What's a modern day gladiator look like?

Tonight some guys are coming over to watch Gladiator with me in the barn.  Got the projector and surround sound hooked up and cranked up already, and will soon be moving the grill out there as well. Can’t wait. This whole weekend, in fact, is a bit chock full of “can’t wait” moments. And, looking back, it’s been full of “can’t wait to share” moments, particularly things I’ve been able to share with my wife.

It got me thinking, what’s a gladiator look like today? I checke out WikiPedia’s first couple paragraphs, just for something to think about:

A gladiator (Latin: gladiator, “swordsman”, from gladius, “sword”) was an armed combatant who entertained audiences in the Roman Republic and Roman Empire in violent confrontations with other gladiators, wild animals, and condemned criminals. Some gladiators were volunteers who risked their legal and social standing and their lives by appearing in the arena. Most were despised as slaves, schooled under harsh conditions, socially marginalized, and segregated even in death.

Irrespective of their origin, gladiators offered audiences an example of Rome’s martial ethics and, in fighting or dying well, they could inspire admiration and popular acclaim. They were celebrated in high and low art, and their value as entertainers was commemorated in precious and commonplace objects throughout the Roman world.

An armed combatant who entertained… violent confrontations… volunteers… despised as slaves… marginalized… segregated… inspire admiration and popular acclaim… celebrated… commemorated.

That’s quite a variety of terms. From despised to celebrated, these warriors seemed to represent something to those who watched them, or worked with them, or beat them. I wonder what it is that draws some of us men into films like the one Russell Crowe starred in, or into risky adventures in general, or untimely heros.

I suppose that’s part of what we might be exploring tonight. Who knows. It makes me ask myself, though, “Do I enjoy watching gladiators, or do I want to BE one?” In my own little world of family, clients, computers, farms, church, and friends… is there a battle to fight that MATTERS? One that could kill me? One that I could be proven as a hero in?

I want that. And I think I have it, when I take a look around.

S.D.G.

Father Figures – Resurrection

I first posted this on an old blog back in April 2007. Wow… 4 years have gone by. Someone somehow commented on it today and I re-read it. Seemed somewhat appropriate for this weekend being Father’s day. It also reminds me of how far things have come as I lok to God as my True Father.

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Father Figures – April 2007 – From my old blog.

It’s been 17 months since my dad walked out of my life, face set in determination to do what he thought he had to do. Walk out on his wife. Abandon his friendships. Disregard the things he pretended to teach.

It’s been 5 months since I forgave him.

It’s been 10 months since I became a father myself.

The reason I write those things down, the reason… I’m not real sure. (I did have to add up the first two numbers, they weren’t that fresh in my head) I wanted to write something about father figures, and those three events have been some pretty eventful ones in the past few years of my physical life.

During the past year – maybe it’s been since forgiving my dad, I don’t know – I’ve seen myself really – for the first time in my life, I think – really beginning to grasp what a father is. As my own dad left, I started to look at my relationship with God, to see how His love for me might be similar or radically different than the father-son relationships we experience here on earth. What a difference I have found!

I used to occasionally do little “projects” with my dad. They rarely seemed to be a team thing – they were more of just a task, more of just something we both did at the same time, than something we did together. Who would have thought that I could have a more personal relationship with an invisible God than a physical father… I can’t figure out how to explain this, so I’m just going to write out two stories from the past year that I remember vividly.

Sometime during this past winter, as we had our barn built and were beginning to get things ready for electricity, I had just one thing left to do – get the electrical cable that had been trenched 300′ out to the barn pulled up through a 6′ pipe into the meter base so that the electric company could hook it up. Mind you, this cable is about 2″ around, and the pipe is about 3″ around. The cable isn’t very flexible, and I had about 6′ extra of it. It’s freezing cold, muddy, and I’m out there trying to dig in the dark, even get it started into the pipe, and I finally get it. I’m not even sure if this idea I have is going to work, but I decide to start shoving it through. I finally see the end of the cable coming out the end of the pipe, which means I only have about 6′ more to pull, but there’s a big corner it’s going to have to turn so it is not going to be easy. That was one of the most straining physical things I have ever done. Pulling, yanking, shivering, falling… and then it was done. What happened there was not natural. Not the pulling and yanking part – I’m guessing my muscles had the ability to do it… but what was not natural was that I stuck with it. I didn’t give up. I thought over and over again before and during the event that I could just give up and pay someone else to do it… but I didn’t quit. When I finally finished, I think I finally realized that it was God who had been with me that whole time – encouraging my heart, somehow – to get the task done. As I sat resting on a pile of dry dirt, the only thing I remember saying out loud was that “we did it, dad.” Dad. I called my God, my dad.

The other story happened just last Saturday. We were home unexpectedly from a trip we were supposed to take to visit family out of state. I needed to get my horses moved over to my house / pasturees from the neighbors, and I’d been nervously fretting about it – wondering if my fence would hold them, wondering if I had things set up right. And once again, when I finally stood up, did the task, and got it done, I felt that sense of accomplishing something that I couldn’t have done on my own. I’m standing there in the barn, watching my horses eat hay in their stalls, and out comes another verbal “we did it!”

Only this time, it was followed with a verbal “what did you say?” I think I must have turned red in the face as I realized my wife had just walked in the barn door to see how things were coming. Oh how I wish I could express to her the feeling I was experiencing… I think I managed to say something silly sounding like “oh I was just talking with God” or something like that, but oh how I wish I could have better expressed the joy I was feeling. The sense of belonging, of being loved, and of accomplishment – but not out of my own strength.

Anyways, I wanted to write that story down, and the electrical one was good to re-expereience as well. They may sound silly to anyone who might read this, but to me, they are some of the most personal experiences with God I have ever had.

I also wanted to write something about other “father” figures who’ve come into my life since my dad walked out. You know who you are, and I thank you. You’ve helped me when I’ve been weak, you’ve listened to me when I’ve been torn apart by who I am, you’ve helped me let God raise me back up. I thank you. With my whole heart. With my whole being. With everything I am now and will ever be. You are a part of that. A huge part of that.

It is totally new for me to know God as my not just my Heavenly Father, but as my honest-to-god DAD. He’s adopted me, loved me, raised me, helped me, and never failed me. Regardless of the times I’ve walked away from him, he has never left me or forsaken me. He has always forgiven me, disciplined me, discipled me, and been thee when no one else was, even if I didn’t acknowledge his presence.

This is the same Father that I want my son to know. I want him to see Him in me. I want him to see how much I love Him and in turn love Him as well. I’m sure I’ll give him chances to see that I fail, that I fall, and than I sin. But I want him to see that his Heavenly Father will never do that. And then, sometime years from now, I want to be able to turn the young man over to his true father, to release my hold on him and give him back to the father who can love him more than I could ever dream.

Well that’s it…. I’m out of words. I sit here amazed all over again of where God has brought me from, and to.

Some stories don't need to be told

This past week we experienced the loss of the first horse we ever owned, Alpine. He had hemangiosarcoma, a rare form of cancer that resulted in a rapidly growing tumor attaching itself to his spleen and getting in the way of his digestive tract. Thanksfully we’d already had a warning trip to the vet so the decision as to what to do was not hard, even though it was extremely difficult. We decided to haul him up to Purdue’s veterinary school and allow them to do an autoposy to help their doctors and students gain a better understanding of this rare form of cancer in horses.

That brings me to what I wanted to write about – the stories that don’t need to be told. I’m a huge fan of “piling up rocks” – of journalling – especially with the purpose of having something to come back to, either for my own benefit or for that of someone else. But from the moment we walked into the room where Alpine would be put to sleep to the time we walked out… that is a story I just don’t think will ever come out of my mouth. It’s a story that is extremely personal, one that I don’t know how anyone else could ever relive through my own experience, and one I will never forget.

Other stories, however, are worth being told. They are like gold nuggets in a life full of chunks of coal. They remind us that there is light in the darkness, that there can be good in the bad. As I look back over my own experiences with Alpine, there are many, many stories that I long to never forget. I doubt I’ll write about many of them in much depth, but I did want to start a list of some of them, as memory joggers for myself and perhaps as something that might trigger something in your own heart – not just of the “good old days,” but of days forgotten, days blocked out for fear of “going there again,” and days simply overshadowed by darkness. So here’s my list, which I may come back to over time…

  • Although it wasn’t on Alpine, I vividly remember my first ride on a horse as an adult, on a VERY tame horse named Traveller on the island of Saint John in August of 1999.
  • I can’t remember what triggered us to decided to buy horses of our own. I really can’t. I want to. Maybe some of that will come back to me over time.
  • You know, now that I think about it, I don’t know how we found the people we bought Alpine from.
  • I do remember the trip out to meet Alpine for the first time. He was FAT. Not sickly, but certainly overweight. He loved his grass.
  • Alpine was one of those things that became truly Erin’s. He was a registered quarter horse, and he was HER’S. I remember how special that was to her, to have that piece of paper with his real name on it (what was it?) next to hers.
  • We first boarded Alpine at a 100 acre boarding stable that was pretty much just for us. No one else was there when we first “moved in.” The horses had tons of pasture, lots of woods, and lots of hills.
  • We got some basic training from Alpine’s previous owner. He was such a well trained horse. You could steer him with your toes. I still remember running figure eight’s inside the huge arena at our boarding stable, as well as working on walking straight lines up and down the edge of the barn.
  • Alpine picked up an injury at some point. Hock? Stifle? I can’t remember which. It laid him up for a month or so. Yeah, he was a little high maintenance, but this was also “Pre-Kids.” So we had time and attention to give. He became family to us.
  • Alpine had a girlfriend while at the boarding stable. Chocolate? Was that her name? A primped up girl by an woman obsessed with her horse’s cleanliness.
  • I remember going up and down some steep hills with Alpine. What fun that was. I also remember chasing deer, although that may have been on Jack.
  • I remember the first time I fell off of Alpine. I had taken over riding after Erin but didn’t adjust the stirrups to my height so was just trotting straight lines with my feed out… until he made a sharp turn… and I didn’t. I remember flipping off his side, landing on my butt, looking up, and there he was, standing over me, looking down, almost asking, “What are you doing down there, silly? Get back up and let’s go!”
  • We moved Alpine over to our own neighborhood shortly after having Colton. We didn’t have a barn (I don’t remember if we had specific plans to build one yet either) so he stayed at our neighbors David and Nancy’s home.
  • I remember mowing their pasture with the Dixie Chopper, having the battery fall out of the frame, and then chopping it up and spitting it out the side before the blades quiet. Messy.
  • I remember the first ride with a teenager – Dillon Hensley – for something with his Boy Scouts. We rode around the farm, and then ran across their pastures. We played with the cows. That was fun.
  • I remember building our barn. It went up so fast.
  • Finishing the stalls was one of my first “son of God” moments. I was out there all alone, finishing them up, and felt his presence with me. I sat down, said something like, “We did it, Dad!” The funny part about this one was that Erin has unknowingly to me had just walked in, and heard me… but didn’t know any context. She says something like, “What?” It was funny. You had to be there.
  • I also remember the day in the rain and the mud with the electric line. Wow, that was moving for me.
  • I don’t really remember moving our horses in. I’m sure it was a big moment. I do remember building a lot of fence leading up to that day, though. Including using a shop vac to suck the water out of the ones near the pond so we could pour concrete in.
  • I remember our early days in the barn and the parties we threw. Birthday parties. Sunday School parties. Other get togethers. I was introduced to some people who are now very close friends at those parties.
  • I can’t begin to count the people I’ve had the chance to give their first horse ride to. Little kids. Teenagers. Grown adults. I also can’t imagine how many people we’ve “reunited” with horses after a lifetime of being afraid of them. Alpine especially was extremely gentle with newbies. He seemed to have a sense as to if you were nervous and scared, and would be kind and gentle with you. However, if you were really wanting to work him or run him or control him on your first ride, he’d give you quite the obnoxious treatment, complete with barbed wire fence rubs, tree crashes, and straight out disobedience. There was this “moment,” at least for me and a few others, where you could finally find him give in, to let go and let you lead him.
  • I don’t remember when we first brought Tabi and Stevi out to ride our horses on a regular basis. I remember the offer to their parents, and the commitment that was going to go with that. I remember wondering if they’s stick with it through the winter, which they did.
  • I remember Tabi attempting to teach me how to comb long hair. I don’t think I listened. I think Erin has tried to teach this to me as well. Someday… especially now that I have a beautiful daughter of my own.
  • I remember Erin getting clotheslined by Alpine while riding at J.W. Jones.
  • Actually I remember a lot of rides at J.W. Jone’s. Wandering around for hours, with Erin or by myself, just enjoying God’s beauty on the back of one of his magestic creations.
  • I remember camping at J.W. Jones. In November. When it was cold. And running out of firewood at 1AM. And moving to the horse trailer to stay somewhat warm. And waking up in the morning to find that there was a nicely stacked pile of firewood waiting for me right next to my campsite that I never saw.
  • I remember how Alpine was always a little overweight. He put on weight so easily and loved his grass.
  • I remember the the horses got out. Really out. Like out enough for receive a phone call that they were last seen running down the road away from our home. Praying for God to bring them home, and seeing how that prayer got answered in a very real, yet somewhat humorous, manner.
  • I remember working Alpine (and Jack at times) to overcome blocks in his mind. Of crossing creeks. Ditches. Bridges. Little things that were more stubbornness issues than fear, I think.

I asked Erin to add a bit to this list, and she mentioned some I missed…

  • Alpine always liked looking for new trail heads. He loved new paths.
  • Alpine could open gates. One summer he opened Jack’s stall, let Jack go in, and then locked him in so he could have the pasture all to himself. He could also let himself out to pasture. (Chet: He also allowed me to open gates from horseback)

Erin’s going to come up with some more, since I kind of popped this on her… so check back later if you want to see more.

As I started this, I was thinking about the stories that don’t need to be told. Stories that don’t bear much repeating. But there are so many stories that DO. I love that I’ve written about some of these previously, and it’s so fun (while a bit sad) to look back in remembrance of a life well lived.

Love ya buddy!

 

A quick pile of rocks

Pile of Rocks

Weeks like this past one don’t come around too often. It was a day full of big and little “successes” as well as some hard hits. It’s so easy to focus on the hits and lose sight of their realistic small size in the scheme of things, their brevity, and their source. I’m choosing now to sit down and remind myself of the blessings that showed up yesterday.

  • I took a big step of accomplishment and commitment in one of my businesses’ top priorities: I chose a CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) to record, track, and enhance the relationships I have with my customers. Before this past week, I was held back both by fears and by ignorance of what I needed. I set out to remove the ignorance, and once that was accomplished, met some awesome people who also helped me knock out the fear factor.
  • I met some really cool guys named Chris and Nick. One of them is the maker of the CRM I built, and the other is a marketing guy. Both were people I wanted to meet for what they could offer to my business, but I walked away from both impressed with their deep roots in spirituality, their care for me as a person, and their challenges to me to simply do what I knew I needed to do.
  • I made the decision to pursue a business opportunity that will land me 15-20 clients all at once on July 1. This might seem like a no brainer, but it was one of those deals where I was doing too much questioning of myself, the details of the deal, and whether or not it was the right thing to do. Once again, I took the week to boil away the uncertainties, and once that was done, the fears seemed to melt away.
  • I was able to spend an hour talking with teenagers at my church about confirmations – about God showing up in our lives in ways that remind us He is there, He is involved, and He wants to be part of our everyday decisions.
  • I gave my son a yellow submarine for his birthday. If you had been a fly on the wall of my home since … oh … a year ago (?) you’d know how often he asked us (and asked Santa, and asked Jesus to tell Santa) for this.
  • I’ve seen my wife‘s maturity and commitment to our Father like never before. This mess with a sick horse has been more emotionally harder on her than me, and I’ve seen her step up to the plate in faith, trust, acceptance, battle against warfare, and hope. She is an inspiration to me.
  • A good friend of mine who knows my love for piling up rocks in my blog started her own blog, mypileofrocks.wordpress.com.
  • I had a nice conversation with my neighbor boy, the one with a reputation around the neighborhood for being a loud obnoxious drummer for a local band. I love the kid. (not his drumming, but the kid). I’ve taken steps in the past to confront issues head on with him and it’s resulted in a place where I can now have GOOD face to face conversations as well.
  • We had around 30 people over to our house last Sunday on a spur-of-the-moment Memorial Day get together. I love my friends. A few of us hung out until midnight just sitting on the deck, looking at stars, and talking.
  • I received good sized payments from 4 clients in one day on Friday. It’s been a little dry the last few weeks, so getting this all at once was a welcome reminder of the fact that “we’re doing ok.” In fact, we’re doing rather well as we transition from one thing into something much different.
  • I received a lot of grace. There were a few rough moments this week… as in extremely hard… several of which are still grinding on my life. But there is grace, from the Lord, from my wife, from my friends, and even… from myself.
  • I got in 5 miles of running. And lost 5 pounds in the past 2 weeks.

There’s no way that’s “it.” But it is a list. It’s something I or someone else who knows me can come back to (like in Joshua 4) and say, “what’s this pile of rocks here for?” Why did I list out all these good things yet ignore the bad? I do so, not because I am naive and hope the bad things just disappear, but because it’s far to easy to lose sight of the blessings in light of the lies, the hurts, and the pain. TRUTH trumps a lie, but lies often overpower truth unless exposed to the light.