Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Soldier's View on the way to Iraq

May 6, 2007 (published in the May 23, 2007 edition of "the bullseye")

We had the opportunity to experience a “view” recently by email, through the eyes of 1st Lt. Brad Shultz who is currently on his way to Iraq. He expressed himself so eloquently that I really wanted to share it with others – so I asked his permission to share it. Our family has known Brad since he was a boy, and we have always been impressed with him. It’s a comfort to know that such quality young men and women are committed to our country, serving faithfully in the military, even anxiously awaiting the chance to go and serve in Iraq.

I haven't been too homesick yet; it is hard to be homesick when you are really excited to be going somewhere new. I got to stop in Guam for a couple of days and I will be in Singapore this week. I am really excited to get to go to Iraq later in the deployment. I have been trying to get out there since I moved out to California [Camp Pendleton] almost two years ago.

I did start missing the sun since I rarely make it up to the flight deck, but the past week I have spent several evenings out watching the sunsets in the Philippine Sea and the South China Sea. It was awesome to…watch in wonder as we sailed past beautiful tropical islands in the Philippines that were still, for the most part, untouched by human hands…beautiful white sand beaches with trees and fauna of every imaginable type. We even passed one island that had a perfectly shaped volcano on it. I can't imagine the depth of God's beauty when everything I see out here is only a shadow of his glory. I look out at the scenes that surround me and I am amazed at the glory of God…An attempt to explain them would ruin the shear beauty and amazement to be had by simply gazing and being awed. So it is that as I have seen many beautiful new things on this trip so far, I have really been meditating in my heart on the beauty of the Creator. It seems as though sometimes we get so lost in the woods, unable to see the forest because we have been so preoccupied with dodging and stepping over the trees that block out path that we lose track of the purpose behind creation. Indeed sometimes we are so busy and worried about the things of this world that do not matter that we take our eyes off the Creator and place them on things that are far less deserving of our attention. If we do look at the beauty that surrounds us every day we have a tendency to enjoy the glimpse of majesty before us without thinking about the greater majesty that is unseen behind it. We live in a world that is prone to over analyze the planet we live on and try to explain it; some even try to explain it as being apart from God.

As George MacDonald put it in his Unspoken Sermons: "In what belongs to the deeper meanings of nature and her mediation between us and God, the appearances of nature are the truths of nature, far deeper than any scientific discoveries in and concerning them. The show of things is that for which God cares most, for their show is the face of far deeper things than they...It is through their show, not through their analysis, that we enter into their deepest truths…To know a primrose is a higher thing than to know all the botany of it -- just as to know Christ is infinitely higher thing than to know all theology, all that is said about His person, or babbled about His work…Nature as well exists primarily for her face, her look, her appeals to the heart and the imagination, her simple service to human need, and not for the secrets to be discovered in her and turned to man's further use."

In closing, no matter what your opinion is about the war in Iraq, let’s not forget the upstanding individuals who are serving there. In a way, they are carrying out a portion of Brad’s George MacDonald quote, in performing “simple service to human need”, and we who are comfortably and affluently enjoying the benefits of freedom, should remember to pray for their success and their safe return.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Highs and Lows of Family Vehicles

By L.A. Kohl
April 1, 2007
(published in the May 16, 2007 edition of the "Bullseye")
Large family = large, gas-guzzling vehicle, correct? For the most part, that’s true. We’ve progressed from an old Jeep Wagoneer, to conversion vans, to a Suburban, and finally to the ultimate…a fifteen passenger van.

However, about four years ago, when our eldest became old enough to learn how to drive, we quickly found that Suburbans and fifteen passengers were not the ideal driver’s education vehicles. Thankfully Nate had a business client who needed some work done, and also happened to have a used car lot, so with a little swapping, bartering and not much money, we came up with what I consider to be an ideal little vehicle. Good gas mileage, AWD to get up our icy driveway in the wintertime, and most importantly from a mom’s perspective – great ratings in the crash tests. I won’t tell you what it is, as I wouldn’t want to be found promoting one car manufacturer over another – I’ll just suffice it to say that our daughter calls it a “SUV wannabe."

Imagine my delight when at Christmas time, our now nineteen year old daughter brought the SUV wannabe home from college and announced that it was time for her to make her own car purchase. She didn’t want to keep driving the “driver’s ed” vehicle…she wanted a car that was all her own. More importantly, she wanted one with a manual transmission, so she would be forced to learn how to drive a stick shift. (This conveniently also guarantees that her younger sister will never ask to borrow her car, as she has no desire to learn to drive a five speed!)

I was secretly cheering inside…now I could drive that little SUV wannabe to town anytime I needed. I could actually have fun driving on Route E and Highway 124, not getting all tense trying to navigate our big bus of a van around all those curves. And instead of having to climb/hop UP into a vehicle, I could actually sit down into the vehicle. By “down into”, I mean way down into…so far down that I have to careen my neck slightly to see over the top of the steering wheel. But hey, not a problem; it’s worth it to actually be able to reach those drive-thru windows.

However, when driving this little low rider, I sometimes pull up to a parking curb and hear an ominous “scrrrrkkch”…the sound of the front spoiler/bumber bottoming out on the curb. It sits so far down, that even though it is a very fine SUV wannabe…I did manage to get it stuck in a field once because the mud was more than six inches deep. Basically, it doesn’t matter how badly a vehicle wants to be an SUV, if you bury the axles, it probably won’t work like an SUV anymore. You’re getting the picture by now; this car sits low to the ground.

I was reminded of its lowly state once again this past week, as I was happily driving along curvy Highway 124 on my way to Columbia. I noticed a dark blob up ahead, right smack in the middle of my lane. It looked like some type of road-kill, lifeless and unmoving…probably a coon or opossum. I assessed the situation and knew I was going to have to straddle it, as there was a car coming from the opposite direction, preventing me from swerving around it.

It wasn’t until I was almost upon it, and then a moment later heard that ominous “scrrrkkch” sound as I went over the top of it, that I realized it wasn’t just your average, shapeless and mushy road-kill.
I couldn’t help laughing out loud as the realization sunk in. I had just bottomed out my little SUV wannabe on a snapping turtle. That was an all time low for us!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Dads and Daughters

By L.A. Kohl
March 14, 2007
(published in the Apr.25, 2007 edition of "The Bullseye")
There have been countless articles and books written on the subject of the importance of the father/daughter relationship. With six daughters of my own, I have a vested interest in the topic. Thus, I eagerly perused another magazine article on the subject a couple of weeks ago, but found some of their advice a little disheartening.

The article was good in that it asserted the importance of a dad spending time with his daughter, and staying in touch with her life. But it also acknowledged there may come a time in a young lady’s life – usually sometime from 11 to 13 years of age – when a daughter may not want to have much to do with her father.

I think we all understand that. As good as the relationship is between my husband and our teenagers (we currently have four daughters who are teens) I still see the “rolled eyes” look and shaking of head that my husband gets from a teenage daughter on occasion. What I didn’t like was the article’s suggestion that there is not a lot you can do about it. It went on to imply that sometimes a dad just has to wait out the “cold shoulder” years, and hope the relationship gets better once the daughter reaches her twenties.

If you are a dad who has taken that laid back approach, let me encourage you to get aggressive and creative in reviving a healthy relationship with your teen girl. Teenagers make some huge choices during those years – decisions that can affect them for the rest of their life – and to think that a dad ought to just sit back and watch his daughter make those choices without his involvement is a scary and dangerous approach.

I’m thinking of something along the lines of a good, old fashioned bribe! If you’re serious about this, you’ll be willing to spend some resources and make some efforts toward results. So, why not offer your daughter a $100 shopping spree, or whatever price you can fit into your budget? Make a day of it…just the two of you. Drive to a mall a couple hours away, wander around different types of stores, take her out for a nice lunch, etc. Hopefully, after an awesome day like that with her dad, your daughter will warm up to you a bit, and be willing to participate in some other one on one activities in the future.

My husband hasn’t done the shopping thing too often – but he has an amazing relationship with all of his girls, because he manages to do lots of varying things with them. He’s done a little bit of everything with them: hunting and fishing together, teaching their 4-H classes, bike-riding, camping, working together on all sorts of jobs and projects, four-wheeling, helping them develop their interests, going to movies together, helping them through algebra, geometry and calculus, and even going on mission trips together. The activities you do are not what matters – it’s the time together that counts. Just being available to your daughter, seeking ways to spend time with her and letting her know you’re interested in her life. Being willing to apologize when you goof up, to let her talk and ask you some hard questions, knowing that she can trust you to give her some straight answers…those are the types of things that can make or break a father/daughter relationship.

One last little thought…it is not your job to just be the “cool” dad, or the tough dad, or the dad with the deep pockets and the car keys. Instead, your job is to love her, guide her, love her some more, and be there for her no matter what. Prove to her that she is precious and valuable, and hopefully she won’t be able to turn her back on a dad who treasures her so highly.