verify” faith. It sucks.

How many of you, when you honestly contemplate, do I as I am so guilty of doing; you trust God in word, action and a sort of superficial belief, but just not with all areas of your life? Or you trust God to provide you the strength to fulfill (fill in the blank; usually an area of strength for us), but not to transform all areas of your life and heart. You may trust God fully to provide the treasure of Heaven in eternity for you, but not to “give you life more abundantly” here on earth. Do you ever pray with hope and expectation—but your expectations and hopes in God are already processed through your own self-perception and self-imposed limitations? Do we ever want to trust God to forgive you for your lust, greed, porn-addiction, laziness, pride, or placing our needs and desires above everyone else in our life? But inside, we’re convinced of the lie that we just can’t be forgiven? Or we just ‘haven’t done enough to earn God’s forgiveness’? Do we ever really want to trust God to see us through the time after a death? Maybe our financial struggles or that He is caring for the wayward family member? We want to trust God in these things…but we just don’t fully & completely trust God to do so?

Right? Anyone else? Anyone else struggle with “knowing” just how good God’s grace is, but not quite “believing” it? I know I desperately struggle with the idea of God’s future grace. That the grace and blessing He’s shown me will continue, or that it’s not just marching toward a cataclysmic collapse, so that I might spend some more time camping out in one of life’s proverbial valleys. Or, that He will ever show up & see me through one of life’s tougher times. For me. For my family. It doesn’t matter who I’m praying for…I struggle with this crucial element of my faith.

Maybe because I just can’t immediately ‘verify’? I know I want to. I know it would all be easier if some burning-but-not-quite-catching-fire-bush were to speak to me about my future. If a brother could just get an angelic visit, telling me “everything’s cool and it’s gonna be cool. Relax”. Funny, how much sense it makes to me to “Trust but verify” with everything business, everything Russian (and those looney Iranians and North Korean’s too), and everything about the IRS…and that principle can be so symbolic of a weakness or blind spot in my walk with Jesus.


Ps, Matt I’ll have a double-double, animal style. With fries

25 June 2008

Blogging tardiness & basic truancy

Sorry...I have no excuse.

I'm totally late overdue and even absent as a blogger. I'm sorry.

In the interest of accepting full responsibility, I would like to blame Jill, Taylor, Brooke, Emma, Laura and Caroline. And perfect evening weather, parks, swimming pools, basketball courts and an EPIC US Open weekend!

Sorry, perhaps I can do extra credit?


Peace & love,


02 June 2008

Thoughts become words, words become actions...

Actions become habits. Habits become your character. And you character becomes your destiny.

- Frank Outlaw

That quote has resonated with me, at the foundation of my being, since the first time I heard it more than a decade ago. I really, truly believe it. It's foundational for the hope and optimism with which I try to live. (Emphasis on try.)

I really do count myself as an optimistic person. I'm certainly not pessimistic or cynical (I've got enough liberal friends that have the "everything is wrong with ______" world view covered). I do use sarcasm on a regular basis, at times with a dose of cynicism, but its more a part of the smack-talking athlete in me, than the lens through which I see the world.

In fact, the more I've thought about it, the more I realize that the lens of hope and optimism through which I generally see the world and my life, is one of the great distinguishers of "what makes Jared tick". I have always believed in my ability, the opportunity to do and achieve anything, and the limitless success into which I was walking. I have believed in the Broncos every summer, and every Sunday afternoon in the fall. I believed in Michael Jordan every time the ball was in his hands, and every time he was playing the passing lanes on defense. I have believed in our Republican Presidents and Congress. And even when I lost hope in them, I believe in the party of Conservatives to eventually take back the mantle of Reagan and lead this country back into greatness, through goodness. I believe in second chances, and once-idiots like Kobe Bryant making the most of them. I believe in the absolute perfect joy of children, and that we don't have to lose it. Ever. I believe in the human mind and the ability at any age to teach anything, learn anything, and re-think anything save that that has been divinely given by our gracious God. I believe in the word of God being timeless and timely. And I believe it to be the perfect source of instruction. I believe Truth always prevailing, love conquering, right becoming self-evident and evil meeting eternal demise. In God's maturation of me, I realize that I believe these things because of the foundation of faith I have placed in Him.

When I became a Christian (read: Born-again, Jesus-loving, relationship-with-Christ-having, whoa-Jesus-is-transforming-me-constantly-and-its-not-easy kinda Christian), I realized that this confidence was in fact just a Biblical acknowledgement of God's power, ability and desire to accomplish anything through me, that He so chooses to do so. What I mean, is that I started to realize that God had written hope into the fabric of my being, God is the source of the hope and optimism that I hold so dear. And with God, I hope in Him...not myself. In Jesus, I hope in His power & love, not my own. In Christ, I trust in Him to align my heart, blessings, talents, desires with timing and opportunity...and as such, I don't have to 'force it' any more. In Jesus, I trust and hope for the power of the Holy Spirit to be there when I've got a law & grace Dad moment in front of me. Or when I need the emotional reinforcement to fight all of the lies in my head that are constantly running counter to everything I believe and hope in. See, I am totally susceptible to depression, doubt, a lack of faith, belief and hope. The Spirit gets attacked in me all the time. As Mark Driscoll so brilliantly outlines in his sermon on Grace from Mars Hill Church's 9 question series It is the type of God's grace that I struggle with the most; the grace of God's future provision.

So, last week when I used the really cool service (ya'll know how I love really cool web services, stats, data and charts) tweetscan, built for twitter (the micro-blogging, social networking site I use most), I was so excited to see that in my "tweet cloud", or visual weighted, representation of the words I use most commonly on twitter, the results were overwhelmingly positive. In fact, the most dominant word in my vernacular? Love. LOVE! Love. Just take a look at the tweet cloud and you'll see why, by the Grace of God alone, I am so pumped-up!

Amazing. Awesome. Beautiful. Best. Bro. Freaking :) Friends. Friend. God. Great. Jillstill. Happy. Heart. Really. Thanks. Think. Time. And of course, my all-time favorite simple-superlative: WOW!

I just had to share. God truly gets and deserves all of the glory for this reflection, because it is only that which He has deeply planted in me. But I am truly thankful for this Spirit GOd has put in me. It's a daily battle, but with Him, one that I know is having an impact on my life--and certainly those around me--most importantly, the lives of Jill, Emma, Laura, Taylor, Caroline and Brooke.

As Jill and I always say when we're blown away by each other and the mere fact that we're so in love and so blessed to have each other; "Thank you God!"