Sunday, July 11, 2010

From the high school archives

Recently I was cleaning up old files on my computer, and in doing so found a story I had written in high school. I'm not even sure how this file still exists, but somehow it made its way from a floppy disc and through several other computers to my current laptop. Anyway, this was the result of an assignment for my AP English class. It's certainly written by a high schooler, but amusing nonetheless...it's also the only fiction piece I've ever written.

I got a kick out of reading it...maybe you will too.

April 2002

I've always hated funerals. Seems like long ago I was told that when a man dies, his life was supposed to be celebrated, not mourned. I especially hate this funeral; even though it is for my hero. As the preacher gives the eulogy, I look around. Family and friends whom I see only on an occasion such as this are sobbing uncontrollably. I can't bring myself to grieve. Perhaps that is because I'm 84 years old, and I know I may not be far behind Lawrence. Perhaps it is because I know that he wouldn't want me to. He'd want me to be strong, but more importantly, he'd want me to celebrate what he did in his life, not long for his return. Lawrence James Callahan was the oldest of 6 boys. That leaves me, Merle Robert Callahan, the oldest left.

We were born into a poor, but loving family in Craig County Virginia. Daddy was a preacher at the Craig Church of Christ, and Mama took care of her 6 children, so money wasn't plentiful, but we got by. We never got big birthday presents, but when each of us turned 18, Daddy bought us a knife and had our initials engraved in the back. Getting that knife was almost like a rite of passage to adulthood for the Callahan boys. Lawrence was always ambitious, so he enrolled in the military at in 1858 at age 18. I had always looked up to my brother. My father was my role model, but Lawrence was who I wanted to be like. Mama and Daddy always taught us to look out for one another, and we did. At the schoolhouse, or anywhere we were, we looked after our 4 younger brothers, but for each other also. If there was ever a scrap between one of the Callahan boys and another kid, look out, because there's bound to be 5 other Callahans coming. Lawrence and I always said we'd put our lives on the line for one another, though neither of us ever thought that would ever actually happen, we did mean it. Lawrence went off to the Army, and I was ready to do the same on my 18th birthday. But, between the time Lawrence went off, and I was ready to join, the country got in a big uproar. The South seceded from the Union, and the Civil War began. Daddy talked about how it was important to defend our home, and how we were fighting for state's rights. I wasn't exactly sure of the political side of it, but I knew that I had to defend my home. Lawrence had been gone for some time now, and Daddy hadn't been well, so I had been looking after the family. I couldn't turn my back on Daddy, Mama, and my 4 younger brothers. General Lee himself, in his resignation from the Union Army said that he found it impossible to turn his back on his home and family, even though he agreed with some of the politics of the North. I had to defend my home, but what about Lawrence? He was fighting against me. How could he stay there? Years later he told me that he couldn't fight for a cause he didn't believe in. He was against slavery, and I reckon so was I; we sure didn't have any, and nobody I knew did either. Maybe we were just too poor, but all I knew was my homeland was being attacked, and I had to defend it.

The war was gruesome, but our spirits were high. I fought in the 41st Virginia under Col. John R. Chambliss who led our militia with expertise and a firm fist. We loved our Generals. Jefferson Davis may have been president, but General Lee was the most revered man in the Confederacy. The war took me all across the south. We walked a lot and fought a little, but the when we did fight, it was terrible. Battles drove me to my end, physically, and mentally. We all thought the war would be over soon though. The North seemed to be getting weaker, and we thought we were getting stronger, so to us, victory seemed to be coming. I sent letter after letter back home, letting the family know how the war was going, and that I was ok. All this time though, I wondered about Lawrence. I assumed he was ok; as far as the war goes, no news is good news. He was going through the same thing I was. So many times in battle, I wished that I could have my brother jump in and throw a few licks for me. I also wanted to do the same for him. Our youth was over, and I longed for those days.

It was July 1, 1863 and the war took me to Vicksburg, Mississippi. The North had been giving us quite a drubbing, and we were summoned. Right away we were in battle. The North was still putting it to us, but I thought sure we would triumph. Battle started at sunup on the second of July, and Col. Chaimbliss moved us in. The opposition was ready. Before I knew it, shots were all around me. I had never been in this sort of peril before. All around men were down, screaming for their lives, pleading for help. To my left I saw my friend James Hill. He had been shot in the back and was down. I had to answer his cries for help, he was like a brother to me, I always had to look after my brothers. I quickly moved to where I could aid him, but in doing that, I put myself in more danger. A sharp pain came in my stomach, and I fell to the ground. I had been shot! I lay face up at the bright Mississippi sky, knowing that I would die. Fear did not take hold of me, nor was my pain taking my attention. All I could do was lie there and think of home; of my parents, and of my brothers. I kept drifting in and out of consciousness, and wondering which breath would be my last. Footsteps were upon me, and I barely heard, "Merle?! Merle?!" I had no idea who it was, and didn't find out because I again lost consciousness.

I woke up. I woke up! If it were possible for a man to think he is dead, I sure thought I was dead. For the next several minutes I sat there and took in my sensory feelings like a sponge takes in water. Life! Never had a breath tasted so sweet, and never in my 84 years did it again. A medic came to me and proceeded to tell me of my own miraculous survival. He told me that a Union soldier hand run up to our camp while carrying me (which was only about 400 yards from where I got shot) and sat me down. The medic said that they had no idea who the soldier was, but after he put me down some of the other Confederates shot at him and he ran off. "One other thing," he said, we found this on you. He handed me an old battered knife. Upon examining it, I thought it was the knife my Daddy had given me years ago, but I remembered that I didn't take it to war with me. I turned to the back and read the encryption: "LJC" Lawrence James Callahan! My brother had risked his own life to try to save mine. Lawrence crossed Confederate lines , to save an "enemy." He couldn't know if I was going to make it, but he tried his best to help me, and he saved my life. That was my last battle in the Civil War. I was honorably discharged after being wounded in battle. As for my brother, he fought till the end of the war, but not after being promoted several times. When the war ended in 1865 he was a colonel. I owed my life to Lawrence. What is so hard today is I still feel that I owe him. Time and time again as we've grown old, he has said that I never had to make up for it, and that he knew that I would have done the same for him. I would have too, but I never had the chance. From the day I was released from the hospital to the day Lawrence died, I tried to find a way to repay him. Though I could always get him gifts and material items, I couldn't do anything near the magnitude of what he did for me. I always wanted a chance to risk my life for him. As his casket is lowered, and the guns are fired, I cannot grieve. I hold in my hand a knife that has the encryption "LJC" on the back, and I cannot think of anything, but of his heroic effort. To mourn would be to dishonor him because when he saw me at near death, he acted, and saved my life. I then must act. Though I'm 84, my tongue still works, and I can tell of the utmost brotherly love.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Time To Listen

I have days when I feel like valuable thoughts and reflections drop from my mind like torrential rain. Then I have days when I feel like valuable thoughts and reflections are meant for someone else entirely...that profoundity and substance are my antonyms and I'd do well to just get through the day without thinking. For several months I've been mired in a season marked by the latter.

My default settings place a lot value on being able to share my thoughts. I'm not entirely sure why this is, but it's sure true. Whenever I have nothing to share, when I have no observations (whether humorous or insightful) or musings, I feel like somehow I'm falling behind in life. Part of it could be that I've spent so much time over the years in preaching roles. From the time I was 18 until I was 25 I was preaching on a regular basis, so I've had plenty of moments where, if I didn't have anything to share, then I actually was failing at my job (as I saw it at least).

Now, I feel a bit different. I've not had much to share, and I think it's because God has been telling me to just listen instead of comment. The past two months I've witnessed a great deal of tragedy. In February, I spent a few days in Haiti, which still had fresh wounds from the January earthquake. Nearly a quarter million people died, and a million displaced as a result of 40 horrific seconds. On March 12, John Hamilton, a friend and NMSI affiliate died from a blood clot after a few weeks of battling heart issues. John was only in his early fifties and left behind his wife and 4 year old daughter. Less than a week later, Kylee Boden, another good friend and NMSI affiliate passed away due to complications during childbirth (their baby boy is healthy). Kylee leaves behind her husband, Matt and their 4 children.

Instead of sharing words to encourage others or make sense of it all, I've felt God saying to just listen. Listen to how his people are reacting to their heartbreak...see the Haitian churches rise up, witness believers gather around the Hamiltons to love and care for them...listen to Matt Boden and his amazing resolve and trust.

So my heart aches for Haiti...it hurts deeply for Matt and Alyona who lost their spouses, and it cries for Sasha, Seth, Lydia, Sarai, and baby Caleb who have all lost a loving, Godly parent...in a world with a dearth of good parents. For now, though, I'll just listen and learn...no drawing conclusions or tying up loose ends.

Friday, January 22, 2010

2009 In Review: Triumph, Tragedy, and Everything in Between

My blogging has been excessively delinquent over the past few months...please accept my apologies.

Life has recently moved a a frenetic pace...so much so that my boss made me take a day to
simply spend time in the woods to think, pray, read, write, and process. In that day I realized that I haven't stopped moving since September. And I enjoy that...the working, recruiting, traveling, speaking, etc. The problem is, though, I've done a lot of living, but I've not reflected on life...I haven't stopped and listened to God. One thing I learned in my day of solitude, is that I wanted to write a review of 2009 similar to my review of 2008 (I've also considered review of the 2000s...could be a project for later).

Without further adieu...in 2009 I: (by the way, there are links throughout)


*Rang in the new year in Knoxville with the Bryants and the old JBC crew.
*Created, with Mikey Krepps the band "Don't Blink"

*Spent a weekend in New York city with 4 of my closest friends. Flight, hotel, and rental car: $120/person...the weekend was legendary

*Attempted to go to Super Bowl XLIII (to no avail), but instead watched my beloved Steelers win their record 6th Super Bowl at a wing joint in Tampa with Ryan.
*Spent a week in Haiti building church benches with a group of men in their 60s and 70s.

*Had a hit (sort of) video on youtube.
*Took a recruiting road trip from Fort Myers to Charlotte with Ty and Amy...and in the middle of the night on the side of I-75 ended my 13 year old streak of not vomiting. (I'm sure you love reading this one)
*Flew to Knoxville to spend a random weekend with Chris and Emily just because I missed em.


*Had mom and dad come visit for Easter...


*Had the privilege of spending two weeks teaching a course on the book of Acts at Ggaba Bible Institute in Kampala, Uganda

*Left much of my heart in Tennessee as I flew to Kenya to spend 2 months with 3 terrific interns

*Taught 6th grade math for 3 weeks in the Kenyan bush

*Received a goat on behalf of the community of Morloo, Kenya

*Learned how to "minus a neck" on a chicken
*Proved to several Kenyans, during a 30km 'nature hike' that white people can, in fact, walk more than 3 kilometers without passing out.
*Fell in love with Fanta Citrus

*Climbed a mountain and turned around
*Witnessed a group of children from a remote village (our school in Morloo) in a major singing/dancing competition.
*Didn't get stuck in this window

*Looked at the stars and sang "Yellow" about 30 times with my interns
*Stood in a safari van while staring at a herd of cape buffalo, and, over the phone, had the last conversation I'd ever have with my best friend
*Led 2 funeral services for Chris...I cannot describe the experience...
*Came back to Florida...and, again, left my heart in Tennessee
*Started on plans for 2010
*Was blessed to get a new (to me) car...for free! (courtesy of my brother) It's a Saab of course...my 4th
*Had a blast at Raynor (fellow team-K 2006 member) and Josh's wedding.
*Danced at a Spanish hip-hop concert
*Spent the entire month of October on the road recruiting with Adam, Kristy, and Bri

*Made my yearly pilgrimmage to Neyland Stadium
*Went to my 2nd National Missionary Convention
*Went to a family reunion in Atlanta
*Played at several open-mic nights.

*Enjoyed The Office a little too much
*Spent Christmas with my family...and it was great
*Ended the year at the Urbana conference with 17,000+ college students
*Said goodbye (and good riddance) to 2009 at a bowling alley in St. Louis with Ryan, Derek, and Misty.

In 20 years I'll remember plenty from 2009, but to me, it will always be remembered as the year that the we lost Chris Morgan. Emily lost her husband, Gracie lost her dad, I lost a brother/friend (as did many, many others), and Kenneth/Sue, Morgan/Kathy, and Bob/Carol all lost a son. Maybe one of these days it'll all make sense, but I'm not expecting that to come in 2010...and that's ok...knowing why isn't my job. Instead, I'll be ok with that uncertainty because of my certainty that Chris is doing just fine...way better than any of us. And regardless of what 2010 brings, in the end, I'll be just fine too.

Even so....maybe it's just me...but 2010 sure seems considerably less funny and lacking a staggering amount of loyalty compared to any of the other years I've known.

Goodbye, 2009.

Chris, my brother...I'll see you later.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Road Trip- by the numbers

For the past month I've basically lived in a 2000 Nissan minivan.


One of the biggest part of my job at NMSI is recruiting...I mean, it's pretty hard to plan internship projects when you don't have any interns. So to promote our internship programs and to strengthen NMSI's relationships with colleges and universities, four of us embarked on a month long road trip. Here's how it went down:

6347: Number of miles rolled up on the previously mentioned Nissan van

129: Number of contact cards filled out by students or interested parties. (I have a lot of emails to write)

100+: Number of hours we spent driving from one location to the next. (I'm not really sure how much over the + we are, but it's a lot...we based our guess off destination to destination...not including in town driving)

23: Number of pizzas purchased for college students

21: Number of colleges/universities visited

17: Number of states visited

11: Number of sports venues we saw/passed.

9: Number of churches visited

8: Number of homes we stayed in

5: Number of state capitals visited

5: Number of dorms we stayed in

2: Number of times we were pulled over. Once for a "courtesy warning" for failing to signal, and once for speeding on a straight back road in Ohio with a 35mph limit. (I'm still a little bitter about that one)

2: Number of conferences attended

1: Number of computers fried due to a power surge

This trip was a great adventure, though I'm glad to finally be in one place for a while...I think...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

26 thoughts for 26 years

I woke up today as a 26 year old...first time I've ever done that! Last night, Scott, my brother in law asked me what I knew now that I didn't know on my 25th birthday. Thoughts ranging from "you're allowed to pay for a toll with pennies in New Jersey" to "teaching in Uganda completely changed my view of education," flew through my head. The answer I gave him was "Each year I become more aware of how much I don't know...with greater knowledge comes greater knowledge of your own relative ignorance."

I figure that since I'm now officially closer to 30 than I am 20 (really, that seems weird to say) I should have some nuggets of wisdom to share with the world. So here goes...26 thoughts for 26 years!

(by the way, some are serious, some...not so much)

1. The more places I go, the more I see the merits of home.

2a. If you ever call a restaurant to make reservations and upon taking your reservations, the person on the other end chuckles and says "um...sure...yea, we can do that," beware of said restaurant.
2b. If the restaurant is called "Squatters" you should have probably known better in the first place.

3. The life of a Pelican > all other birds. Think about it...you live at the beach, all the seafood you can eat, you float nicely, you're chill, and you can sit around and make jokes about idiot seagulls with your other pelican buddies.

4. We should all aspire to be as loyal as our dogs.

5. Standing on the steps of the courthouse in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and saying "Get over it guys, the Bear died 25 years ago," is taking your life into your own hands.

6. Never take your family or friends for granted. Appreciate every moment you're together.

7. If you can't dance...do it anyway...nobody cares.


9. "Choose what you want most over what you want now."

10. Two South Korean boys, 1 from Senegal, one from Jersey, and one from Seymour, Tennessee can make a fine offensive line.

11. Going to Wal-Mart or Waffle House at 3:30AM is completely acceptable and needs no explanation

12. Some people are fat...and that's ok.

13. When stuck in a Kenyan bathroom and you have to decide between a dollar and a bank statement, go with the bank statement...especially if your dollar consists of 3 quarters, 2 dimes, and a nickel (buh-dum-cha!)

14. Never attempt to jump into a garbage truck...you'll just get a concussion and lose a lot of blood.

15. The ocean heals and the stars demand your awe.

16. Church buildings are no more than stone, steel, and wood just like any other building. The ocean and stars are God expressing himself to us...man made things are our efforts to capture him. Nothing wrong with that, it's just not nature...God in the raw.

17. If you stumble across Roman ruins in the middle of the night, climbing the fence to enter is not necessary. The gate is probably open anyway.

18. Fat guys can run half marathons.

19. Japanese cars are the most reliable, American cars have the best air conditioners, and European cars are for true car lovers.

20. A half a box of croutons can occasionally pass as lunch (though this may have been the low point of my bachelorhood).

21. If there's no snow on Christmas...and there are kids around that want to go sledding...finding a hill, a kiddie pool, and flinging the kids down the hill in the kiddie pool is an adequate substitution.

22. Take care of the outcasts, the lonely, the ones that are constantly the butt of jokes...listen, care, and respect.

23. Safari ants+your pants=exactly what you'd expect.

24. There is no greater entertainment value than "Bring Your Own Weapon Night" at $5 semi-pro wrestling. A broken neon sign. A flying porcelin sink. Few teeth. Many bald eagle tattoos. I started a "loser cuts the mullet" chant. High comedy, great entertainment.

25. Seeking God and trying to understand him is the wisest thing a man can do.

26. Thinking you've figured him out is the most foolish.

Thanks for reading...here's to having better things to share at 27

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Blogless

If you keep up with my blog, you've probably noticed that I haven't updated in over a month. It's not like I went without a bloggable thought in the month of September, I just haven't written any of those.

I've had a few newsworthy items, some semi-deep thoughts, and a couple of humorous musings, but haven't brought myself to actually writing them.

Here's why...

I've still been wrapping my mind around the loss of Chris and haven't wanted to share it all. Now, I could have been writing about entirely different subjects, but that's not really me.

Though I often write about indulgent nonsense, I still write about what's on the forefront of my heart/mind...be it legitimate concerns, deep feelings or merely indulgent nonsense.

Losing my friend has been on the forefront of my heart/mind for the past few months, and I haven't wanted to publish those thoughts...maybe some of em later...just not now...

So, the blogging resumes...not saying I have it all figured out, or ever will, I'm just going to start sharing my thoughts in this way again.

First shared thought:

Tonight, TBS ran a marathon of "The Office" followed by the "Serenity Now" episode of Seinfeld...I think Ted Turner sent me a birthday present...so thanks Ted Turner...I stayed up til 3 am thanks to your late night programming!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Boma Tour!

During the summer, we had the privilege of staying 3 nights in Maasai homes. Follow Elise as she gives a tour of a home where we stayed...
video